Early on in Frenzy, two pub patrons nonchalantly discuss a recent string of murders in the area and upon discovering the victims were raped first, one of the men utters “Well I suppose it’s nice to know that every cloud has a silver lining.” Yep, that’s the territory we’re dabbling in. The bleakness permeates every scene. Hitchcock really thrived off of returning to his home country with a thriller that showcases a perverted, warts and all vision of 70s Britain. Toughened audiences and a more lenient ratings system also allowed him to further indulge in ugliness and extremities not to mention a heavier leaning on his penchant for pitch-black gallows humour.
Of-course, this is no A Clockwork Orange but it is Hitch’s toughest thriller by a considerable margin. By this time he was an undisputed master of cinematic craft, especially in thrillers, so the explicit edge does freshen things up somewhat. A central rape/murder is particularly ugly and just when you think you’re going to go through it again later in the picture, Hitchcock instead abandons the murderer and the victim with an extended tracking shot that backs out of the building into the street outside. Having seen the previous attack, somehow this abandonment into normality makes the unseen one even more disturbing. Yikes.
Hitchcock’s penchant for black humour is also at its darkest. In an especially memorable set-piece, the killer must go to farce-like extremes in order to retrieve an incriminating bit of evidence from a corpse stuffed into a sack of potatoes in the back of a moving truck. It keeps escalating and escalating to the point where the killer must resort to snapping the poor dead woman’s fingers in order to get what he wants. There’s also an excellent handling of boring exposition with the investigating police officer returning home to his wife and laying out the entire plot to her while he dissects her unappealing fish-head broth. How to make exposition entertaining? Watch Frenzy.
I really liked this. It’s one of the last major late-period Hitchcock films I needed to tick off and it totally delivered. With his young imitators on the rise, you can feel that he had something to prove and his effortless craft is quite extraordinary. It is an ugly, bleak little picture and, like 10 Rilington Place, made me want to take a long hot shower to wash off the squalor. I didn’t, ofcourse. Hitchcock fans should know better than anyone what happens to people in showers.
Watched on blu-ray.