Plot: As a brutal serial killer stalks the streets of London, the police have few leads and no suspects. This means the bodies continue to surface and with no end in sight, as their hard work seems to lead into dead ends each time. This killer preys on women and before he kills them, he rapes them and after that deed, he strangles them to death. As such, he is called the “necktie killer,” and with his list of victims on the rise, the police are desperate for some kind of a break. A break does happen to come their way, but as fate has it, the lead is a bad one and sends them after an innocent man. After his wife was murdered in the typical fashion, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) was made the number one suspect, even though he was not the responsible man. His luck had been bad to this point, but now he has rock bottom and needs a miracle to overcome this one. Can Richard stay one step ahead of the police and the public eye, all while tracking down the real killer in an effort to clear his name?
Entertainment Value: A nasty thriller made toward the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, Frenzy sees the master of suspense take a more direct approach to sex and violence, which divides audiences to an extent. I appreciated this more aggressive style, but I can see why some Hitchcock fans might not agree, as it is a more aggressive, nastier take on the genre. I also think that while Frenzy is more graphic than Hitchock’s other work, it is never over the top in dealing with these elements, which is clear during an intense, memorable rape scene. The rape is not shown in graphic detail, but explored through the victim’s reactions and when she takes the time to cover her bare breasts, it is a powerful moment. The violence is similar in tone, dialed up from his usual movies, but not some kind of slasher movie or the like. The suspense is rich and effective, with an interesting narrative that relies on execution over twists and turns, which is a nice change of pace in the murder mystery arena. I think Frenzy was a welcome return to form for Hitchcock after a couple of mediocre efforts and while it isn’t his best work, I think it is well crafted and certainly has his style all over it.
The film’s darker edge covers the main characters as well, as the movie refuses to even give us a protagonist to connect with and instead we have Blaney. He might not be concentrated evil, but Blaney is an unlikable fellow who has a bad attitude and some poor judgment, to say the least. He is not the kind of character you root for, but I think that works here, given the movie’s grimy texture and nasty overall tone. Then we have Rusk, one of the slimiest creepers to ever grace the big screen, who comes off as more likable than Blaney does. Jon Finch and Barry Foster are great in the roles, able to pull off these unusual, complicated characters and Foster really conveys a level of twisted sicko that shines here. His scene in the potato truck is surreal and even ridiculous, but his offbeat menace carries the sequence. The cast also includes Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Anna Massey, and Alec McCowen.