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Saturday, August 20, 2011

FRENZY (1972)

After three commercial & critical disappointments, Alfred Hitchcock got much happier results with this seriously perverse, rousingly amusing Brit-based thriller about a notorious 'necktie' serial killer. From it’s opening shot, as the pomp & circumstance of Ron Goodwin’s score escorts us down the Thames, until Anthony Shaffer’s perfectly pitched tagline nails the landing, the film shows a confident swagger and a pleasing technical polish that Hitch couldn’t reliable get at this home lot in Hollywood.* Made for a tidy 2 mill (less than half his recent costs), the little known cast & atmospheric Covent Garden locations add a welcome note of loamy verisimilitude to its gritty innocent-man-on-the-run storyline. (It’s easy to imagine a big-budget option with Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson & Alec Guinness in the Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Anna Massey & Alec McCowen roles. Plus, Maggie Smith in for Jean Marsh.) There are times when Shaffer’s script pushes the obvious at us (an early explanatory scene on psycho-serial killers, along with an appalling rape joke, are unfortunate). But someone had the inspired idea of turning the detective’s verbal ratiocinations into dinner conversations with his wife as she serves up revolting gourmet meals on blue-patterned Wedgewood. The gastronomic horror is enough to make the famously ovum-phobic Hitchcock lavish praise on an over-easy egg.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Inexcusably, Hitchcock’s follow-up pic, FAMILY PLOT/’76, his unaccountably underrated swan-song, shows Universal’s Hollywood default mode of rotten technical work still in place, especially in some relentlessly retrograde process work.

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