Frenzy (1972)

R | 116 mins | Drama | June 1972

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writer:

Anthony Shaffer

Producer:

Alfred Hitchcock

Cinematographer:

Gil Taylor

Editor:

John Jympson

Production Designer:

Syd Cain

Production Company:

Universal Pictures, Ltd.
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HISTORY

As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot at Pinewood Studios, London, England. It was also shot at various sites throughout the city, including Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and several eating and drinking establishments such as the pubs The Globe, Nell of Old Drury and The Woman’s Club.
       The film opens with producer-director Alfred Hitchcock’s signature ironic tone when a Parliamentary official lectures on cleaning up the pollution in the River Thames just as the latest necktie murder victim washes ashore. As noted in the 25 Jun 1972 LAT review, Hitchcock made his customary cameo appearance in this scene as a bystander in the crowd. Later in the film, when "Brenda Blaney," played by actress Barbara Leigh-Hunt, steels herself against "Robert Rusk" as he rapes her, she recites a passage of the 91st Psalm (erroneously listed as the 93rd Psalm in one review).
       According to several biographies of Hitchcock, the director worked on a script entitled Frenzy in the early 1960s with screenwriters Benn Levy, Howard Fast and Hugh Wheeler, but was unable to resolve the film’s plot. After buying the rights to Arthur J. La Bern’s novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square , Hitchcock named the new film project Frenzy , although it did not resemble the early drafts, and hired screenwriter Anthony Shaffer after first considering Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov to write the screenplay. While the LAT review stated that Shaffer wrote a "superbly structured" and “richly characterized" screenplay for Hitchcock to work with, according to a 1 Jun 1972 Var “International Sound Track” article, La Bern found Shaffer’s screenplay ... More Less

As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot at Pinewood Studios, London, England. It was also shot at various sites throughout the city, including Covent Garden, the Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and several eating and drinking establishments such as the pubs The Globe, Nell of Old Drury and The Woman’s Club.
       The film opens with producer-director Alfred Hitchcock’s signature ironic tone when a Parliamentary official lectures on cleaning up the pollution in the River Thames just as the latest necktie murder victim washes ashore. As noted in the 25 Jun 1972 LAT review, Hitchcock made his customary cameo appearance in this scene as a bystander in the crowd. Later in the film, when "Brenda Blaney," played by actress Barbara Leigh-Hunt, steels herself against "Robert Rusk" as he rapes her, she recites a passage of the 91st Psalm (erroneously listed as the 93rd Psalm in one review).
       According to several biographies of Hitchcock, the director worked on a script entitled Frenzy in the early 1960s with screenwriters Benn Levy, Howard Fast and Hugh Wheeler, but was unable to resolve the film’s plot. After buying the rights to Arthur J. La Bern’s novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square , Hitchcock named the new film project Frenzy , although it did not resemble the early drafts, and hired screenwriter Anthony Shaffer after first considering Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov to write the screenplay. While the LAT review stated that Shaffer wrote a "superbly structured" and “richly characterized" screenplay for Hitchcock to work with, according to a 1 Jun 1972 Var “International Sound Track” article, La Bern found Shaffer’s screenplay “appalling” and a subversion of his novel’s characters.
       According to a 14 Dec 1971 DV article, Henry Mancini was to compose the picture’s score. Biographies of the director explain that although Mancini was originally asked to write the score, Hitchcock, who had wanted a pop score, did not approve of Mancini’s interpretation for the film and subsequently hired Ron Goodwin. The biographies also note that Hitchcock’s wife Alma had a stroke during the shooting of the film and was flown back to Los Angeles. Distracted by her illness, Hitchcock allowed various assistant directors to shoot several scenes near the end of the shooting schedule. A modern source adds the following actors to the cast: Joby Blanshard, Geraldine Cowper, Drewe Henley, Jack Silk and Jeremy Young.
