Horror Review: Frenzy (1972)

London is held in the grip of a serial killer whose modus operandi is to murder his victims by strangling them with a necktie.

The name Hitchcock carries a certain weight to it, it has history attached to it, a legacy. So it’s understandable if your expectations are high.

By the time I got round to watching this film I was already an established Hitchcock fan, his work had a profound effect on me and because of that I found myself hunting down his films and saving for titles I didn’t have. The chase was always fun, the find was always exciting.
When I finally got to watch this feature I naively thought that I’d figured out Hitchcock’s work and nothing would surprise me, well I was wrong. Hitchcock once again pulled magic out of thin air and managed to make a film that had it’s audience gripped and shocked.
The film is full of anticipation and it is by far the most graphic film of Hitchcock’s career and even at the age of 72 he was showing the young ones how it’s done and even managed to show off some tricky camera work in the process which served the story well.
In my opinion this film is a British masterpiece, it easily ranks up there as one of Hitchcock’s best, sadly it would be his penultimateĀ film before he passed in 1980. Atleast he got to do one more British gem before he left us, for that I wholeheartedly thank him.
“Frenzy” is a must see for fans of Hitchcock, it deserves a higher status than it currently has amongst his plethora of work.
If you want to see the “Frenzy” trailer then just click on the video below:
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
This was the first film that Alfred Hitchcock shot in Britain since The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and his first entirely shot in Britain since Stage Fright (1950).
Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia Hitchcock found this film so disturbing that she would not allow her children to see it for many years.
Alfred Hitchcock’s shooting schedule allowed filming to begin at 8 am and finish at 6 pm every day whilst on location in Covent Garden in London. One day during filming, Hitchcock was in the middle of finishing a take when a union representative showed up to inform him that it was 6:15 pm and that they had to stop filming. Hitchcock became furious and threatened to walk off the set and film “Frenzy” back in Hollywood. After that, no more union representatives were allowed on the set.
The film and its source book (“Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square”) were inspired by the real-life unsolved crimes of the serial killer known as “Jack the Stripper”. Unlike in the story, the real killings (which terrified London in the early 1960s) mirrored elements of “Jack the Ripper”, in that the killer attacked prostitutes and that the killings mysteriously stopped.
This is the only Hitchcock film ever to carry an ’18’ certificate in the UK, or receive an ‘X’ rating after the ‘X’ age restriction was moved from 16 to 18 in 1971.
Helen Mirren was Alfred Hitchcock first choice to play Barbara “Babs” Milligan and even met with the director before turning down the role, which years later she regretted. She would play Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville in Hitchcock (2012).
The role of Robert Rusk was originally offered to Michael Caine. He thought the character was disgusting and said “I don’t want to be associated with the part.” After Caine declined the role he later mentioned in his memoirs how Hitchcock completely ignored him when they met in a hotel a few years later.
This was the first Alfred Hitchcock film to show nude scenes, three in total. The first is the body in the river. Two: Anna Massey (after she’s spent the night in the hotel with Blaney); she had a nude model as stand-in. The third nude scene is a last blonde victim.
Henry Mancini was originally hired to score the film. According to accounts, upon hearing the proposed score, Alfred Hitchcock yelled at Mancini: “If I had wanted Bernard Herrmann, I would have hired him!” Mancini was fired from the project. His recording of his main title to Frenzy is available on one of his compilation of film music excerpts.
This was Hitchcock’s only film to get an R rating for its original theatrical release.
Elsie Randolph (who plays a worker at the hotel) last appeared in a Hitchcock film 40 years earlier as the old maid in East of Shanghai (1931).
The market scenes are set in Covent Garden, London, when Covent Garden was an actual fruit and flower market. This closed in 1974 and the market moved to Nine Elms. It was originally planned that the old market would be demolished, but most of it, including the central halls, was saved and is now a listed and popular tourist destination.
Midway through the film, there is a famous continuous shot in which the camera backs away from the door of Rusk’s upper-floor apartment and descends the staircase, seemingly without a cut, to the ground level, out the building’s front door, and then to the opposite side of the street. The interiors were shot with an overhead track in a studio, and there is an imperceptible cut as a man passes by the front door, carrying a sack of potatoes. This is subtly blended into a new shot of the camera pulling away from the building exterior that was actually used on location.
