Frenzy is a 1972 British thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the penultimate feature film of his extensive career.
The film is based upon the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern. The novel was adapted for the screen by Anthony Shaffer (The Wicker Man; Absolution). La Bern later expressed his dissatisfaction with Shaffer’s adaptation.
The film stars Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, and Barry Foster and features Billie Whitelaw (The Omen), Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Bernard Cribbins and Vivien Merchant. The original music score was composed by Ron Goodwin.
Alfred Hitchcock’s first British film since Stage Fright (1950) stars Barry Foster as market trader Robert Rusk, a psychopathic killer who strangles women with ties. Suspicion falls, however, on the innocent Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), after Rusk kills Blaney’s ex-wife Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) and his current girlfriend (Anna Massey).
Set-pieces include Rusk’s desperate attempt to prise an incriminating tie-pin out of one of his victim’s hands (now rigid with rigor mortis) and a leisurely tracking shot up a flight of stairs to alight upon a grisly murder in progress…
Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearance can be seen (three minutes into the film) in the centre of a crowd scene wearing a bowler hat. Teaser trailers show a Hitchcock-like dummy floating in the River Thames and Hitchcock introducing the audience to Covent Garden.
Hitchcock set and filmed Frenzy, his penultimate film, in London after many years of making films in the United States. The film opens with a sweeping shot along the Thames to 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 a 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, the director wanted to record the area as he remembered it.
“This is the kind of thriller Hitchcock was making in the 1940s, filled with macabre details, incongruous humor, and the desperation of a man convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The only 1970s details are the violence and the nudity (both approached with a certain grisly abandon that has us imagining Psycho without the shower curtain). It’s almost as if Hitchcock, at seventy-three, was consciously attempting to do once again what he did better than anyone else.” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.
“The Master of Suspense populates the film with all the style, wit, sadism and sheer excitement that catapulted his earlier films to classic status; and not to mention the inclusion of a potato truck sequence that easily rivals the bird attack scene in The Birds, the crop-duster sequence in North by Northwest, and second only to Janet Leigh’s iconic death in Psycho.” Cinephile Magazine.
“The master at his most jaundiced, Frenzy displays a magnifying rather than mellowing of the ugliness inherent in his worldview, but why should he have it any other way? Hitch’s patented cameo here is telling: Bowler-hated in the crowd hearing a speech about cleaning up the dirty river, he’s the only one not clapping. To the end, he found polluted waters far more interesting.” Slant Magazine