Cast & Crew
In London, one day along the Thames, a crowd spots a young woman's strangled body wash ashore, another in a string of victims known as the Necktie Murders. Blocks away at the Globe bar, bartender Richard Blaney is badgered for taking a brandy by manager Felix Forsythe. The down-on-his luck ex-RAF pilot decides to quit rather than suffer the humiliation, thus losing both his job and his dingy apartment above the bar. After a short farewell to his girl friend, Babs Milligan, a Globe barmaid, Blaney seeks solace with his old friend Robert Rusk, a congenial man who owns a Covent Garden fruit business. Although Rusk offers him money and betting advice on the afternoon's horse races, Blaney is too consumed with his plight to go to the races. After spending his last pound on brandy and then learning that Rusk's sure bet won at twenty to one, a thoroughly frustrated and drunken Blaney visits his ex-wife, Brenda, at her matrimonial agency. Envious of her success, Blaney loudly insults Brenda, who then asks her prim and concerned secretary, Monica Barling, to leave early to ensure some privacy for her and Blaney. An understanding woman, Brenda invites Blaney to dinner at her club hoping to calm him down, but Blaney becomes more derisive and breaks a glass. Unaware that Brenda has secretly put twenty pounds in his coat pocket, Blaney spends the night on a free bed at the Salvation Army. The next day, Rusk, known to Brenda as "Mr. Robinson," visits her agency during Monica's lunch hour, to insist that Brenda find him a date. After Brenda sternly refuses, citing his perverse request for extreme submission, Rusk claims that Brenda is his "type" and corners her. Although Brenda tries to escape, Rusk rapes and strangles her, leaving his tie around her neck and taking money from her purse as he leaves. Moments later, Monica spots Blaney leaving the building, not knowing that he had visited Brenda's office but found the door locked only moments after Rusk's departure. When Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Oxford questions Monica during the investigation, she is quick to accuse Blaney, stating that she saw him leave the office as she returned from lunch and that he was violent during his visit the previous day. She then describes Blaney and his tweed jacket with leather patches in great detail for the police, who have discovered money is missing from Brenda's purse. Meanwhile, Blaney, upon discovering Brenda's money in his coat, decides to rent a hotel room and invite Babs, who brings his belongings from The Globe. After Blaney turns his pants and jacket over to the hall porter for cleaning, the couple enjoys an evening of lovemaking. When the morning newspaper is delivered to their door, Blaney and Babs discover that Brenda has become the next necktie murder victim and Blaney is the prime suspect. Meanwhile downstairs, the hall porter calls the police, recognizing the newspaper's description of Blaney and his jacket. The police arrive only moments later, but Blaney and Babs have already fled to a nearby park, where Blaney convinces Babs that he is not a murderer. Moments later, Johnny Porter, Blaney's old military buddy, spots the couple in the park and, believing Blaney is innocent, invites them to his apartment. Johnny then offers Blaney and Babs jobs working at his English pub in France, where they can hide until the real murderer is found. After Blaney and Babs arrange to meet at Victoria Station the next day to go to France, she returns to The Globe. Meanwhile, Oxford has matched Brenda's face powder to that found on the money Blaney used to pay for the hotel. When he then learns that Brenda divorced Blaney on the grounds of abusive treatment, Oxford is convinced of Blaney's guilt. Back at The Globe, Babs promptly quits when she discovers that Forsythe reported that she was dating Blaney to the police. Afraid to return to her apartment above the bar, Babs accepts Rusk's offer to stay at his apartment for the night after he lies that he will be out of town, but once she enters the apartment, Babs becomes yet another victim of Rusk's psychopathic rage. That evening, the long-suffering Oxford carefully hides his disgust with one more of his chipper wife's attempts at preparing an outlandish gourmet meal, a result of her recent cooking classes. As he shares the details of the case while surreptitiously pouring his helping of fish soup back in the tureen, his wife questions why Blaney would have performed a "crime of passion" against his wife after ten years, but Oxford is still convinced he has caught his man. Meanwhile Rusk puts Babs's body in a potato sack and loads it on a truck bound for Lincolnshire that night, but then finds that his tiepin engraved