Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy" -- A Brief Analysis

                                  After a two decade absence, Hitchcock returned to England to make the engrossing mystery thriller, "Frenzy" (1972). This was also his most commercially successful film since the release of "Psycho" in 1960. The film has no major stars (like his numerous Hollywood masterpieces) -- it’s more of an ensemble piece, with England's most respectable stage actors, such as Alec McCowen, Anna Massey, and Billie Whitelaw. 

                                   The story is set in London, where women are strangled with neckties by a psychopath. When Brenda Blaney is killed in the office of her dating agency, suspicion falls on her ex-husband, the unsympathetic ex-squadron leader Richard Blaney. The murderer is his friend -- a mummy's boy -- a likeable grocer Bob Rusk, who has 'certain peculiarities' when it comes to women. Inspector Oxford is assigned the case. Blaney goes on the run, is helped by girlfriend Babs and hides out at the Porters'.

                                   When Babs goes to pick up her clothes, she's met by Rusk and killed. Rusk puts her body in a potato bag and then onto a truck. When her returns home, Rusk realizes his tiepin is missing and so goes back to the truck, but the truck starts on its journey with Rusk in the back trying to pry his tiepin from Babs' dead fingers. He gets off at a truck stop. When Blaney turns up at Rusk's for help, Rusk takes him in and hands him over to the police -- Blaney now knows Rusk is the killer and vows to kill him. 

                                  While serving life sentence in prison, Blaney throws himself down the stairs, is put into hospital and escapes. Sneaking into Rusk's room, Blaney smashes an iron bar into the head of the sleeper, only to find it's murdered girl. Inspector Oxford enters, waits and Rusk enters with a trunk. Oxford says, "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie." 

                                   "Frenzy" was girded with a superior script by Anthony Shaffer and by an excellent cast, particularly Barry Foster as Rusk. The viewers knows very early who the real murderer is, so the interest lies in hoping for the rescue of the hero. This scenario has been used a lot of times by Hitchcock but he once again made a first-rate dramatic thriller.

                                  "Frenzy" is filled with many of Hitchcock's visual ideas: like the helicopter shot down the Thames over the credits; When Rusk picks up Babs, we see a tracking shot up his stairs -- then it's completely quiet, we go back down the stairs and out to Convent Garden, the sound growing; When Blaney escapes from the hospital, there's high shot showing him blend in with the doctors and then make his way out. The trial scene, at the end is shot in an excellent manner. We hear Blaney's trial as snatches of sound when a guard opens and closes the door, anxious to hear the verdict --  otherwise it is silent. 

                                  This film also has the Hitchcock cameo. You can see him, wearing a bowler hat and is in the crowd, engrossed by the dead body. "Frenzy" has echoes of the London of "The Lodger" (1927), although it is more explicit in its handling of rape and murder. Also, we have a horrible hero, who is somehow more believable because of his awful behavior. This is one of the suspense master's best and his least appreciated film -- a creative boost after many minor slumps.

Frenzy -- IMDb 

Roger Ebert Review 


Dark Knight said...

This one is one of my favorites, even though many people probably don't remember it. Most people think of Psycho or Rear Window when they think of Alfred Hitchcock but Frenzy is one of Hitch's best thrillers!

Arun Kumar said...

@ Dark Knight, Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I also think "Frenzy" was very underrated Hitchcock movie. It's a great thriller without any great stars.