Alfred Hitchcock originally planned to do his cameo as the body floating in the river. A dummy was even constructed to do the shot. The plans were changed and a female body, a victim of the Necktie Murderer, was used instead. Hitchcock instead became one of the members of the crowd who are listening to the speaker on the river bank. The dummy of Hitchcock was used in the typically humorous trailer hosted by Hitchock himself.
The bags of pork scratchings displayed in the bar owned by Felix Forsythe (Bernard Cribbins) show the prices in dual currency (1/- or 5p). The same is true on various price lists seen in the market. While the UK had introduced decimal currency in February 1971, both the new and old currencies were used until around 1973; hence in some places, you would have found dual currency in use and on display.
Several of the cast were unhappy with the lack of authenticity and Britishness of some of the dialogue. Jon Finch used to send notes to Alfred Hitchcock’s secretary with suggested improvements. Hitchcock was not always pleased at this: “Jon, I said you could make alterations. I didn’t say you could rewrite the whole script.” However, many of Finch’s script amendments were indeed used in the final film.
Blaney refers to Miss Barling contemptuously as “Vinegar Joe”. Vinegar Joe is the nickname for the four-star U.S. Army general, Joseph W. Stilwell, known for his abrasive manner.
During shooting for the film, Alfred Hitchcock’s wife and longtime collaborator Alma Hitchcock had a stroke. As a result, some sequences were shot without Hitchcock on the set so he could tend to his wife.
A close-up of Mrs Blaney’s (Barbara Leigh-Hunt’s) salivating tongue after she is strangled was cut by Hitchcock at the urging of his studio, Universal.
The documentary included in the DVD release shows ‘Blaney’ was originally named ‘Blamey’ (i.e. ‘blame me’).
Alfred Hitchcock used index cards to keep up with the sequencing of the shots in the complex potato-truck sequence.
Barry Foster was cast as Robert Rusk in this film after Hitchcock saw him in Twisted Nerve (1968), a British thriller thought by critics to be Hitchcockian.
The last murder victim is played by Susan Travers, the daughter of Linden Travers who played Mrs Todhunter in Hitchcock’s earlier film The Lady Vanishes (1938).
One of the awful meals prepared for Chief Inspector Oxford by his wife – cailles aux raisins (quail with grapes) – is what both Andre and Wally order at the beginning of the film My Dinner with Andre (1981).
Filmed late July-mid October 1971.
Much of the location filming was done in and around Covent Garden and was an homage to the London of Alfred Hitchcock’s childhood. The son of a Covent Garden merchant, Hitchcock filmed several key scenes showing the area as the working produce market that it was. Aware that the area’s days as a market were numbered, Hitchcock wanted to record the area as he remembered it. According to the making-of feature on the DVD, an elderly man who remembered Hitchcock’s father as a dealer in the vegetable market came to visit the set during the filming and was treated to lunch by the director.
Margaret Nolan appeared as one of Rusk’s potential victims, though her footage was cut from the film.
One of only two films Alfred Hitchcock made during the 1970s. The other was Family Plot (1976).
Penultimate film of Alfred Hitchcock. It was his fifty-second.
Alfred Hitchcock cast both Barry Foster and Billie Whitelaw in this film after watching their performances in Twisted Nerve (1968).
Rather than repeat the rape scenes that have already been seen when Rusk raped and strangled Mrs Blaney, Rusk simply says “You’re my kind of woman” as he takes Babs into his flat – the same phrase that he had used before he raped Mrs Blaney. This is then followed by the famous “Goodbye to Babs” tracking shot from the door of Rusk’s flat out into the street. The audience is left to imagine what is taking place.
Laurence Olivier was considered for Chief Inspector Oxford.
Side Five of the DiscoVision LaserDisc release has every frame encoded with Auto Picture Stop, rendering it unplayable on all but a few models of laserdisc players.
On the first day of filming in London, Alfred Hitchcock fell down in his hotel room and injured his back; filming was delayed a few hours because of this.
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
Vanessa Redgrave reportedly turned down the role of Brenda, and David Hemmings (who had co-starred with Redgrave in Blow-Up (1966)) was considered to play Blaney.
David Hemmings was originally considered for the role of Blaney.
The Story of ‘Frenzy’ (2001) documentary is featured on the DVD for Frenzy (1972).
Novelist Arthur La Bern later expressed his dissatisfaction with Anthony Shaffer’s adaptation of his book.

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