FRENZY(director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the book Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern/Anthony Shaffer; cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor; editor: John Jympson; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Jon Finch (Richard Blaney), Alec McCowen (Chief Inspector Oxford), Barry Foster (Bob Rusk), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Brenda Blaney), Anna Massey (Barbara “Babs” Milligan), Vivien Merchant (Mrs. Oxford), Billie Whitelaw (Hetty Porter); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; Universal; 1972-UK)
“Better than French fries at the local ‘Fish & Chips’.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Frenzy followed so-so Alfred Hitchcock efforts like Torn Curtain and Topaz, and was his next-to-last film–and the first film he’d made in England in two decades. It was adapted from an Arthur La Bern novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square and revisits many of the same creepy motifs that the 72-year-old Hitchcock examined in his earlier works and formed the root of his life work: the wrong man theme (in quality films such as The 39 Steps-1935, The Wrong Man-1956, and North by Northwest-1959), black humor in dealing with life’s ironies (a woman’s body appears in the river just after a politician loudly proclaims it to be free of pollution) and Hitchcock’s pessimistic view of mankind reflected in obsessive crimes of sex and violence (themes close to his heart ever since his 1926 silent The Lodger about a Jack the Ripper-type killer). Famed criminal writer Anthony Shaffer’s tight script ties it all together as it follows the gruesome ‘necktie murderer’ and the panic his serial killings cause to the public.
Swinging London of the late 1960s is besieged by a maniac rapist-murderer, causing city-wide alarm and a vigilant police search. In the film’s first 15 minutes an ugly rape and strangulation is staged, which sets the grim storyline that is softened by the Master of Suspense’s light comedy touches throughout.
Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is a bartender caught drinking on the job and is immediately fired by his vindictive employer, who seems jealous of Blaney’s romantic success with cute waitress Babs (Anna Massey). Now idle and busted, Blaney seeks financial help and succor from his ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) who runs a marriage counseling/dating service. He has to sleep at a flophouse, but his luck will soon get even worse. A serial killer has been strangling women with neckties, then dumping their naked bodies. He frames Blaney as he kills his ex-wife. The unappealing Blaney becomes the prime suspect while the real killer is his pal, the fruit vendor, Bob Rusk (Barry Foster), who continues his crime spree undetected. But Police Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) continues to have his doubts about the prime suspect and keeps an eye out for new developments. The inspector’s wife (Merchant) is evidently a lousy cook, but during the evening meals she in a comical way shows that she has a better sense of who the real killer is than her professional sleuth hubby. While the wrongly accused man hides out with friends who are not certain of his innocence, as he must go after the real killer to clear his name.
There are exceptional scenes such as the film’s most noteworthy one in the tracking shot up the staircase of the killer’s apartment building, as the camera in silence follows the killer and his unknowing victim as they both enter the room. Instead of showing the grisly murder, the camera eerily recoils in seeming horror from the murderer’s first-floor flat. There’s also a grisly wrestling match with a corpse in a lorry-load of potatoes, which was better than French fries at the Covent Garden ‘Fish & Chips’.
The horrific crimes reflect the shocking stories we read about in the daily tabloids, and even if the film doesn’t offer much insight to reflect on–it was nevertheless stylishly pleasing, well-crafted, and most entertaining.
REVIEWED ON 2/7/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