Frenzy (1972)

A late career high of sorts as Hitchcock returns to the UK to shoot another ‘wrong man’ picture in the guise of a serial killer thriller.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
1972 | UK | Crime/Thriller | 116 mins | 1.85:1 | English
PG (passed clean) for some nudity and disturbing scenes

Cast: Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Alec McCowen, Billie Whitelaw, Anna Massey 
Plot: In London, a naked woman’s body is discovered floating in the Thames. A sadomasochistic strangler is on the loose in Covent Garden, and innocent barman Richard Blaney is taking the blame.
Awards: Nom. for 4 Golden Globes – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Score
Distributor: Universal

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 29 Sep 2009
Spoilers: No

The last decade of Alfred Hitchcock’s filmmaking career is not particularly noteworthy. But if there is a film worth mentioning, it would probably be Frenzy.

After more than three decades directing films in Hollywood, the legendary British filmmaker returns to London to shoot a screenplay adapted by playwright Anthony Shaffer from Arthur La Bern’s novel ‘Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester’. 

Frenzy is a fairly good film on its own. But to put things into perspective, it comes nowhere close to what Hitchcock would have accomplished in his prime. Headed by a British cast, this film is another of Hitchcock’s seemingly endless output of ‘mistaken identity’ pictures.

Here, an innocent man Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a wanted suspect in a string of murder cases in which a sadistic and sexually perverse killer goes around raping and strangling his victims with neckties.

The Necktie Murderer as he is known is revealed early in the film. This allows the director to concentrate on narrative progression and more importantly, character development, allowing viewers to empathize with Blaney, and at the same time, feel frustration when the noose wrongly tightens on him.

In Frenzy, the sense of dread overwhelms the suspense evoked. In a prolonged sequence detailing the first murder, Hitchcock gives us one of his most chilling murder scenes since the infamous shower stabbing in Psycho (1960).

The cold, mechanical method used by the Necktie Murderer to subdue, rape, and kill his victim is a shocking contrast to his affable, sociable demeanor.

“I say, that’s not my club tie, is it?”

Ironically, the suspect Blaney is divorced, easily irritable, and is known to be violent under the influence of alcohol. This does him no good considering the predicament he is in.

Hitchcock knows the value of the power of imagination. In a clever long take, the Necktie Murderer brings an unsuspecting woman up a flight of stairs to his room.

The camera never enters the room; as the door shuts, it quietly moves down the stairs in the reverse direction, out of the lobby and into the noisy street where it ends with a wide shot of the whole building.

With this sequence, Hitchcock once again demonstrates that a brutal act can be made more ghastly and frightening by leaving it to our imagination.

There is the occasional Hitchcockian black humor which is less morbid than what could be observed in his previous works such as The Trouble with Harry (1955).

Similarly, the suspense does not reach a cranking high and is slightly disappointing for a Hitchcock film, though the finale is still a reminder of his remarkable directing ability. 

Frenzy, for most parts, is intriguing and engaging, but it lacks the hypnotic power and rewatchability of his greatest films such as Vertigo (1958) and Rear Window (1954).

Grade: B+



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