       Frenzy marked the first time since the 1951 film Stage Fright (see below) that the British-born filmmaker shot a film entirely in his native country. The 72-year-old Hitchcock made only one additional film, the 1976 picture Family Plot . Frenzy , which received an R rating from the MPAA, was the only Hitchcock film to contain a scene in which the character's bare breasts are visible.
       Along with most reviews, the 26 May 1972 DV lauded Hitchcock, not only for his suspense but also for his use of silent comedy, as in the scenes between “Inspector Oxford” and his wife, who insists on serving gourmet meals that are so eccentric that Oxford, always a gentleman, must hide his distaste with every bite. Most reviews stated that with Frenzy , the master filmmaker, had a made a brilliant film that was comparable to his earlier, more famous works. Vincent Canby praised the director in his NYT review, for the strange twist of creating a villain that receives occasional “cheering” from the audience. In a 30 Jul 1972 NYT article, Victoria Sullivan, angered by Canby’s remarks, asserted that the film makes the victims of rape and strangulation less meaningful than the “villain’s passion.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Jun 1972.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1968.
---
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1971.
---
Daily Variety
26 May 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 117-21.
Films and Filming
Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 1971
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 1971
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 1972
p. 3.
Life
2 May 1972.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
30 Jun 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jun 1972
Calendar, p. 22.
Motion Picture Herald
Jul 1972.
---
New York Times
22 Jun 1972
p. 48.
New York Times
30 Jul 1972.
---
New Yorker
24 Jun 1972.
---
Newsweek
26 Jun 1972.
---
Saturday Review
24 Jun 1972.
---
The Times (London)
28 May 1972.
---
Variety
31 May 1972
p. 6.
Variety
1 Jun 1972.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3rd asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Focus puller
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Cost des
Ward master
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to Mr. Hitchcock
Casting
Prod mgr
Loc mgr
Prod accountant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur J. La Bern (London, 1966).
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1972
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 21 June 1972
Los Angeles opening: 28 June 1972
Production Date:
late July--mid October 1971 in London
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
25 May 1972
Copyright Number:
LF103
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
116
Length(in feet):
10,445
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In London, one day along the Thames, a crowd spots a young woman’s strangled body wash ashore, another in a string of victims known as the Necktie Murders. Blocks away at the Globe bar, bartender Richard Blaney is badgered for taking a brandy by manager Felix Forsythe. The down-on-his luck ex-RAF pilot decides to quit rather than suffer the humiliation, thus losing both his job and his dingy apartment above the bar. After a short farewell to his girl friend, Babs Milligan, a Globe barmaid, Blaney seeks solace with his old friend Robert Rusk, a congenial man who owns a Covent Garden fruit business. Although Rusk offers him money and betting advice on the afternoon’s horse races, Blaney is too consumed with his plight to go to the races. After spending his last pound on brandy and then learning that Rusk’s sure bet won at twenty to one, a thoroughly frustrated and drunken Blaney visits his ex-wife, Brenda, at her matrimonial agency. Envious of her success, Blaney loudly insults Brenda, who then asks her prim and concerned secretary, Monica Barling, to leave early to ensure some privacy for her and Blaney. An understanding woman, Brenda invites Blaney to dinner at her club hoping to calm him down, but Blaney becomes more derisive and breaks a glass. Unaware that Brenda has secretly put twenty pounds in his coat pocket, Blaney spends the night on a free bed at the Salvation Army. The next day, Rusk, known to Brenda as “Mr. Robinson,” visits her agency during Monica’s lunch hour, to insist that Brenda find him a date. After Brenda sternly refuses, citing his perverse request for extreme submission, Rusk claims ... +


