A Necktie can be Murder
To say a Hitchcock movie has no class almost sounds blasphemous but that's pretty much how I feel about "Frenzy" his penultimate movie. The trouble is that once more we have Hitchcock delivering a story around an innocent man accused of murder and forced to go on the run and whilst the exploration of a serial killer makes it a little interesting the actual innocent man trying to evade arrest is all rather dull. But that is not my main issue, that issue is that where as in previous Hitchcock movies the stars had this class and sophistication, which frankly is quite attractive, what we get in "Frenzy" is more rough and ready people who live in London. It simply doesn't really draw you in to champion the innocent, worry about those who may become victims and leaves you on the outside just watching the story unfold.
After a series of misfortunes Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) finds himself unemployed, with no money and is forced to visit his ex-wife for some help. But his luck gets worse when the next day she is discovered raped and murdered in her offices with all the evidence pointing to her being the latest victim of the serial killer known as the necktie murderer and what is worse Blaney was the last person seen leaving her office. Innocent of the murder Blaney must go on the run and try and evade capture whilst trying to work out who it was who killed his wife to prove his innocence.
So as already mentioned "Frenzy" once more sees Hitchcock taking on the subject of an innocent man wrongly accused of murder and forced to go on the run. But where as in the likes of "Saboteur" and "North by Northwest" the storyline focused almost solely on the innocent man proving his innocence in "Frenzy" Hitchcock is more focussed on the psychology of a serial killer. And as such whilst we have Blaney trying to evade the police we also have a lot of focus on his friend Robert Rusk who early on in the movie we discover is the serial killer known as the necktie murderer. In fact that is a minor gripe I have with "Frenzy" as in a way I would have preferred not to know who the serial killer is till nearer the end as it could have drawn me in to try and work out who it was.
Now it has to be said that Hitchcock seems too delight in delivering snippets of information about serial killers. We learn that some serial killers who are rapists are impotent and it is the murder which gets them off and in a way it is strangely interesting. But it all seems a little forced as we have scenes such as two doctors in a bar discussing the necktie serial killer and basically informing us about these facts. And at the same time Hitchcock seems to be trying to push boundaries with a couple of scenes of nudity and what is actually a quite disturbing rape scene. It actually makes "Frenzy" seem a little wrong because the smoothness of a Hitchcock movie seems to be lacking.
And that leads to my biggest issue and that is it feels like Hitchcock was trying to be less charming and grittier with "Frenzy". The setting of Covent Garden is not in the least bit glamorous and the characters lack the style and charisma of the Hollywood stars which Hitchcock had used before. So whilst you have some classic Hitchcock touches with what is a brilliant tracking shot from Rusk's apartment and plenty of dark humour including a funny scene featuring a dead body in a potato sack, set in with rigamortis it ends up feeling less classy. Maybe that was the intention, to try and capture the grittiness of a serial killer in Britain but it ends up feeling wrong.
Sadly whilst every performance in "Frenzy" from Jon Finch as Blaney through to Billie Whitelaw as Hetty Porter and Bernard Cribbins as Felix Forsythe is solid they are not that memorable. It's because they are not classy characters that it just doesn't feel right and so whilst each of the actors including Anna Massey and Jean Marsh deliver capable performances you never warm to a single character. The exception to this is Barry Foster who does end up being quite entertaining as Robert Rusk and delivers brilliantly when it comes to the dark scene where he is trying to free his tie pin from the locked fingers of the body in the potato sack.
What this all boils down to is that "Frenzy" is one of my least favourite Hitchcock movies because for me it lacks the class of those which had big Hollywood stars attached to it. And whilst there are plenty of nice Hitchcock touches and an interesting look at the psychology of a serial killer it is a movie which left me feeling like I was on the outside looking in rather than involved with any of the characters especially are innocent man Blaney.