Frenzy, filmed in 1972, was Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate feature film before his death in 1980. While many people say that the director went off the boil in his later years, producing some less than great films, Frenzy is actually pretty good. It isn’t his best, don’t get me wrong, but Hitch is still a damn site better than most other directors at the top of their game.
Frenzy follows Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), divorced and down on his luck, he loses his job and the roof over his head. As if that wasn’t bad enough he’s about to become the prime suspect in a series of rapes and murders. All the evidence points to Blaney being “the necktie murderer” and the police are hot on his trail.
If this sounds familiar it’s probably because the “wrong man” always seemed to be one of Hitch’s favourite themes; just look at The Lodger (1929); The 39 Steps (1939); Saboteur (1942); Spellbound (1945), North by Northwest (1959) and the aptly named 1956 film The Wrong Man.
In Frenzy Hitchcock created a tense but humourous and sometimes lurid thriller about a gruesome subject. Mercifully we see little of the killer at work, with the exception of one murder where we see the whole dreadful ordeal, which makes for very uncomfortable viewing.
There are some truly unique Hitchcock shots too, most memorably where the killer takes one of his victims back to his flat. We hear him say the words we now know spell disaster: “you’re just my type”. Rather than linger, the camera stays on the other side of the door, and pans away, backwards down the stairs and out into the street. This shot is infinitely more powerful than the sight of another rape and murder. Hitchcock knew that less sometimes really is more.
Frenzy is surprisingly funny in places, too. The Chief Inspector in charge of the case is quite a character and the scenes where his wife serves up some truly awful dinners, while discussing the case, are a joy.
While Frenzy isn’t my favourite Hitchcock film, it certainly is worth watching.