Frenzy

1972

Frenzy

Critics Consensus

Marking Alfred Hitchcock's return to England and first foray into viscerally explicit carnage, Frenzy finds the master of horror regaining his grip on the audience's pulse -- and making their blood run cold.

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 41

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,617

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Movie Info

Suspenseful, disturbing, and darkly humorous, Frenzy, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is the story of a rapist-murderer, whose distinctive murder weapon has led him to be labeled "The Necktie Murderer." The film, typical of many of Hitchcock's works, focuses on a man wrongly accused, who must now find the true killer to prove his innocence. In Frenzy, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is accused of killing both his girlfriend and his ex-wife, along with other women in and around London. The true murderer, revealed early on in the film, is his friend, Robert Rusk (Barry Foster). The film is more brutal and overtly sexual than previous Hitchcock films, particularly Hitchcock's depiction of the murder of Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) which shows, with an almost perverse fascination, her face in tight close-up, frozen with fright and pain, as she is raped and strangled while she prays. The film is also noted for its dark humor, which includes a woman's body, hidden in a sack of potatoes, which causes Barry, the murderer, a great deal of difficulty when he realizes that the woman has his distinctive cuff link still clutched in her hand. The retrieval of the cuff link leads to a darkly comic chase behind a potato truck where the body has been hidden. Frenzy also features a tightly written, complex screenplay, adapted by Anthony Shaffer from Arthur La Bern's novel, Goodbye Picadilly, Farewell Leicester Square.

Cast

Jon Finch
as Richard Blaney
Alec McCowen
as Inspector Oxford
Barry Foster
as Bob Rusk
Anna Massey
as Barbara
Rita Webb
as Mrs. Rusk
Vivien Merchant
as Mrs. Oxford
Gerald Sim
as Man at Bar
Michael Bates
as Sergeant
Jean Marsh
as Monica
Madge Ryan
as Mrs. Davison
John Boxer
as Sir George
George Tovey
as Mr. Salt
Juney Ellis
as The Barmaid
Jimmy Gardner
as Hotel Porter
Noel Johnson
as Man at Bar
Bunny May
as The Barman
Robert Keegan
as Hospital Patient
View All

Critic Reviews for Frenzy

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (4)

  • In case there was any doubt, back in the dim days of Marnie and Topaz, Hitchcock is still in fine form. Frenzy is the dazzling proof.

    May 13, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Armed with a superior script by Anthony Shaffer, an excellent cast, and a top technical crew, Alfred Hitchcock fashions a firstrate melodrama about an innocent man hunted by Scotland Yard for a series of sex-strangulation murders.

    May 13, 2020 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • There's no sign of the serenity and settledness that generally mark the end of a career. Frenzy, instead, continues to question and probe, and there is a streak of sheer anger in it that seems shockingly alive.

    May 13, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Hitchcock's return to Covent Garden, 'wrong man' plotting, the neuroses of sexual immaturity, and black-humoured slapstick ironies, tied up neatly in Anthony Shaffer's screenplay from the novel by Arthur Le Bern.

    January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Paul Taylor

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • This is the kind of thriller Hitchcock was making in the 1940s, filled with macabre details, incongruous humor, and the desperation of a man convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

    October 23, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • You can never be quite sure when you're going to start a terrifying new descent or take a sudden turn to the left or right. The agony is exquisite.

