Michael Roemer

Scen.: Michael Roemer. F.: Robert M. Young. M.: Georges Klotz. Int.: Martin Priest (Harry Plotnick), Henry Nemo (Max), Ben Lang (Leo), Maxine Woods (Kay), Jacques Taylor (Jack), Jean Leslie (Irene), Ellen Herbert (Mae), Sandra Kazan (Margie), Ronald Coralian (Mel Skolnik), Max Ulman (Sidney). Prod.: Michael Roemer per King Screen Productions. 35mm. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Roemer’s bone-dry comic portrait of a delusional Jewish mobster, Harry Plotnick, fresh out of jail and trying desperately to catch up with the times has been energetically rediscovered at least twice since its aborted release, each time to even greater acclaim. And each time The Plot Against Harry is recognized as even more relevant and ahead of its time. Indeed, watching the film backto-back with the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems is an almost uncanny exercise, so much does Roemer’s film anticipate the edgy rhythm and zeitgeist energy of the Safdie’s energetic ode to a fading Jewish Manhattan. The Plot Against Harry is, furthermore, animated by a documentary flair that captures both New York’s simmering multi-ethnic melting pot as well as remarkable images of a now lost world, including extended scenes in a Jewish catering company and a highway adjacent golf course that count among the film’s most visually and punctually arresting.
Anchoring Roemer’s fidelity to the place and time he set out to capture was his decision to use a cast comprised largely of non-actors, including psychoanalyst Maxine Woods in the role of Harry’s world-weary ex-wife. Much of the film’s depth of detail came from Roemer’s extensive research, including the year he spent working for a Jewish catering business in Long Island and interviewing lingerie models.
While The Plot Against Harry speaks to Roemer’s desire to explore his own Jewish heritage and ideals of family most of all, the pater familias whose troubled figure haunts all of his features the film also mines his deep interest in the socio-cultural specificities of humor, the subject of a quite fascinating booklength study, Shocked But Connected: Notes on Laughter (2012). A bold affirmation of Jerry Lewis’ famous dictum that “comedy is a man in trouble”, The Plot Against Harry taps into a deep well of comic pathos mined earlier by Chaplin, Keaton, May and Lewis.

Haden Guest

Copy From

New 35mm printed by The Film Desk in 2023 at Colorlab laboratory