205. Frenzy (GB/US 1972)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: John Finch, Barry Foster, Anna Massey, Alec McCowen, Billie Whitelaw

Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer

Novel: Anthony La Bern

Music: Ron Goodwin

Bit parts: Bernard Cribbins, Rita Webb (see above)

Fact: La Bern disassociated himself with the film, believing it to be a travesty of his original idea.

Lie: It's "lavvvvleeeee!" (Frenzy in-joke)

Innocent man is accused of being London's 'neck tie' serial killer.

By popular request.......

'Frenzy' is perhaps the most unpleasant film in this list so far. 

Finch plays Richard Blaney, a frankly (no, make that, very) unlikely ex-squadron leader slumming his way in dead end jobs near Covent Garden fruit market.

When his ex-wife and then his girlfriend are raped and murdered by the 'Necktie Murderer', Blaney enlists the help of his good mate Bob Rusk (the extremely sinister Foster) to help clear his name. Unfortunately, Rusk is the Necktie Murderer and he helps to frame Blaney who is arrested and then escapes to clear his name.

Pretty horrible, then, but why is it the most unpleasant film on the list?

Well, for a start the film opens with two barristers discussing the necktie murderer in a London boozer. When barmaid Massey points out that the killer not only murders the women, but subjects them to a horrifying rape ordeal, one of the lawyers replies with glee: "Well, every cloud has a silver lining, hey?"

Next (of course) are the necktie murders. Hitchcock films the killings of Massey and Barbara Leigh Hunt with perverse loving fascination, switching from third person to point of view for his own nefarious purposes. In much the same way that Michael Powell's horrible point of view shots in Peeping Tom (featuring Massey as the victim yet again - doesn't she ever learn?) were supposed to implicate the spectator as voyeur or passive accomplice (yes, bollocks, isn't it?), Hitchcock lingers on the nudity and torture for the longest of times and makes the more thoughtful spectator question The Master's motives.

Foster's performance is a fleshcrawler of almost unsurpassed degeneracy, whilst Finch evokes little sympathy in a highly unlikable performance (see Bruce Dern's performance in Silent Running for losing the audience's sympathies by reading the most harmless of lines in the most sinister of manners) and pretty much everyone except Massey is self-centred or unpleasantly flawed.

Highlights/lowlights include Alec McCowen's Inspector Oxford coming home to his wife's revolting 'continental cuisine' and serial killer Foster's attempts to retrieve his tie pin from the rigor mortised fingers of one of his victims (who has been deposited in a potato sack). I can still hear the crack of the bones as foster breaks the fingers to unclench the dead woman's grasp.

The main point of interest in the film is Hitchcock's 'Paradise Lost' theme*. England has fallen from grace. London is worse. The city is rife with rape and murder and horrible people. Even the garden of the city, its figurative Eden (Covent Garden) is populated with thugs and murderers and dead bodies.  Bob Rusk loves his apples and he is the worst of all (original) sinners. Nobody trusts anyone anymore, the food is revolting, and its law givers and nurturers are implicated in the city's degeneracy (hence the barrister's vile and uncaring comments about the necktie murderer's victim).

To sum up, a grubby, almost unholy film that will leave you feeling degraded, but should be seen once.

Just don't watch it on a double header with 10 Rillington Place.

*The Art of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto. A great book by a man with a stupid name ('Donald') and much better than any of Truffaut's** ramblings on the same subject.

**Derek Truffaut.