Genre: Crime Thriller (UK)
Starring: Jon Finch, Barry Foster
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (To Catch a Thief; I Confess)
Overview: London's neck-tie murderer seems unstoppable, but when the strongest lead points to the wrong man, suspense escalates... a little.
Acting: Standard fare with some nice chokin' an' dyin'.
Cinematography: Hitchcock's signature tracking shots, jump cuts and flashbacks are the best aspects of this film, but even Girlfriend of Squish pointed out how little this felt like a Hitchcockian picture. I wholeheartedly agree.
Script: Hitchcock allowed the cast to rewrite some of the lines, but when it came back he said 'I didn't say you could rewrite the whole script'. I guess if it were good in the first place that whole first half hour wouldn't have seemed like the most tedious garbage ever, causing horrible flashbacks to The Birds. Bo-ring.
Plot: The best part of a thriller is the thrills, we all know that, and there's one scene, the memorable and suspenseful potato truck scene, that saves this film from obscurity. I believe it was Akira Kurosawa who said 'in my films there's really only two or three minutes of real cinema'. I don't think he meant 'cause the rest of the movie sucks', as was the case with Frenzy. For one little moment of suspense, even though there may be some enjoyable morbid humour, this film's story has got to be some of the weakest plotline out there. We learn early on who the necktie murderer is, which eliminates mystery, and puts the wrong man as the prime suspect. When you think about it, above all suspicions of murder, there's nothing better than being accused of being a serial killer because you just have to wait it out before you eventually go free, since the murderer will most likely strike again. In The Fugitive (1993), Dr. Richard Kimble pleads that a one-armed man was the one who killed his wife, and endangers his own safety by searching for this one-armed man. Tommy Lee Jones as detective does what any good cop would do: investigates everything that doesn't quite mesh. In The Fugitive it didn't diminish the action and suspense to know that another angle was looked at, but in Frenzy, it took any element of thrill and turned it into a story that one ceases to care about. Not only does the end become predictable, but it maps out the conclusion, regardless of the last scene's dramatic and interesting events, that if done right, would have been an interesting lesson in vengeance. Nope, it didn't even go there.
Mood: Potatoes reflect the murderer digging in the darkest soil of his sins to retrieve evidence. A horrid-looking fish head soup with squid, served but uneaten by the detective reflects his inability to find the solution to the case. The murderer, a fruit merchant, constantly eating, represents his dramatic nature and his hunger for things feminine... turns out all these inferred symbols I just hammered out are just a load of bull.
After all my research to explain the motivations of why food was so prevalent in this picture, I've learned that symbolism played no part in it. With half the scenes having food, mention of food, or eating of it, I'd have thought that something deeper was going on. I was sadly mistaken. The constant use of food was just there to distract us from the rotten story. To all you budding filmmakers out there, if you're going to have a theme, make it fit. If it doesn't fit, make it at LEAST symbolic.
Aftertaste: Typically considered one of Hitchcock's weakest films, I would agree. These days I look for a tale that is either comfortably predictable, or not predictable. I think that's a pretty standard quest in the average audience. When something doesn't work in a movie, be it due to acting, to editing, to theme or feel, people leave with something unresolved, an awareness that it 'wasn't very good'. After constantly writing about it, a critic can pinpoint these reasons and tell you exactly why people won't like something. Well, I'll tell you what's not to like about this: it's a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. It's a story told a hundred times with no study of the characters, no excitement and no lessons to be taught. It's a story with no flow, it's a story that reminds me of puberty, awkward.
It's not worth your time.