Frenzy


Frenzy Information

Frenzy is a 1972 British thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the penultimate feature film of his extensive career and often considered by critics and scholars to be his last great film before his death. 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 film stars Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, and Barry Foster and features Billie Whitelaw, Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Bernard Cribbins and Vivien Merchant. The original music score was composed by Ron Goodwin.

The film was screened at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition.

The plot centers on a serial killer in contemporary London. In a very early scene there is dialogue that mentions two actual London serial murder cases: the Christie murders in the early 1950s, and the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.

Plot summary

In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neckties. Most of the film takes place in Covent Garden, which at the time was still the wholesale fruit and vegetable market district. Fairly early in the film, the audience sees that fruit merchant Robert Rusk (Barry Foster) is in fact the murderer. However, circumstantial guilt has already built up around his friend, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch).

Blaney's ex-wife Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) runs a matchmaking service that Rusk used until he was blacklisted for beating up his dates. One day, Rusk shows up at her office and tries to seduce her; when she spurns his advances, he rapes and strangles her in a fit of rage. Suspicion falls on Blaney who is seen threatening his ex-wife in public; then, the next day, is seen leaving her building shortly after her murder. The subsequent murder of Blaney's girlfriend, Barbara "Babs" Milligan (Anna Massey), occurs off-screen: the audience sees her entering Rusk's apartment with him, but the camera then pulls back down the stairs all the way out to the other side of the street.

The audience next sees Rusk at night carrying a large sack and lifting it into the back of a lorry among sacks of unsold potatoes bound for Lincolnshire. Rusk soon finds that his distinctive jeweled tie pin (with the initial R) is missing, and realises that Babs must have torn it off as he was murdering her. He climbs into the back of the lorry, but it starts off on its journey north. The killer desperately scrabbles through the sack of potatoes to find the dead woman's hand. Rigor mortis has set in, and he has to break her fingers in order to prise the pin from her grasp.

Owing to fake evidence set up by Rusk, Blaney is gaoled while protesting his innocence. Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen), the detective investigating the murders, reconsiders the previous events and begins to believe that he has arrested the wrong man. He discusses the case with his wife (Vivien Merchant) in several scenes of black humour concerning her ineptitude as a cook.

With the help of his fellow inmates, Blaney escapes from prison. Oxford knows he will head to Rusk's flat for revenge, and immediately goes there. Blaney arrives first, to find that the door to the flat is unlocked. He creeps in and sees what appears to be Rusk asleep in bed, and strikes the body thrice with a metal bar. However, we see that the body is in fact the corpse of another of Rusk's female victims, strangled by a necktie.

Oxford bursts through the door. Blaney is still standing by the corpse holding the metal bar, and begins to protest his innocence, but then they both hear something or someone banging heavily coming up the staircase. The two men wait in the flat and witness Rusk dragging a large trunk inside to cart away the body, only to come face to face with two determined witnesses. The film ends with Oxford's urbane but pointed comment, "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie."

Cast

  • Jon Finch as Richard Ian 'Dick' Blaney
  • Alec McCowen as Chief Inspector Oxford
  • Barry Foster as Robert 'Bob' Rusk
  • Billie Whitelaw as Hetty Porter
  • Anna Massey as Barbara Jane 'Babs' Milligan
  • Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Brenda Margaret Blaney
  • Bernard Cribbins as Felix Forsythe
  • Vivien Merchant as Mrs. Oxford
  • Michael Bates as Sergeant Spearman
  • Jean Marsh as Monica Barling
  • Clive Swift as Johnny Porter
  • Madge Ryan as Mrs. Davison
  • Elsie Randolph as Gladys
  • Gerald Sim as Solicitor in Pub
  • John Boxer as Sir George
  • George Tovey as Neville Salt
  • Jimmy Gardner as Hotel Porter
  • Noel Johnson as Doctor in Pub
  • Rita Webb as Mrs Rusk
  • Michael Sheard as Jim, Rusk's friend in Pub
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 via the fourth wall.

