The Plot Against Harry

I love this movie made in 1969, but not released until 1989! It’s all about how Jews add vibrancy to America but it’s tough when the goyim convict you of silly crimes and the shvartzes and spics take over your turf.

According to IMDB:

* “A small-time Jewish racketeer, just out of prison, finds himself in a quandary. Returning to his old neighborhood, he finds that the streets that he and his friends once controlled have now been taken over by blacks and Hispanics. On top of that, he must try to get back with his family, who want nothing to do with him.”

* If Diane Arbus made a comedy from a script by Ernest Lehman and Cliffford Odets, the result would LOOK a lot like The Plot Against Harry. This is an icy-hearted comedy with scarcely a normal-looking human being in sight. Nearly everyone is some sort of New York Jewish grotesque. And yet there are dribs and drabs of sympathetic characterization throughout, as well as a fascinating and broad sociological survey of a range of urban types. We move easily from gangster-limo to garmento fashion-show, to a heart-charity telethon where an impossibly bland crooner entertains on the improbably shoddy set of a TV studio. By the end, you’re rooting for Harry, a small-time hood with the personality of a pickled whitefish. This movie is one of my all-time favorites.

* Here’s something new: a little B/W film with no stars, about a middle-aged Jewish ex-gangster who wants to go into the catering business –AND it’s not “Hollywood sit-com cute”! It’s understandable that with all of that going ‘against’ it, no one wanted to release this film back in 1970. Luckily, director Martin Roemer never underestimated the richness of his film. Twenty years after being turned down by Hollywood, he decided to try the independent festival circuit and there, he found his audience.

The plot against Harry Plotnick is basically his own conscience and paranoia working against him. He’d left a good marriage unaware that his wife was pregnant at the time, not that it probably would have made a big difference to him back then. He was obsessed with the numbers racket, where he made a fair amount of money but ultimately spent a fair amount of time in prison, only to discover upon his release that the rackets had been taken over by various minorities. Now Harry is beginning to see the signs that it’s time to make good with his conscience, with his family and with God. Not an easy feat!

This film is a wonderful glimpse into the kind of independent cinema that was around during the early seventies. It’s ‘early John Cassavetes meets early Woody Allen’. Unlike THE FRENCH CONNECTION or MEAN STREETS, both good films that depicted very specific worlds within Manhattan at that time, this film opens up a whole variety of worlds. Thus it steers free of cliches, no matter how deep it goes into the ethnic backgrounds of its characters. People are just people. Not all good or all bad. This film is like a breath of fresh air compared to the ultra-hip indie films of today. It’s effortless, humorous, poignant, and an extremely enjoyable time capsule of the recent past.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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