I used to be an Alfred Hitchcock fan but I cant say his recent films (post “Psycho”) have appealed to me at all. Therefore I approached his latest film with mixed feelings, hoping for a return to the suspenseful mystery thrillers he is capable of making but being prepared to see something as weak and soppy as “Torn Curtain”.
Having gone into the cinema with mixed feelings I also came out with mixed feelings as though “Frenzy” cannot be described aa a bad film it cannot be described as good for it is totally lacking in excitement, mystery and suspense and I seriously wonder that if it wasn’t for Alfred Hitchcock’s name would this film have had a West End showing at all?
It used to be sacrilege to divulge just so much as a line of plot in an Alfred Hitchcock film, but in “Frenzy” this is hardly likely to apply as there are no secrets or surprise endings to keep us guessing. The film is a straightforward thriller concerning a series of necktie murders which the hero is suspected (and later convicted) of committing though in fact he is, of course, innocent. The film is never boring as it jogs along at an easy pace and there are several amusing scenes concerning the great newspaper reading public who love a good gory murder, particularly amusing was the scene in which the hotel receptionist and porter having just let the “cupid” room to Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde discover that their guest is the necktie murderer and that possibly his next victim has already met her fate. However for understatement the best scene is probably the first, in which a group of people (including Alfred Hitchcock) having just discovered the naked body of a woman floating face down in the Thames proceed to discuss the gory rumours circulating about the necktie murderer.
The film has rather a romanticised view of London. but fortunately the people are more down to earth (did I actually hear a Hitchcock heroine say “Balls”!). The murder scenes are well handled and though they lack tension they do make compulsive viewing. Also well handled was the scene in which the villain tries to get back a tell-tale tie pin from the grasp of his latest victim who he has dumped in a sack of potatoes on the back of a truck which is now heading north.
“Frenzy” carries little of the emotional impact its title implies, even Jon Finch as the hero screaming that he shall have his revenge appears to be too well rehearsed to be convincing. In fact the entire plot seems to unfold in something of an emotional void which not even the two lovers can break down. There are of course the numerous ned herrings e.g. though Billie Whitelaw is a fine actress was her part in this film really necessary?
Though this film is totally lacking in the Hitchcock ingredients of suspense, mystery and intrigue which made him a world famous director this film does have an unexpected flair for comedy. The sight of the detective (who is in charge of the necktie murders) enduring his wife’s exotic dishes is surely one of the highlights of the film. It is scenes like this which keep the film from being just routine or outright bad, but such scenes can only enhance a film and not make it, therefore I’m afraid I shall have to report that though this film is unlikely to win Hitchcock any new fans it should keep the rest of us quiet until he gets back to his old form of making exciting films with lots of mystery and intrigue and most of all suspense.