Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).
For the past three weeks, Jess has turned her attention to the works of Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe you’ve heard of him? Look for the final instalment of this Hitch-a-thon next week!
After watching Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 thriller Frenzy, you’ll never look at potatoes the same way again. It’s a big claim, but just as Hitchcock turned showers and birds into instruments of horror, so too has he transformed the humble potato into a symbol of the filthy underbelly of society.
It would be Hitchcock’s penultimate film and a return to form after a string of considered flops, including Torn Curtain and Topaz, which failed to perform at the box office or with critics. He returned to Britain to film this adaptation of the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leister Square, about a London serial killer who rapes and then strangles his victims using his necktie. The killer’s identity is not kept a secret; the audience is in fact aware it is Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) from very early on. The intensity of the horror and suspense instead lies in the wrongful accusation of an innocent man, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch), and in the skilful direction by Hitchcock that leads to Chief Inspector Oxford’s (Alec McCowen) discovery of the real killer.
Blaney and Rusk share more than just a friendship, with Rusk choosing Blaney’s girlfriend Barbara (Anna Massey), and his ex-wife Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) as two of his victims. Brenda’s murder is in fact the only to be shown on screen during the entire film; another reason why Hitchcock’s directorial style stands out from those who make modern day horror films. His screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer, convinced him that to show more than one murder on screen would be redundant, a far cry from the slasher flicks that pass as horror today.
Much like filmmaker Tim Burton, Hitchcock dances with the macabre in Frenzy, where the grisly task of Rusk retrieving evidence from a victim’s body incites laughter from the audience. He also employs the use of long shots in the film, the best of which occurs when Rusk lures Blaney’s girlfriend to his apartment. As they walk through the door the camera pulls back and retreats down the stairs and across the street, letting the audience anticipate the action without seeing it play out; true Hitchcockian horror.
Frenzy is available on DVD, and can be streamed via Quickflix’s Watch Now service.