Frenzy (1972)

Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neckties. Most of the film takes place in Covent Garden, which at the time was still the location of the city’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market. Fairly early in the film, the audience sees that fruit merchant Robert Rusk (Barry Foster) is in fact the murderer. However, circumstantial evidence has already built up around his friend Richard Blaney (Jon Finch).

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Blaney’s ex-wife, Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), runs a matchmaking service that Rusk used until he was blacklisted for beating up his dates. One day, Rusk shows up at her office and tries to seduce her; when she spurns his advances, he rapes and strangles her in a fit of rage. Suspicion falls on Blaney, who is previously seen threatening his ex-wife in public, as well as being seen leaving her building shortly after her murder. The subsequent murder of Blaney’s girlfriend, Barbara “Babs” Milligan (Anna Massey), occurs off-screen: the audience sees her entering Rusk’s apartment with him, but the camera then pulls back down the stairs all the way out to the other side of the street.

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The audience next sees Rusk at night carrying a large sack and lifting it into the back of a lorry among sacks of unsold potatoes bound for Lincolnshire. Rusk soon finds that his distinctive jeweled tie pin (with the initial R) is missing, and realises that Babs must have torn it off as he was murdering her. He climbs into the back of the lorry, but it starts off on its journey north. The killer desperately scrabbles through the sack of potatoes to find the dead woman’s hand. Rigor mortis has set in, and he has to break her fingers in order to prise the pin from her grasp.

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Owing to fake evidence set up by Rusk, Blaney is gaoled while protesting his innocence. Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen), the detective investigating the murders, reconsiders the previous events and begins to believe that he has arrested the wrong man. He discusses the case with his wife (Vivien Merchant) in several scenes of comic relief concerning her pretensions as a gourmet cook.

With the help of his fellow inmates, Blaney escapes from prison. Oxford knows he will head to Rusk’s flat for revenge, and immediately goes there. Blaney arrives first, to find that the door to the flat is unlocked. He creeps in and sees what appears to be Rusk asleep in bed, and strikes the body three times with a tyre iron. However, the body is in fact the corpse of another of Rusk’s female victims, strangled by a necktie.

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Oxford bursts through the door. Blaney is still standing by the corpse holding the tyre iron, and begins to protest his innocence, but then they both hear something or someone banging heavily coming up the staircase. The two men wait in the flat and witness Rusk dragging a large trunk inside to cart away the body, only to come face to face with two determined witnesses. The film ends with Oxford’s urbane but pointed comment, “Mr. Rusk, you’re not wearing your tie.” Rusk drops the trunk in defeat.

Tense and thrilling Hitch’s film about his usual theme : the wrong man

29 August 2010 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Tension/suspense/mystery abounds in this thriller from Hithcock who combines his ordinary elements. A down-of-luck man named Richard (Jon Finch) is accused of killing , he frees for his wrongful conviction and is helped by his lover (Anna Massey).

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Covent Garden wholesale fruit merchant is the real serial killer who strangles women with a necktie. Meanwhile a Chief Inspector (Alec McCowen) along with his sergeant helper (Michael Bates) are investigating the grisly murders . And the strangler killer going on his murder spree . The panic expands on the city by the necktie murderous and Richard becomes a prime suspect . Bewildered Richard chased cross London by the police who think he is an assassin as his ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) has been also murdered and all caught by the circumstantial evidence . Later on , Richard learns the real murderer and he’s headed to seek revenge against him.

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All typical Hitch themes are here as a man wrongly accused of murder , his Quintaessential issue , numerous amazing camera shots and slightly black humor . Hitchcock was encouraged to return to England and promptly made this unusual film for his eventual British period. The picture packs tension , thriller,suspense and excitement. The intriguing story written by Anthony Shaffer -Sleuth- is one of the splendid thrillers with ‘false guilty ‘ as its theme, achieving the maximum impact on the audience and containing numerous exciting set pieces with usual Hitchcock elements .

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The movie is full of lingering images as when the camera shows the astounding killings , the strange fighting with a corpse in a truck load of potatoes , the camera descending from a first floor flat , the Inspector ‘s mealtime along with his wife Vivien Merchant , among others . However , it contains some nudism and disturbing scenes as the unsettling rape, strangling and murder scenes. Colorful cinematography by Gilbert Taylor showing marvelously the Covent Garden streets. Suspenseful and enjoyable musical score by Ron Goodwin . This good thriller by the master himself, who preys on the senses and keeps the suspense at feverish pitch . The movie is directed after ¨Marnie(64)¨and ¨Topaz(69)¨his worst movie, subsequently made ¨Frenzy¨ and ¨Family Plot¨ his last film. Rating : Better than average, worthwhile seeing thanks some Hitch’s touches.

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Great, but not Hitchcock’s best

8/10
Author: abgkasjlkasjla from Denmark
6 November 2004

Some of Hitchcock’s final films weren’t great; some went so far as to call them really bad. True, they are not the masterpieces that Vertigo and Psycho are, but I don’t think they are all as bad as some claim. I finally got a chance to see Frenzy, and I must say that it’s a great piece of typical Hitchcock thriller. The story is about a killer who strangles women with a necktie, after raping them. After a bunch of unfortunate(but not unlikely) situations the police suspect the wrong man, and we follow his actions as he tries to evade the police. Like all the Hitchcock greats, it features great characterizations, dialog and situations. Not to mention those little details that lift him above the level that most other directors are at. The plot is very good, and well-paced.

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The acting is very good; I was particularly impressed at how ‘British’ they managed to be, considering how many of the actors are Americans. I suspect Hitchcock played a big part in making the film so authentic and true to life. The characters are well-written, credible and interesting. The suspense and tension is extreme at points of the movie, and Hitchcock (once again) proves his perfect understanding of the film-making elements and his ability to put them to good use. I found it interesting to see so much nudity, in a Hitchcock film. Of course, it wasn’t just graphic and pointless, like it is in most films(not just from that period); it’s there for a purpose. The famous “continuous” shot looked great, though it was obvious where the cut was.

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Hitchcock is known for his innovative shots, angles and pans, and this is no exception to the greatness of his cinematography. I doubt that we have seen a much more innovative or intelligent film-maker since him. It’s nice to be able to see that even such a short time before his death(about 8 years, I suppose), Hitchcock delivered something so great. Much better than the dime-a-dozen flicks that most films released consist of today. A great film for any fan of Hitchcock, or even of thrillers in general. I recommend this film to any fan of thrillers or Hitchcock. Great film. 8/10

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