Frenzy

1972

Frenzy

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

87%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 31

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,590
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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.

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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
June C. 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
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Critic Reviews for Frenzy

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (2)

Audience Reviews for Frenzy

  • 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
  • Jan 14, 2013
    A serial killer (Foster), known as the neck-tie killer, is terrorizing London. When he murders the ex-wife of his friend (Finch), the police wrongly assume Finch to be the man responsible, thanks to several witnesses who heard the couple arguing the previous night. Seeking help from various friends, Finch finds himself betrayed by most, including Foster who notifies the police of his whereabouts. Eventually the Scotland Yard inspector responsible for Finch's arrest (McCowen) slowly comes to realize he may have captured the wrong man, thanks to the insistence of his wife (Merchant). In the late sixties, the concept of what was considered acceptable to be shown on cinema screens had changed radically. Movies like 'Bonnie & Clyde' and 'Midnight Cowboy' portrayed violence in far more graphic and realistic terms than cinema-goers had ever seen before. The 'X' rating was introduced for this new wave of adult cinema, and, rather than turning away audiences, it become a huge selling point. An X-cert told audiences to expect a racy night out. Sex and violence had suddenly become accepted in Hollywood, but only when kept apart from each other. Sexual violence was still considered taboo in America, leading several film-makers to relocate to Britain if they wished to explore such themes. Thanks mainly to Hammer films, whose vampire films had been gleefully mixing sex and violence throughout the sixties, such a taboo was nonexistent in Britain. This allowed Kubrick and Peckinpah to include brutal rape scenes in 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Straw Dogs', something they couldn't have hoped to get away with back in the States. Wishing to exploit this new tolerance, Hitchcock returned to his native London for the first time since 1950's 'Stage Fright'. The rape scene in 'Frenzy' may not be as notorious as those seen in Kubrick and Peckinpah's films (both of which later received lengthy bans when the UK turned conservative in the late seventies) but it's every bit as savage. Though it features the bared breasts of a body double, it's relatively inexplicit, but Hitch's use of extreme close-ups make it an uncomfortable view. We see every bit of frustrated anger on Foster's face, every bit of fear and resignation on that of his victim. Had the film been made by anyone other than Hitchcock, I suspect it may have ended up on the infamous UK "Video Nasties" list a decade later. 'Frenzy' is the master's last great work, making up for both the pair of duds which preceded it and the turkey which followed. It features some bravura film-making which distinguishes it from the low-rent British thrillers of the time. The most famous moment, in film-making terms, comes when Foster leads a victim into his apartment. As the couple enter, rather than following them inside, the camera slowly descends back down the stairs and out into the noisy London street below. The audience knows the victim's fate thanks to Foster's use of the line "you're my type of woman", a phrase he uttered before the earlier graphic murder. Another simple yet brilliant moment comes when the verdict is being delivered at Finch's trial. Hitch positions the camera outside the courtroom door. We can see the judge speaking but can't hear him until a police officer satisfies both his own and our curiosities by slightly opening the door just as the verdict is delivered. Hitchcock was never one to allow his films to be polluted by unnecessary dialogue. Much has been written about the influence the director's wife, Alma Reville, had on his creative work. It's said she would often be the deciding factor when Hitch found himself questioning the validity of some of his artistic choices. 'Frenzy's subplot, involving a Scotland Yard inspector's wife convincing him he arrested the wrong man, seems to be inspired by the director's own marital relationship. Like Hitchcock himself, the inspector enjoys a good hearty meal but is denied this by his wife who insists on experimenting with haute-cuisine. Food is everywhere in 'Frenzy', from the bunch of "sour grapes" crushed by Finch when a horse he failed to bet on comes in first, to the potato truck Foster finds himself rummaging through for a piece of damning evidence he clumsily left behind. This latter sequence is one of the film's highlights, demonstrating Hitch's ability to manipulate audiences into identifying with the villain. We may be fully aware that Foster is a cold-blooded killer attempting to frame our protagonist, but that doesn't stop us hoping in the moment he retrieves his tie-pin without detection. Foster is forced to break open the rigor-mortis stiff fingers of a corpse to retrieve the item, a detail later referenced comically when bread-sticks are broken by the inspector's wife. It's a shame that 'Family Plot' would follow as 'Frenzy' would have made the ideal final film for Hitch, a return to both his film-making form and the London streets he menaced as a young film-maker some forty-plus years previous.
    The Movie W Super Reviewer

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