with his initials missing. Supposing that Babs grasped it in the struggle, Rusk climbs under the truck tarpaulin to find Babs's body just before the truck pulls away. As the truck bumps down the road, Rusk breaks each of Babs's fingers, stiffened by rigor mortis, to release the pin from her grasp. Finally the truck driver stops at a truckers' cafe, where Rusk quickly hides in the restroom until the driver leaves. While Rusk goes into the restaurant, miles away, the trucker is forced to stop when police spot Babs's arm hanging from the truck. The next morning back in London, after reading the newspaper reports about another murder the previous evening, Johnny agrees to be Blaney's alibi; however, Johnny's wife Hetty insists that her husband will be convicted of accessory to murder, convincing the weak-willed Johnny to forsake his friend. Incensed, Blaney asks Rusk if he can hide at his apartment. Rusk agrees and offers to take his bag, while the unsuspecting Blaney enters through the back to avoid being seen. Moments later, Rusk alerts the police, who arrest Blaney and then find Babs's clothing, which Rusk planted in Blaney's bag, confirming their suspicions. At the courtroom days later, when Blaney is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, he screams repeatedly that Rusk is the murderer and vows to kill him. Blaney's pleas prompt Oxford to question his judgment and continue the investigation. Many days later Oxford sends Sergeant Spearman to the truckers' café in Lincolnshire with a picture of Rusk after learning from the driver that it was his only stop that fateful night. The same evening, Blaney, having purposefully injured himself to gain admittance to the prison hospital, makes an escape and heads directly to Rusk's apartment. Meanwhile, Spearman discovers that the café waitress does recognize Rusk from the night of the murder, and she hands Spearman the brush Rusk used to dust his jacket, which smells of potato dust. Learning of Blaney's escape, Oxford rushes to Rusk's apartment, while Blaney, already inside, spots a body under the bed covers and strikes it with a tire iron only to discover he has bludgeoned another necktie victim, not Rusk. At that moment, Oxford rushes in and signals for Blaney to be quiet as they await Rusk, who is carefully dragging a trunk up the stairs to hide the body of his victim. Opening the door, Rusk is greeted by Oxford, who aptly notes, "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie."
Colin M. Brewer
Gordon K. Mccallum
After the mixed-to-poor critical and box office response to Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972) was widely regarded as a return to form for Alfred Hitchcock. The lower budget, particularly compared to Topaz, allowed Hitchcock relative freedom from studio interference. Another undoubted factor contributing to the success of this film was the recently established MPAA ratings system, which enabled the director to push the boundaries of sex and violence much further than in older thrillers such as Psycho (1960). Beyond the inherent box-office appeal of exploitation content, this new freedom enabled Hitchcock to revitalize otherwise familiar thematic territory. The most explicit and insidiously effective scene in this regard is the rape and murder of Brenda, Richard's ex-wife. Equally memorable, however, is the scene in which the killer invites an unsuspecting woman into his apartment while the camera retreats down the stairs and out into the street, and the subsequent episode in which the killer must rummage through sacks full of potatoes to retrieve a personal item held in the rigid grip of the corpse.
Frenzy opens with an aerial shot of the Thames River and the Tower Bridge, its touristic, picture-postcard look emphasized by the seal of the City of London superimposed on the right side of the screen. Such tourism, however, is far from innocent; a crowd of bystanders is soon attracted to a woman's nude corpse washed up on the riverbank. Later in the film, one character even states: "Well, we haven't had a good, juicy series of sex murders since Christie [i.e., John Christie] and they're so good for the tourist trade." Clearly, Hitchcock is suggesting a parallel between the public's fascination with the lurid details of a crime and the basic voyeurism of film spectatorship, a recurring theme in his work articulated most clearly in Rear Window (1954). This time the director adds a further element of grisly humor by comparing the twisted appetites of the killer with food and eating: in addition to the aforementioned scene with the corpse hidden amongst potatoes, we see the killer work in a produce market and, after a killing, he picks his teeth as if finishing a satisfying meal.