Michael Caine was Hitchcock's first choice for the role of Rusk, the main antagonist, but Caine thought the character was disgusting and said "I don't want to be associated with the part". Foster was cast after Hitchcock saw him in Twisted Nerve (which also featured Frenzy co-star Billie Whitelaw). Vanessa Redgrave reportedly turned down the role of Brenda, and Deep Reds David Hemmings (who had co-starred with Redgrave in Blow-Up) was considered to play Blaney. Helen Mirren, who later in life played a film version of Alma Reville in Hitchcock met with the director and eventually turned down the role of Babs Milligan, and years later regretted it.

Soundtrack

Henry Mancini was originally hired as the film's composer. His opening theme was written in Bachian organ andante, opening in D minor, for organ and an orchestra of strings and brass, intended to express the formality of the grey London landmarks, but Hitchcock thought it sounded too much like Bernard Herrman's scores.

According to Mancini, "Hitchcock came to the recording session, listened awhile and said 'Look, if I want Herrmann, I'd ask for Herrmann'. After an enigmatic behind-the-scenes melodrama, the composer was fired. He never understood the experience, insisting that his score sounded nothing like Herrmann. In those days, Mancini had full music measurements sheet and he had to pay all transportation and accommodations himself. In his autobiography Mancini reports that the discussions between himself and Hitchcock seemed clear, he thought he understood what was wanted, but he was replaced and flew back home to Hollywood. The irony was that Mancini was now being second-guessed for being too dark and symphonic after having been criticized for being too light before. Mancini's experience with Frenzy was a painful topic for the composer for years to come."

Hitchcock then hired composer Ron Goodwin to write the score after being impressed with some of his earlier work. Goodwin's music had a lighter tone in the opening scenes, and scenes featuring London scenery, while there were darker undertones in certain other scenes.

Production

After a pair of unsuccessful films depicting political intrigue and espionage, Hitchcock returned to the murder genre with this film. The narrative makes use of the familiar Hitchcock theme of an innocent man overwhelmed by circumstantial evidence and wrongly assumed to be guilty. Some critics consider Frenzy the last great Hitchcock film and a return to form after his two previous works, Topaz and Torn Curtain.

Hitchcock set and filmed Frenzy in London after many years 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, Hitchcock wanted to record the area as he remembered it. According to the making-of feature on the DVD, an elderly man who remembered Hitchcock's father as a dealer in the vegetable market came to visit the set during the filming and was treated to lunch by the director.

During shooting for the film, Hitchcock's wife and longtime collaborator Alma had a stroke. As a result, some sequences were shot without Hitchcock on the set so he could attend to his wife.

The film was the first Hitchcock film to have nudity. There are a number of classic Hitchcock set pieces in the film particularly the long tracking shot down the stairs when Babs is murdered. The camera moves down the stairs, out the doorway (with a rather clever edit just after the camera exits the door which marks where the scene moves from the studio to the location footage) and across the street where the usual activity in the market district goes on with patrons unaware that a murder is occurring in the building. A second sequence set in the back of a delivery truck full of potatoes increases the suspense as the murderer Rusk attempts to retrieve his tie pin from the corpse of Babs. Rusk struggles with the hand and has to break the hand of the corpse to retrieve his tie pin and try and escape unseen from the truck.

The area as seen in the film still exists, but the fruit and vegetable market no longer operates from there, having relocated in 1974. The buildings seen in the film are now occupied by banks and legal offices, restaurants and nightclubs, such as Henrietta Street, where Rusk lived (and Babs met her untimely demise). Oxford Street, which had the back alley (Dryden Chambers, now demolished) leading to Brenda Blaney's matrimonial agency, is the busiest shopping area in Britain. Nell of Old Drury, which is the public house where the doctor and solicitor had their frank, plot-assisting discussion on sex killers, is still a thriving bar. The lanes where merchants and workers once carried their produce, as seen in the film, are now occupied by tourists and street performers.

Novelist La Bern later expressed his dissatisfaction with Shaffer's adaptation of his book.

The film was the subject of the 2012 book Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy: The Last Masterpiece by Raymond Foery.




This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frenzy" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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