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A Movie A Day: Quint on FRENZY (1972)
I don't know if you know it, Babs, but you're my type of woman.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Screenwriter/playwrite Anthony Shaffer bridges us from yesterday’s SLEUTH to today’s FRENZY, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Both are very British and balance black humor with some really twisted scenarios, but other than that they’re pretty far removed as stories go. Hitch follows his old wrong man formula, but he tells the story in a much darker and intense way than before. FRENZY was advertised as Hitchcock’s first R-rated movie and it feels it. There’s some great ‘70s nudity (read bushy) and the kills we see are incredibly graphic. They’re not bloody, but definitely off-putting in their intensity. He also plays with sound a lot in the movie (or lack thereof), playing some sequences in complete silence, which was great. There’s a murder scene we don’t see, that goes from a set to a location with one long track shot (with a hidden cut as an extra wipes the frame) that is played in complete silence. Very tense, actually. I was waiting for a scream that never came. So, the flick is set in London as murdered women start popping up, attributed to The Neck-Tie Killer, someone who rapes and strangles women, leaving the murder weapon (a neck tie) twisted around his victim’s necks.

We follow a mustached Jon Finch as he constantly pops up in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the prime suspect for these murders. We’re shown in pretty short order who the real murderer is, but it’s pretty easy to guess. It’s always the likable characters that end up the villains in these movies, so when it’s revealed about half an hour in that Finch’s good friend Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) is the fiend it’s not much of a surprise. Foster is incredibly likable and very good at playing comedy, which is important with this flick. Even if it has some of Hitch’s most intense killings, the real charm of the movie for me was seeing just how slapsticky he got with the black comedy aspect of it. There’s a scene where Foster realizes he left a crucial bit of evidence with the body of his latest victim and the following 10 minutes is essentially a Jerry Lewis bit where he gets stuck in the back of a potato truck running down the road, fighting with the rigor mortis-ridden body in a potato sack. Gallows humor at its finest. Finch is a bit bland as the lead, but Hitchcock surrounds him with enough colorful characters that you don’t mind too much. Especially memorable are Clive Swift and Billie Whitelaw (remember her from HOT FUZZ? “Hag.”) as Johnny and Hetty Porter, good friends of Finch’s who put him up while on the run. Whitelaw is cold and vicious, certain he did it and it takes everything Swift can do to keep her from ratting Finch out. Anna Massey is also well-used as Finch’s bar-maid girlfriend. She’s not super model gorgeous, but beautiful in a very English way. Also of note is the detective hunting Finch down, played by Alec McCowen. They don’t play him up as knowing any better or looking through the evidence. He thinks he’s after the right guy, but when evidence starts to contradict itself, well… he simply keep an open mind.

What Shaffer and Hitchcock did here (smartly) was give most of McCowen’s exposition in another comedy setting, discussing the case with his wife (Vivien Merchant) over dinners that get increasingly more bizarre. She’s taking cooking classes and is always trying out some French dish comprised of eel heads or giant platters of pig feet. So as McCowen is telling her about the case he’s trying to figure out a way to not eat the disgusting food in front of him. I really wish TWISTED NERVE was out on DVD as it is the perfect companion piece to FRENZY. In fact, I believe Hitchcock hired both Whitelaw and Foster based on that film. You’ll remember that Tarantino used Bernard Herrman’s awesome theme song from TWISTED NERVE in KILL BILL. Daryl Hannah whistles it as she saunters down the hospital corridor in her hot nurse’s outfit.

Hitchcock Cameo Alert: Watch the crowd closely at the beginning as the dead girl washes up from the River Thames. Final Thoughts: Even late in his career, Hitchcock still experimented and there’s a raw edge to this flick that really did make it enjoyable for me to watch. Despite Finch being a rather dull lead, the humor of the film makes it something to remember and recommend. Foster is the star of the movie as far as I’m concerned.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, July 17th: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005) Friday, July 18th: CADILLAC MAN (1990) Saturday, July 19th: THE SURE THING (1985) Sunday, July 20th: MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985) Monday, July 21st: MEATBALLS (1979) Tuesday, July 22nd: CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966) Wednesday, July 23rd: OUT OF THE PAST (1947) Tomorrow we follow lead Jon Finch over to Ridley Scott’s director’s cut of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN where he plays Jerusalem. See you then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth

Readers Talkback
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  • July 16, 2008, 8:52 p.m. CST

    So Quint...

    by PotSmokinAlien

    Do you ever dislike any of these Movies A Day? I haven't read em all so far, but it seems like you're generally being pleasantly surprised, yeah?

