Frenzy

Frenzy ★★★★

I’ve always liked ‘Frenzy’, Hitchcock’s second to last movie, filmed when he was 73. The London pub and market scenes in Covent Garden always grab me from the start, and I love the dialogue between Jon Finch and both Anna Massey and Barry Foster. Finch plays a down-on-his-luck barman who’s just been “given the push” (fired) from his job for drinking too much, Massey is his feisty co-worker, and Foster his charming and kind friend who tries to help him. Hanging over London is the “Necktie Murderer”, as we see in the early shots of a nude woman floating in the Thames. When Finch pays a visit to his ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), things take a downward turn, but I won’t say anything further.

There are several excellent shots worth noting. The one where Hitchcock slowly backs the camera down the stairwell and back out into the street, after the killer and his next victim are entering his apartment, is brilliant. The fumbling around in the moving potato truck, leading to breaking fingers where rigor mortis has set in has a gruesome and morbidly absurd feel to it. I also love the small moment when at the trial, Hitchcock places the camera outside the courtroom, and lets us hear snippets of the judge’s pronouncement when the door opens.

The film feels eminently British which I enjoyed, and distinctly Hitchcock, as he slips in some droll humor in the form of a detective (Alex McCowen) and his wife (Vivien Merchant), who cooks him unappetizing French haute cuisine while he craves traditional British fare. For the first time, Hitchcock also uses brief nudity in a few scenes mostly to heighten the garish and horrifying murders, and maybe to please his inner voyeur. There are moments which made me smile (a margarita being too exotic a drink comes to mind), and others which made me cringe (a gentleman saying to a barmaid that being raped before being strangled is akin to every cloud having a silver lining, and her smiling about it). The middle portion of the film is not quite as strong as I remembered it, but overall, a solid thriller, and underrated in Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

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