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Movie Review: FRENZY

This week for “Close-Up with Camenker”,  Zach reviews . . . FRENZY! (October 15, 2021)


When acclaimed director Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film FRENZY was released in 1972, he knew he needed a winning picture. After a scattered filmography of triumphs (PSYCHO and THE BIRDS) and troubles (TOPAZ and TORN CURTAIN) in the 1960s, Hitch decided to return to his roots and set his next piece in his native London. 

This was not the only return to form that Hitch made in selecting a British setting, the home of most of his early films prior to arriving in Hollywood in 1940. In fact, the murder mystery/thriller vibe that FRENZY gave off was a true return to what Hitch knew best: suspense.

The picture centers around a small neighborhood in London dealing with the effects of what they have deemed “the necktie murderer,” a serial killer who appears to strangle his victims with neckties. 

Immediately, protagonist Richard Blaney, who has a reputation for being difficult, gets caught up in the situation. Blaney laments his misfortunes to his good friend Bob Rusk, who owns a fruit stand in the neighborhood. In an almost NORTH BY NORTHWEST style of mishap, Blaney quickly becomes the number one suspect in the necktie murders for reasons that I won’t reveal. As the plot unfolds, a great deal of pressure sits on Blaney’s shoulders and the suspense builds rapidly.

Blaney is played by the late, great British actor Jon Finch, who was fresh off the titular role in the 1971 MACBETH film directed by Roman Polanski. Here, Finch thrives as the protagonist, allowing his “rough around the edges” troubled personality to develop with each scene. He is supported well by Barry Foster, who plays Bob Rusk to perfection. Rusk’s character is classic Hitchcockian in so many ways. What works brilliantly here is that we as the audience see much of Rusk that other characters don’t. As always, Hitch does a phenomenal job with embedding irony and classic mystery pieces very much in line with how hard-boiled detective works operate. As a result, FRENZY reads as one of his most British films ever made.

It’s worth noting that Hitch may have found solace in returning to his roots of London after the previous decade of his work had produced mixed results. Perhaps it’s the setting or the characters themselves, but it’s really hard to picture an American version of FRENZY instead. By steering away from his traditional suave leading man in the realm of Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart, as well as having no real blonde bombshell like Grace Kelly or Tippi Hedren to complement the man, the picture has an element of excitement in the newness that it presents.

31 Days of Halloween #24 – Frenzy (1972) is the most controversial Hitchcock movie ever made | Falcon at the MoviesInterestingly enough, Hitch’s father ran a fruit stand in London just as the character Bob Rusk does. One has to wonder how he pays homage to his life in England throughout this picture as a result. 

The plot itself is so masterful that diving into anything beyond the basics would be too much as it’s best enjoyed when you know very little. I will say that the characters and performances alone are well worth your time in viewing the film, as well as the gorgeous scenery that truly captures the heart of London’s city scape.

While critics and scholars seem to remain divided as to how they feel about FRENZY, I see it as a Hitchcockian masterpiece that serves as a reminder of where he came from. Its originality and desire to somewhat “push the envelope” in a way is quite special. It’s a great thing that he made it after some earlier flops and although his final film from 1976, FAMILY PLOT, is one of the few of his that I haven’t seen and cannot judge, ending on this high note would have been a score for Hitch if you ask me. It still is a score nonetheless.

FRENZY will show in person at Red River on October 21 as a part of the October film series highlighting horror and thriller movies through the decades. If my review made you interested in seeing it, join me then on what I can guarantee will be a great experience seeing a Hitch movie as it was meant to be seen: on the biggest screen possible!


“Close-Up with Camenker” will take a brief hiatus and return sometime after Thanksgiving, at which point we will be celebrating about a year of movie columns!

Click here to learn more about Zach Camenker!

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