In London, one day along the Thames, a crowd spots a young woman’s strangled body wash ashore, another in a string of victims known as the Necktie Murders. Blocks away at the Globe bar, bartender Richard Blaney is badgered for taking a brandy by manager Felix Forsythe. The down-on-his luck ex-RAF pilot decides to quit rather than suffer the humiliation, thus losing both his job and his dingy apartment above the bar. After a short farewell to his girl friend, Babs Milligan, a Globe barmaid, Blaney seeks solace with his old friend Robert Rusk, a congenial man who owns a Covent Garden fruit business. Although Rusk offers him money and betting advice on the afternoon’s horse races, Blaney is too consumed with his plight to go to the races. After spending his last pound on brandy and then learning that Rusk’s sure bet won at twenty to one, a thoroughly frustrated and drunken Blaney visits his ex-wife, Brenda, at her matrimonial agency. Envious of her success, Blaney loudly insults Brenda, who then asks her prim and concerned secretary, Monica Barling, to leave early to ensure some privacy for her and Blaney. An understanding woman, Brenda invites Blaney to dinner at her club hoping to calm him down, but Blaney becomes more derisive and breaks a glass. Unaware that Brenda has secretly put twenty pounds in his coat pocket, Blaney spends the night on a free bed at the Salvation Army. The next day, Rusk, known to Brenda as “Mr. Robinson,” visits her agency during Monica’s lunch hour, to insist that Brenda find him a date. After Brenda sternly refuses, citing his perverse request for extreme submission, Rusk claims that Brenda is his “type” and corners her. Although Brenda tries to escape, Rusk rapes and strangles her, leaving his tie around her neck and taking money from her purse as he leaves. Moments later, Monica spots Blaney leaving the building, not knowing that he had visited Brenda’s office but found the door locked only moments after Rusk’s departure. When Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Oxford questions Monica during the investigation, she is quick to accuse Blaney, stating that she saw him leave the office as she returned from lunch and that he was violent during his visit the previous day. She then describes Blaney and his tweed jacket with leather patches in great detail for the police, who have discovered money is missing from Brenda’s purse. Meanwhile, Blaney, upon discovering Brenda’s money in his coat, decides to rent a hotel room and invite Babs, who brings his belongings from The Globe. After Blaney turns his pants and jacket over to the hall porter for cleaning, the couple enjoys an evening of lovemaking. When the morning newspaper is delivered to their door, Blaney and Babs discover that Brenda has become the next necktie murder victim and Blaney is the prime suspect. Meanwhile downstairs, the hall porter calls the police, recognizing the newspaper’s description of Blaney and his jacket. The police arrive only moments later, but Blaney and Babs have already fled to a nearby park, where Blaney convinces Babs that he is not a murderer. Moments later, Johnny Porter, Blaney’s old military buddy, spots the couple in the park and, believing Blaney is innocent, invites them to his apartment. Johnny then offers Blaney and Babs jobs working at his English pub in France, where they can hide until the real murderer is found. After Blaney and Babs arrange to meet at Victoria Station the next day to go to France, she returns to The Globe. Meanwhile, Oxford has matched Brenda’s face powder to that found on the money Blaney used to pay for the hotel. When he then learns that Brenda divorced Blaney on the grounds of abusive treatment, Oxford is convinced of Blaney’s guilt. Back at The Globe, Babs promptly quits when she discovers that Forsythe reported that she was dating Blaney to the police. Afraid to return to her apartment above the bar, Babs accepts Rusk’s offer to stay at his apartment for the night after he lies that he will be out of town, but once she enters the apartment, Babs becomes yet another victim of Rusk’s psychopathic rage. That evening, the long-suffering Oxford carefully hides his disgust with one more of his chipper wife’s attempts at preparing an outlandish gourmet meal, a result of her recent cooking classes. As he shares the details of the case while surreptitiously pouring his helping of fish soup back in the tureen, his wife questions why Blaney would have performed a “crime of passion” against his wife after ten years, but Oxford is still convinced he has caught his man. Meanwhile Rusk puts Babs’s body in a potato sack and loads it on a truck bound for Lincolnshire that night, but then finds that his tiepin engraved with his initials missing. Supposing that Babs grasped it in the struggle, Rusk climbs under the truck tarpaulin to find Babs’s body just before the truck pulls away. As the truck bumps down the road, Rusk breaks each of Babs’s fingers, stiffened by rigor mortis, to release the pin from her grasp. Finally the truck driver stops at a truckers’ cafe, where Rusk quickly hides in the restroom until the driver leaves. While Rusk goes into the restaurant, miles away, the trucker is forced to stop when police spot Babs’s arm hanging from the truck. The next morning back in London, after reading the newspaper reports about another murder the previous evening, Johnny agrees to be Blaney’s alibi; however, Johnny’s wife Hetty insists that her husband will be convicted of accessory to murder, convincing the weak-willed Johnny to forsake his friend. Incensed, Blaney asks Rusk if he can hide at his apartment. Rusk agrees and offers to take his bag, while the unsuspecting Blaney enters through the back to avoid being seen. Moments later, Rusk alerts the police, who arrest Blaney and then find Babs’s clothing, which Rusk planted in Blaney’s bag, confirming their suspicions. At the courtroom days later, when Blaney is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, he screams repeatedly that Rusk is the murderer and vows to kill him. Blaney’s pleas prompt Oxford to question his judgment and continue the investigation. Many days later Oxford sends Sergeant Spearman to the truckers’ café in Lincolnshire with a picture of Rusk after learning from the driver that it was his only stop that fateful night. The same evening, Blaney, having purposefully injured himself to gain admittance to the prison hospital, makes an escape and heads directly to Rusk’s apartment. Meanwhile, Spearman discovers that the café waitress does recognize Rusk from the night of the murder, and she hands Spearman the brush Rusk used to dust his jacket, which smells of potato dust. Learning of Blaney’s escape, Oxford rushes to Rusk’s apartment, while Blaney, already inside, spots a body under the bed covers and strikes it with a tire iron only to discover he has bludgeoned another necktie victim, not Rusk. At that moment, Oxford rushes in and signals for Blaney to be quiet as they await Rusk, who is carefully dragging a trunk up the stairs to hide the body of his victim. Opening the door, Rusk is greeted by Oxford, who aptly notes, “Mr. Rusk, you’re not wearing your tie.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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