The lead role of Richard Blaney, as performed by Jon Finch (b. 1941), is unusual to the extent which the character is made deliberately unsympathetic, especially compared to the unctuous killer. Finch's first film roles were the Hammer horror vehicles The Vampire Lovers (1970) and The Horror of Frankenstein (1970). Roman Polanski subsequently chose him for the lead role of his controversial adaptation of Macbeth (1971). Polanski's film and Frenzy proved to be the two most significant film roles of his career. During the late Seventies and early Eighties he appeared in a few BBC Shakespeare productions; his most recent film appearance was in Ridley Scott's epic on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven (2005). According to Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan, Finch angered the director during the production of Frenzy by publicly criticizing the anachronistic dialogue and nearly got himself fired from the film. However, Hitchcock's London in this film is not the swinging, pot-smoking city of Blow-Up (1966); it is in a certain sense a London of the imagination, as the postcard-type image opening the film indicates. One example of this is a 1971 interview in the Evening Standard, in which the director complained that most contemporary pubs were too "psychedelic," whereas he was seeking a traditional-looking pub with dark wooden interiors.
Michael Caine was originally considered for the juicy role of Bob Rusk, and one can easily imagine how his affable screen persona might have fit within Hitchcock's vision. Barry Foster (1931-2002) nonetheless makes his own mark as the outwardly friendly psychopath. An established stage actor--like much of the film's cast--he appeared in many films throughout the 1960s, but it was likely his performance in the little-seen British thriller Twisted Nerve (1968) that attracted Hitchcock's attention. In later years, he appeared in the Merchant-Ivory films Heat and Dust (1983) and Maurice (1987).
Anna Massey (b. 1937) is probably best known today for her role in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960). She also appeared in Otto Preminger's brilliant, underrated drama Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and a variety of "heritage" films and TV miniseries, among them two A. S. Byatt adaptations: Angels and Insects (1995) and Possession (2002). Massey's most recent feature film is the disturbing psychological thriller The Machinist (2004) starring Christian Bale.
Vivien Merchant (1929-1982), who gleefully steals scenes as Mrs. Oxford, did not appear in many films, but they included such noteworthy productions as Alfie (1966) and Accident (1967). For many years she was married to the great playwright Harold Pinter and appeared in his plays. She won the Tony for Best Actress for her work in The Homecoming (1967) and reprised the role in Peter Hall's 1973 film version.
The screenwriter Anthony Shaffer (1926-2001) is most commonly associated with the phenomenally popular stage play Sleuth, adapted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1972, and the truly original occult thriller The Wicker Man (1973). Unfortunately, Shaffer's obvious talents were not always fully utilized, as films such as The Sting II (1983) and a spate of Agatha Christie adaptations--among them Death on the Nile (1978), Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988)--would seem to indicate. His work with Hitchcock was unusually rapid and harmonious, suggesting the ease with which he joined in on Hitchcock's macabre game.
Producer and Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Script: Anthony Shaffer, based on the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern
Photography: Gil Taylor
Editor: John Jympson
Music: Ron Goodwin
Production Design: Syd Cain
Principal cast: Jon Finch (Richard Blaney); Barry Foster (Bob Rusk); Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Brenda Blaney); Anna Massey (Barbara Milligan); Alec McCowen (Chief Inspector Oxford); Vivien Merchant (Mrs. Oxford); Elsie Randolph (Gladys); Billie Whitelaw (Hetty Porter); Clive Swift (Johnny Porter); George Tovey (Mr. Salt).
by James Steffen
When I think of the lusts of men, it makes me want to heave.- Hotel porter
I don't know if you know it Babs, but you're my type of woman.- Bob Rusk
Don't forget, Bob's your uncle.- Bob Rusk
Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie.- Inspector Oxford
I say, that's not my club tie, is it?- Politician
in the first moments of the film in the crowd - he is the only one not applauding the speaker.
