Frenzy (1972) is a crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and is the second last feature film of his extensive career.
The film is based upon the novel Goodbye Picadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Berne and was adapted for the screen by Anthony Shaffer.
After a decade of films depicting political intrigue and espionage, Hitchcock returned to the murder genre with this film, which told the story of a serial killer who strangled several women in London. The narrative made use of the familiar Hitchcock theme of an innocent man overwhelmed by circumstantial evidence and wrongly assumed to be guilty.
The film starred Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Alec McCowen, Billie Whitelaw, Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Vivien Merchant, Jean Marsh and Elsie Randolph.
Hitchcock set and filmed Frenzy in London after many years making films in the United States. The film opens with a sweeping shot along the River Thames to the Tower Bridge, and while the interior scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios, much of the location filming was done in and around Covent Garden and was an homage to the London of 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. Certainly the area as seen in the film still exists, but the market no longer operates from there, and the buildings seen in the film are now occupied by restaurants and nightclubs, and the laneways where merchants and workers once carried their produce are now occupied by tourists and streetperformers.
The film has become well known for a couple of grisly key scenes. The rape and murder of the Brenda character, played by Barbara Leigh-Hunt makes use of numerous short edits in a similar fashion to the Janet Leigh shower scene in Psycho, and this serves to heighten the images of violence and horror.
Only one murder is depicted onscreen as screenwriter Schaffer convinced Hitchcock that to show a second murder would be redundant. The murder of the barmaid Babs occurs offscreen, although the audience is shown her entering the killer's flat and is left with a clear message that she will be murdered. The audience next sees the killer carrying a large sack and placing it onto the back of a lorry where it sits unobtrusively amongst a load of potatoes ready to be transported. He soon recalls that as he was strangling her, Babs had clutched a pin from his lapel. He climbs onto the lorry to retrieve the pin from Babs' dead fingers only to find the lorry start off on its way to market. The killer desperately scrambles through the sack of potatoes to find the dead woman's hand. As rigor mortis has set in, he is unable to prise the pin from her until he has broken her fingers. This sequence is also composed of numerous edits to create tension and remains one of this film's most identifiable scenes.
As in several other previous Hitchcock films, the audience is fully aware of the identity of the killer (Bob Rusk played by Barry Foster) very early in the proceedings, and is also shown how circumstantial guilt is rapidly built up around an innocent man (Richard Blaney played by Jon Finch). Blaney is duly apprehended by the police and jailed, all the while maintaining his innocence. The investigating detective reconsiders the previous events and begins to believe that he's arrested the wrong man. In several scenes showing the detective's domestic situation, comedy is used to heighten the horror of the death scenes. The detective and his wife discuss the case and the wife gently points the detective in the right direction with a series of simple but appropriate questions and comments. The innocent man escapes from prison, and the detective knows that he will head to Rusk's flat at Covent Garden, so immediately goes there. Blaney has already arrived to find another murdered woman in the killer's bed and is standing over her as the detective bursts through the door. The two men wait in the flat for the killer. When he returns, he has a large trunk with him, presumably to carry away the dead body, and with the body lying in the bed, his guilt is finally obvious. The film ends with this scene.
Frenzy on DVD