Movies We Like
Alfred Hitchcock’s second to last film, the underrated Frenzy, may not rank in his top tier. I would reserve that for The Birds, Vertigo, Notorious, and the first two-thirds of Psycho. But it definitely deserves consideration for that next tier, a still high quality group of classics that may include Rebecca, Strangers On A Train, Rear Window and North By Northwest.
Returning for the first time in decades to his old stomping grounds in England, the then seventy-three year old master was able to fully embrace the sex, violence, and nudity standards that had become looser by the early 1970s. The film is shockingly explicit even when compared with say, Marnie, his sexual thriller he made only eight years earlier.
The story of a serial killer and rapist nicknamed the Necktie Murderer stalking the streets of London’s Covent Gardens Market may be slightly standard issue plot. It’s how Hitchcock turns the plot inside-out that makes the story so compelling. The killer is revealed early in one of the more shocking rape and murder scenes ever filmed. Interestingly the next rape/murder is thankfully not shown on camera, but the effect is just as horrifying. The mystery of the story is in how the hero, when framed by the killer, will prove his innocence, even when every move he makes seems to make him look more guilty. He is played well by Jon Finch of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth, a sort of poor man’s Terrence Stamp.
Though the film often resorts to some awkward British black humor concerning the detective on the case and his hummingbirdish wife, like most of that second tier of Hitchcock classics what makes the film truly memorable are the handful of breathtaking camera moves and amazing set pieces. At one point Hitchcock convinces us to root for the killer as he tries to retrieve his custom pin from the hand of his dead victim in the back of a moving potato truck. A potentially simple chore becomes breathtaking in Hitchcock’s hands.
1972, what an interesting year for film. Besides the obviously celebrated masterpieces like The Godfather, Cabaret, and Deliverance, there were a number of other boundary-pushing directors taking their work to new levels, Malle (Murmur Of The Heart), Bunuel (The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie), Herzog (Aguirre, The Wrath Of God), and Tarkovsky (Solyaris) all potentially peaked that year with their films. Not to mention, 1972 was also the year of such "game-changers" as The Last House On The Left, Deep Throat, and Pink Flamingos. It’s amazing to see the old master change with the times and make such a bold piece of entertainment. Hopefully as every generation continues to puzzle over Hitchcock’s fascinating career, Frenzy will continue to inch up higher on other people’s Hitch-rankings.