Henry Mancini was originally hired to score the film. According to accounts, upon hearing the proposed score, 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.
Elsie Randolph (who plays a worker at the hotel) last appeared in a Hitchcock film 40 years earlier as the old maid in Rich and Strange (1932).
This was the first film Hitchcock shot in England since 1950's Stage Fright (1950).
the killer hides in the bathroom after the potato truck sequence.
As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot at Pinewood Studios, London, England. It was also shot at various sites throughout the city, including Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and several eating and drinking establishments such as the pubs The Globe, Nell of Old Drury and The Woman's Club.
The film opens with producer-director Alfred Hitchcock's signature ironic tone when a Parliamentary official lectures on cleaning up the pollution in the River Thames just as the latest necktie murder victim washes ashore. As noted in the June 25, 1972 Los Angeles Times review, Hitchcock made his customary cameo appearance in this scene as a bystander in the crowd. Later in the film, when "Brenda Blaney," played by actress Barbara Leigh-Hunt, steels herself against "Robert Rusk" as he rapes her, she recites a passage of the 91st Psalm (erroneously listed as the 93rd Psalm in one review).
According to several biographies of Hitchcock, the director worked on a script entitled Frenzy in the early 1960s with screenwriters Benn Levy, Howard Fast and Hugh Wheeler, but was unable to resolve the film's plot. After buying the rights to Arthur J. La Bern's novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square, Hitchcock named the new film project Frenzy, although it did not resemble the early drafts, and hired screenwriter Anthony Shaffer after first considering Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov to write the screenplay. While the Los Angeles Times review stated that Shaffer wrote a "superbly structured" and "richly characterized" screenplay for Hitchcock to work with, according to a June 1, 1972 Variety "International Sound Track" article, La Bern found Shaffer's screenplay "appalling" and a subversion of his novel's characters.
According to a December 14, 1971 Daily Variety article, Henry Mancini was to compose the picture's score. Biographies of the director explain that although Mancini was originally asked to write the score, Hitchcock, who had wanted a pop score, did not approve of Mancini's interpretation for the film and subsequently hired Ron Goodwin. The biographies also note that Hitchcock's wife Alma had a stroke during the shooting of the film and was flown back to Los Angeles. Distracted by her illness, Hitchcock allowed various assistant directors to shoot several scenes near the end of the shooting schedule. A modern source adds the following actors to the cast: Joby Blanshard, Geraldine Cowper, Drewe Henley, Jack Silk and Jeremy Young.
Frenzy marked the first time since the 1951 film Stage Fright (see below) that the British-born filmmaker shot a film entirely in his native country. The 72-year-old Hitchcock made only one additional film, the 1976 picture Family Plot. Frenzy, which received an R rating from the MPAA, was the only Hitchcock film to contain a scene in which the character's bare breasts are visible.
Along with most reviews, the May 26, 1972 Daily Variety lauded Hitchcock, not only for his suspense but also for his use of silent comedy, as in the scenes between "Inspector Oxford" and his wife, who insists on serving gourmet meals that are so eccentric that Oxford, always a gentleman, must hide his distaste with every bite. Most reviews stated that with Frenzy, the master filmmaker, had a made a brilliant film that was comparable to his earlier, more famous works. Vincent Canby praised the director in his New York Times review, for the strange twist of creating a villain that receives occasional "cheering" from the audience. In a July 30, 1972 New York Times article, Victoria Sullivan, angered by Canby's remarks, asserted that the film makes the victims of rape and strangulation less meaningful than the "villain's passion."
Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995
Formerly distributed by MCA Home Video.
Released in USA on video.
Released in USA on laserdisc March 1989.
Released in United States June 21, 1972
Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995
Released in United States June 21, 1972