  • July 16, 2008, 8:53 p.m. CST

    Now the only thing missing is someone saying First twenty some o

    by blckmgk13

    ..oh there it is. goody. dipshit.

  • July 16, 2008, 8:56 p.m. CST


    by Quint

    There have been two flicks I've disliked so far: The Left Handed Gun and Pocket Money, both with Paul Newman. There have been others I've been lukewarm on, but for the most part it's been good stuff.

  • July 16, 2008, 9:01 p.m. CST

    Very disturbing rape scene and surprisingly graphic

    by Lovecraftfan

    Great film though for all the reasons Quint listed.

  • July 16, 2008, 9:10 p.m. CST

    hitchcock had it right up to his death

    by bacci40

    this was a great flick...cant wait to hear quints reasons for never seeing meatballs and the sure thing...quint, have you seen any pekinpah movies?

  • July 16, 2008, 9:26 p.m. CST

    Hey Quint

    by Durant

    Like PotheadET, I'm reading all your reviews. I like this feature. I'm seeing this column as something relatively unique at AICN, where you prompt discussion of historical movies from the perspective of a fresh review, seeing what holds up today and giving reviews based on a present-day perspective, coming from a new viewer. Because these days I see on AICN more things like Watchmen promos or trailers or reviews of things that have already aired, which frankly I can get anywhere or on specialized sites, I'll only keep coming here when I can get content I can't get elsewhere. You write that this will continue until you run out of DVDs or call uncle - is there a way we can suggest other gems you may have missed? Not really knowing where your personal viewing gaps are, can you figure out how can we suggest a movie for a future review? I know the talkback crowd can come up with some real hidden gems...

  • July 16, 2008, 10:09 p.m. CST


    by darthliquidator

    Barry Foster's guttural repetition of the word "lovely" while he's raping and strangling may be one of the most disturbing, horrifyingly perverse moments in all of Hitchcock's film's. Incidentally...the potato truck scene was practically the whole reason why Hitchcock wanted to make the film in the first place

  • July 16, 2008, 10:15 p.m. CST

    Watched this in film class

    by O_Goncho

    Quite enjoyable as films picked for film classes go, I felt quite ashamed for laughing at certain aspects of it though. The potato truck bit was brilliant, but I even chuckled at the face the first woman we see get strangled in front of us makes... please tell me I'm not alone there... I feel bad about it :(

  • July 16, 2008, 10:19 p.m. CST

    Hitch's last absolute classic

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Too bad he had to go out on the limp Family Plot (wonderful John Williams score, though). "Mr.'re not wearing your tie."

  • July 16, 2008, 10:19 p.m. CST

    Oh lord, I laughed again...

    by O_Goncho

    Spoiler picture, obviously, for anyone who doesn't want to see a neck-tie victim... come on, that could be funny... right? '_'

  • July 16, 2008, 10:23 p.m. CST

    Damned links

    by O_Goncho fix'd

  • July 16, 2008, 10:24 p.m. CST

    Love this movie

    by Charlie_Allnut

    I am a HUGE Hitchcock fan and I discovered this movie about two years ago and LOVED it! It amazes me that at the end of a directors career he could still be fearlessly experimenting with styles of cinematography, black humor etc. I mean his style was still evolving even after 50 years of making movies! You look at the auteurs from the 70's like Friedkin, Spielberg, Coppola...and they have almost all lost their edge and their artistic voice. Anybody seen Family Plot?

