Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Horror, Drama
Runtime: 120 Minutes
As one of Hitchcock’s final films, he still manages to bring a youthful experimentation touch as well as his own unique style to the film. This shocking piece of work makes it another Hitchcock classic for definite. It is dark, suspenseful and it even has edgy dark humour, or as Hitchcock calls it, ‘comedy noir’. For any fan of this director, it is a must-see and even more of a must-see if you have not seen many of his films.
After a gorgeous helicopter shot of the Thames River, we discover a victim of the ‘necktie murderer’, a woman floating to shore. We meet Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), a bitter, belligerent ex-Royal Air Force officer who cannot seem to find his way in life. He drinks too much and holds grudges too easily, and has an explosive temper, which is very near the surface as he has just lost his job. We also meet his girlfriend, a barmaid (Anna Massey); his ex-wife, a professional matchmaker (Barbara Leigh-Hunt); and his best friend, Covent Garden fruit seller Bob Rusk (Barry Foster). Their connection to the necktie murders will be clear to us in the first 30 minutes of the movie and, not coincidentally, completely misinterpreted by the police, as Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) and his men tighten a circle around the wrong man, who rapidly runs out of options and allies.
Hitchcock’s scheme has returned here, of the wrong man being accused of a murder, simply someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sure many can argue that Hitchcock makes the same films repeatedly, but he merely follows the scheme and always brings new things to the screen. If you compare this to one of his earlier films like “The Lodger” were this scheme begins you will see tremendous difference. In addition, even if you compare it to “Stage Fright” in 1950. This scheme is excellent and Hitchcock can truly always pull it off.
Once more Hitchcock has made excellent use of the camera. In one shot, we have the real murderer walking up the stairs with a woman to her apartment. They enter the room as the murderer says, “you are my kind of woman”, phrase you will be familiar of previously in the film. Everything goes silent and the camera tracks backwards down the stairs and in to the street, a shot that looks almost impossible because of how smooth it is. That is among many of the beautifully done shots in this film.
The deliverance from the actors was very exuberant and energetic. Foster’s role was terrifically done and I could not describe anything about it, as it would spoil it for you. Finch, who played Richard Blaney, was also very good in his role, from his actions to his movements. As for the female cast, two of which are best to mention are Brenda Blaney played by Leigh-Hunt, his ex-wife and Barbara played by Massey. Both roles were well casted making them two great characters.
One thing I commend this film of is its use of dark comedy, or comedy noir if you will. It gives the darkest of humour to the blackest character in the story, and executes it extremely well. I could not tell you of the comedic scenes as that would spoil it, but it is something you have to see to get the impact of it.
The location, which the film is set, is also wonderful because it captures some of London’s features beautifully such as the Covent Garden and the famous Thames River. Many of the scenes shots were filmed at Pinewood studios but several of the exterior shots were done in London.
Just before this film, he had three unsuccessful films at the box office being, “Marnie”, “Topaz” and “Torn Curtain”. He redeemed himself with Frenzy, however, which marked his return not only to England for the first time in 20 years but also to the subject matter with which he'd started his career in thrillers back in 1926 -- murder, and a hunt for a serial killer in London. This film has a horrifically memorable moment that will certainly surprise you, which I will keep nameless. “Frenzy” is another Hitchcock classic that has a great edgy quality to it with its blend of thrills, suspense, dark humour and the ultimate Hitchcock touch.
My Rating: 8.5/10