Frenzy (1972 United Kingdom)

“Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square” by Arthur La Bern is not a novel I’ve read so I can’t say if this is better or worse than the printed page its based upon. All I do know is sometime in 1971 Alfred Hitchcock came back to dear old Blighty to do it to his audience one more time. And here he dons the chef’s apron to serve us up a classic of cheap and nasty: forced sex, murder and food. I wonder what Hitchcock’s wife and family thought of Frenzy. “That’s…lovely dear…” They probably reacted the way any family would if the patriarch had just been arrested in your local brothel. Yep. Frenzy is red light entertainment all the way!

The case is so quaint, so passé and he enjoys making things look the way they looked not in the 70s but in the 60s. He concentrates the film on Covent Garden when it was still a fruit and vegetable market. The pubs, the locals, their night life and their busily hectic day life. Today all that has disappeared and you can find the London Transport Museum where you used to have banana and orange wholesale dealers. Then he worked hard on finding the particular ways Londoners lived at that time, just after coal was banned around 1962. Or so it seems.

Eliciting excellent performances from his cast, Hitchcock here makes a one-off, unique film which offers a seedy, dirty view of London which is rarely seen. You get the impression that the city is a claustrophobic place, and that the streets are caked with filth. Behind closed doors there lurks hidden depravity. It’s not an uplifting film because of this but it’s a damned good one. The photography is crisp making the movie nice to look at, and there are plenty of stylistic touches (a tracking shot leads from a room where a murder is taking place back out onto the bustling streets where nobody is aware of what’s going on only a few feet away).

It is wonderfully shot, everything about the visuals are highly atmospheric and succeeds in making the viewer extremely unsettled. Ron Goodwin’s musical score adds a haunting edge to what we are seeing unfold. Jon Finch does what he can with the man-at-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time sort of character he has, and the performance is good enough without being one of the all-time greats for a Hitchcock production. The supporting cast are better though, Barry Foster’s calculating suavity is really chilling especially, and Alec McCowen, Anna Massey, Vivien Merchant, Bernard Cribbens and Billie Whitelaw are also very good indeed.

The humour of Anthony Schaffer’s script is simply fiendish: Hotel Porter: “Just thinking about the lusts of men makes me want to heave.” Solicitor: “We were just talking about the neck-tie strangler, Maisy. You’d better watch out.” Bar Maid Maisy (salaciously) : “He rapes them, doesn’t he?” Solicitor (grinning) “Yes, I believe he does.” Doctor (smug): “Its nice to know that every cloud has a silver lining.” Barman: “He’s too busy pulling your tits when he should be pulling pints.” Babs: “And what about you? Always fingering me.” Politican (looking at a strangled woman): “I say, that’s not my club tie is it?” Bob Rusk: “Lovely.”

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Comments

  1. Brilliant review, this is certainly one of those time capsule films!

    Liked by 1 person

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