  • July 16, 2008, 11:28 p.m. CST


    by Quint

    I'm always open for suggestions. I have seen quite a bit, but (obviously) there are most certainly more films that I haven't seen. The list is pretty locked from here until January of next year, but I'm always looking for new films. I've already added 7 from my last run to the used DVD store.<BR><BR>Goncho, I will admit that I thought it was a little over the top when I first saw her, but there's something insanely creepy and off-putting about her tongue hanging out of her mouth... something instantly disturbing, like the image of a person hung. Something that just gets under my skin.

  • July 16, 2008, 11:44 p.m. CST


    by Mace Tofu

    BigLots store are selling MGM DVDs new for $3. Not sure if that is a better deal than your used DVD store. My store had about 100 titles to chose from. I picked up SCANNERS, JACK THE GIANT KILLER, LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVED DOWN THE LANE, ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, "X" the MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES to give you an idea of the selection. I'll watch any Hitchcock so Frenzy is a given. The potato sack/truck was shocking too.

  • July 17, 2008, 12:20 a.m. CST

    Yeah, Pocket Money Is Crap...

    by Rebeck2

    And it's a shame because where else do you get Paul Newman and Lee Marvin together? The movie has no point to it at all - I mean, even by the rambling naturalistic standards of 70's cinema (which I love) it is utterly devoid of story and any entertainment value. I haven't seen The Left-Handed Gun. But I really like what Quint is doing here... He's reminding us of why we fell in love with movies to begin with. It gets so negative and bitter on this site so often arguing over what's good and what's crap, it's nice to read a column with a positive effect on talkbackers - that makes them remember a great old movie and whenever they first saw it... I look forward to these now.

  • July 17, 2008, 2:26 a.m. CST

    there was a Hitchcock interview on TCM last night

    by Prossor

    watched it , very good, Hitchcock has pretty dark pupils ! one of the greatest directors along with kurosawa/kubrick.

  • July 17, 2008, 2:27 a.m. CST

    by Prossor

    i mean him reminiscing on his filmography. ive not seen frenzy but they had that scene on there when he says the 'line youre my type of woman' sick shit!

  • July 17, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST

    Billie Whitelaw = Mrs Baylock

    by Boba Fat

    in Donner's Omen. That's a frightening performance. A few years ago she came up to me in the street. I was carrying my six month old baby in one of those front carriers and she took his hand and said "Oh, what beautiful little soul!" I smiled told her how old he was and she walked off. My wife was flattered until I told that was Mrs Baylock! What a nice thing to do though.

  • July 17, 2008, 3:49 a.m. CST

    Favourite Quote from this movie

    by PaddyIrishman

    Lovely, LOvely, Looovvelly!...Hail Mary full of....

  • July 17, 2008, 5:27 a.m. CST

    Almost Hitchcock's worst film

    by elab49

    He gave rein to all that salaciousness he indulged in off-screen that he normally kept tightly wrapped on. This is nasty, often distasteful and relishes the sexual violence far too obviously. He lost control. He also tries too hard and too late for the style of film that came out in the 'swinging' sixties and forgot himself in the process. All those annoying French critics telling him he was a god? He thought he could do anything.

  • July 17, 2008, 7:15 a.m. CST


    by EyeofPolyphemus

    Grammar Nazi says the proper term is "playwright."

  • July 17, 2008, 7:37 a.m. CST

    I like Family Plot.

    by Sailor Rip

    The scene where Dern's car is out of cotrol is really quite tense.

  • July 17, 2008, 8:33 a.m. CST

    So great to have an R-rated Hitchcock film.

    by Knuckleduster

    I often wonder what he would have been up to if he was a working director today. Would he have challenged the censors while sneakily pretending to make "mainstream" films? I like to think so. <p> P.S. Yep, so do I, A4EFFORT. It's a very guilty pleasure.

  • July 17, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Dude's never seen Out of the Past?

    by kungfuhustler84

    Total noir classic! The main dame in that movie is one of the sexiest old stars I have ever seen in any old movie. the lighting in the Mexico scenes is still some of the best in the biz.

