“Just thinking about the lusts of men makes me want to heave.”
When he’s seen leaving the apartment of his recently murdered ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), a down-on-his luck bartender (Jon Finch) is accused of being London’s infamous “Necktie Murderer”; meanwhile, the real culprit (Barry Foster) roams the city freely, and continues to put innocent women — including Finch’s girlfriend (Anna Massey) — at risk.
In his next-to-last film, Hitchcock returned to his native England, bringing with him a modern sensibility in horror. Gone are his masterfully oblique references to violence (as epitomized by the shower sequence in 1960’s Psycho); instead, we’re shown gruesomely overt murders with unmistakable sexual underpinnings. Indeed, it’s thoroughly unpleasant watching the first murder victim (sympathetic Leigh-Hunt) being raped and graphically choked to death — so we’re relieved when the next murder happens behind closed doors (btw, don’t read any reviews if you want the identity of this victim to remain a mystery). Fortunately, the film’s violence is balanced in Anthony Shaffer‘s script by a healthy dose of levity (a police inspector wryly notes, “We haven’t had a good juicy series of sex murders since Christie.”), and Hitchcock’s sense of direction is in prime form, as shown in several notable sequences: the unexpected delay before Leigh-Hunt’s secretary (a humorously snippy Jean Marsh) finally lets out a scream upon encountering her boss’s body; Foster’s desperate struggle with a cadaver in a truckbed; Hitchcock’s camera slowly panning away from an apartment where a murder is about to take place. Finch is ultimately too morose and unsympathetic as the film’s unwitting protagonist, but Foster is appropriately duplicitous as his murderous mate, and the lead female performances (by Leigh-Hunt and Massey) are both solid. While Frenzy may not be prime Hitchcock, it’s certainly a worthy suspense film, and will likely be of interest to all film fanatics.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Barry Foster as the Necktie Murderer
- Anna Massey as ‘Babs’
- Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Brenda
- Jean Marsh as Brenda’s mousy, suspicious secretary
- Strong, suspenseful direction
Yes, as a late-in-life film (his 55th!) by a master director.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)