“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” ~Alfred Hitchcock
Watching a Hitchcock film is like being dangled over the top of a twenty-story building – nerve-wracking, irritating, intense and nothing else like it in the world. Hitchcock is the one forcing you to look over the edge of that building and he enjoys every second of our torment.
The film to best personify that vision is Hitchcock’s “Frenzy,” a movie that came near the end of his career and saw him return to his British roots. By this point, the code of filmmaking that had been in place since Hitchcock arrived in America had been removed and replaced with the beginnings of the MPAA ratings. So Hitch took full advantage of that and that he was only bound by British filmmaking rules. He didn’t seem to care if “Frenzy” got an R-rating, as long as it meant he could do anything he wanted, including opening his film with a naked dead body floating through London.
“Frenzy” is Hitchcock at his most barbaric, not afraid to pull any punches as to what can be shown on-screen. He’ll show violent acts of passion and have the next scene be about the terrible cooking of a police chief’s wife (which she never eats until the end, always forcing it on her husband). This is what makes “Frenzy” so endearing, the lighthearted nature of a serial killer on the loose in London and it works brilliantly.
“Frenzy” immediately differs itself from any other Hitchcock film with the amount of horrifying imagery throughout. Grotesque moments are implied in films like “Rear Window,” “Vertigo” and “Shadow Of A Doubt,” but we never see it in action. In the famous shower sequence in “Psycho,” the knife is never shown cutting into the victim’s skin and Hitchcock lets the audience paint the picture. But with this one, nothing is left to the imagination and Hitchcock becomes brutal yet honest with the lengths this killer will go to.
The first half of “Frenzy” is spent following Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) and his unfortunate luck with women, jobs and race horses. Blaney becomes desperate for money and goes to his ex-wife for help. She is sympathetic but won’t tolerate his anger and drinking habit, so she slips him some money and pushes him away. Not too long after that though, she ends up murdered by the “Necktie Killer” and all the signs point toward Blaney as the suspect.
In a way, the plot of “Frenzy” reminds me of “Psycho.” The first hour of both films are drastically different from the second hour, always keeping you on your toes, never too sure what will happen to any of the characters. I can say I was pleasantly surprised by the final fifteen minutes of “Frenzy,” because I did not see any of it coming. This film does a wonderful job of breaking away from the Hitchcock formula, while still having the flare of a Hitchcock masterpiece. Combine that with a great sense of humor and unforgiving cinematography, and you have the most underrated Hitchcock classic.
Final Grade: A-