  • July 17, 2008, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Family Plot is Fine

    by Samuel Fulmer

    Other than some very shoddy blue screening (which let's face it plagues many Hitch movies, but this one to the point that it can very distracting) and the fact that it has some wild tonal shifts (comedy to thriller back to comedy), I like the film a lot. It's not one of Hitch's best, but I think it can sit squarely as middle quality Hitchcock. The camera work is still good, Devane plays a great "upper class" creep, John Williams' score is Hitch's best post Herrmann score, good improv (one of the few times Hitch let his actors do this) between Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern, the runaway car set piece, Harris' wink at the audience at the end (which has a bittersweet quality to it considering this was Hitch's last film), and of course Karen Black's gigantic Kentucky Derby hats.

  • July 17, 2008, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Staircase Tracking Shot

    by ArcadianDS

    One of those amazing Hitchcock tracking shots in this one where the camera peels away from the door of a 2nd floor apartment, retreats down the hall, back down the staircase, through the main hall and outside, still backing away across a busy street. Fantastic shot.

  • July 17, 2008, 10:40 a.m. CST

    Bernard Cribbins...

    by LordPorkington

    How come nobody has mentioned him standing to the right of Hitchcock in that article photo? He voiced The Wombles the year after starring in Frenzy. I love the 70's...

  • July 17, 2008, 11:09 a.m. CST

    I just bought


    The Hitchock mega boxset for the bargain price of £25 down from £90! I am gonna watch Frenzy tonight! seen lots of the obvious ones like Psycho and the Birds but really enjoying his more obscure early stuff like Shadow of Doubt and Frenzy is next.

  • July 17, 2008, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Yep...the "bushy 70's"...

    by Kid Z

    ...way back when Brazil was known as just another corrupt, South American banana republic, before the advent of their world-renowned waxing technology...

  • July 17, 2008, 12:31 p.m. CST

    i checked this out

    by El Borak

    to see nudity when i was little and saw this hot naked chick getting strangled to death. very very disturbing. i guess that's why i became a murderer. huh.

  • July 17, 2008, 12:38 p.m. CST

    Lovely! Lovely! Lovely!

    by monorail77

    Best line reading ever. Yup, this is good flick for many reasons.

  • July 17, 2008, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Quint, recommendations

    by monorail77

    I too have been catching up now and then on gaps in my screen knowledge. [p] If you haven't yet seen them, I recommend the folloowing films IO have recently (within the last two years) seen for the firast time: [p] Night and the City (Jules Dassin), Touch of Evil (Orson welles), The Searchers (John Ford), The Ox-Bow Incident, 12 Angry Men, Inherit The Wind, Serpico, Night Moves, Big Night, The Big Sleep, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Dirty Dozen, The China Syndrome, Fail-Safe, The Bad and the Beautiful. [p] I've got lots of others, just ask!

  • July 17, 2008, 12:49 p.m. CST

    whoops, paragraphing failed

    by monorail77

    how do you do that trick again?

  • July 17, 2008, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Food and sex

    by skimn

    and the "appetites" of men. Great subtext running through this film. And elab49? Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Too bad yours is very, very wrong.

  • July 17, 2008, 1:35 p.m. CST

    Subtext, fine.

    by elab49

    Clearly getting off on the sexual violence and making that clear on the screen - just a little too tacky. Happy with my opinion, ta :)

  • July 17, 2008, 1:59 p.m. CST

    The only Hitchcock movie to get a

    by PacmanFever

    UK 18 certificate. Never seen it, but have always been intrigued for that reason alone.

  • July 18, 2008, 5:43 p.m. CST

    Potato truck sequence

    by Goldmagus

    Sheer genius. Hitchcock manages to make us complicit with the murderer (just as he did with the scene in PSYCHO, where we're as anxious as Norman about whether the car with Marion's body in it is going to sink in the swamp). It's impossible not to get caught up in the tension, near discovery, and sheer black comedic horror of Barry Foster's character trying to prise the incriminating tie pin out of the rigor mortis-locked fingers of his last victim. A singularly unpleasant film as a whole, but this sequence is Hitchcock at his finest.