    January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Frenzy

  • Nov 27, 2019
    Perhaps the only time Hitchcock was able to go as far as he wanted. That being said the reason to see this is for Shaffer's darkly witty screenplay.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 18, 2018
    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.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 19, 2016
    Pretty shitty. Hands down the worst Hitchcock film I've ever seen, and just a terrible film in general.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 06, 2014
    Well, Hollywood, I hope that you had bid a fond farewell to Alfred Hitchcock, because with this film, he made his big comeback to British cinema for the first time since 1950. Granted, it's been much longer since this film's release, and we shouldn't be expecting a Hitchcock film in any country any time soon, so I'd imagine we're well used to the magnitude of the event, but hey, it's interesting to see how long Hitchcock waited before coming home, which is why he was the Master of Suspense. Well, I don't know about you guys, but nothing about this title, alone, sounds as though it pertains to suspense, because there's not much subtlety to a frenzy. Really, say what you will about the importance of Hitchcock's Hollywood projects in the '50s and '60s and what have you, but as "Vertigo", "Psycho", "The Birds" and, so help me, "Rope" told us, he was low on creative title ideas for quite some time. Hey, maybe Hitchcock was trying to tell us something with this particular title, for he knew that his time was coming, thus, he decided to throw away all of that suspenseful nonsense and really get crazy, like a frenzy. Oh, how I wish this film really was that exciting, but alas, you must remember that it is a British "thriller", and therefore pretty dry. No, the film is plenty slick, but it's not as much fun as its title might promise, for a couple reasons. Clocking in a little shy of two hours, the film has plenty of time to build suspense, and boy, it has a tendency to work a little too hard at keeping that up, not so much dragging itself out with filler, but still outstaying its welcome with much meandering material that slows down the momentum of rising tension, however limited it may be by inconsistencies beyond pacing. I don't know if the film is so much all that humorous, or even all that fluffy of a report back to London on the tropes that Alfred Hitchcock picked up during his time in Hollywood, Anthony Shaffer's script, on top of spending too much time with certain segments in material in general, spends too much time with inconsequential, almost tongue-in-cheek lighter segments, broken up by moments of tension that would be more effective if they weren't so forcibly driven into the midst of borderline fluff. Tensions certainly aren't helped by the film's lack of originality, being at least consistent in tossing whatever pacing or tone it's following upon a traditional muder and wrong-suspect tale that is all too predictable to feel all that momentous, just as it's too histrionic to fell that grounded. I don't suppose Shaffer's scripted storytelling is all that far out there, but it's a bit questionable, drawing a borderline barely probable thriller narrative whose holes in full buyability are conceptually problematic enough. Of course, what ultimately secures the final product's underwhelmingness through the story concept is merely natural shortcomings, because the near-two-hour runtime, and the jarring incorporations of more serious tonal aspects, wouldn't be so unreasonable if this story concept wasn't so light in momentum to begin with. I feel that something could have been done to carry this story a fair distance in execution, and highlights in storytelling stand as evidence, yet the consequential shortcomings - of which there are many - ultimately reinforce limitations in intrigue enough to hold the final product back as a relatively underwhelming, somewhat fluffy thriller. There's something ultimately lacking here, but not so lacking that the final product doesn't entertain just fine as a fair penultimate opus in Hitchcock's career, and one that looks good along the way. Really, Gilbert Taylor's and an uncredited Leonard J. South's cinematography is hardly all that special, but it pays a nice compliment to Alfred Hitchock's distinctive visual style with a lovely pronunciation of color and some subtle plays with lighting that do a decent job of drawing you into the looks of this character piece. Of course, this thriller thrives more on the portrayers of its characters, and while there's not a whole lot of material for anyone to utilized as standouts or anything of that sort, most everyone has a very English and distinguished charisma which sells each individual character, while the occasional dramatic beat reinforces a sense of consequence. The performances are solid, never really standing out, but having a certain realization to presence to help keep you invested, with the help of some pretty decent material, in all fairness. Anthony Shaffer's script gets to be rather uneven in tone and pacing, and quite frankly, it's perhaps a little too blasted British in its overt dryness, whose somewhat subdued approach to heavy subject matter further limits a sense of weight, yet through all of the shortcomings, Shaffer's humor is generally clever and amusing, while characterization proves to be well-rounded enough for you to get a grip on the characters, and the conflicts which follow them. True, there's only so much weight to get a grip on within this somewhat narratively thin and very unoriginal story concept, but potential is here, intriguing as a classic, if sometimes probably questionable study on the hunt for the wrong man in a serial murder case, anchored by the aforementioned charismatic acting and clever script. Of course, what really brings storytelling to life, about as much as it can be with material so thin in concept and uneven in execution, is Alfred Hitchcock's direction, which not only flaunts a handsome visual style, as I said earler, but keeps fairly focused in that classic Hitchcockian manner, focusing on writing wit enough to keep the slow spells from descending into blandness, while playing with a sharp atmosphere during the more intense moments in order to thoroughly chill, and provide glimpses into a more effective thriller. Needless to say, the heights in intensity are few and far between in this sparse affair, and in between that is a thriller that is too held back by predictability, inconsistency and other issues to be all that thrilling, but entertainment value is not lost, sustaining enough intrigue to keep you going, even if it's for only so far. Bottom line, the momentously and tonally uneven, as well as unoriginal and sometimes histrionic telling of a slightly thin story concept hold the final product back, but decent cinematography, charismatic acting, clever writing and thoughtful direction prove to be enough to make Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy" a pretty entertaining and sometimes pretty tense, if underwhelming penultimate project in the career of the Master of Suspense. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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