Saturday, August 22, 2015

Frenzy (1972)


The usual charming Hitch trailer.  I would recommend that this trailer approach be resurrected, but my heart sobs at the prospect of Eli Roth or Rob Zombie attempting something like this.  "Come see my new shit because this shit is gonna be fuckin' brutal, goo!  Camnibalz!"  Frenzy was born in Hitchcock's less-loved later period, but what it lacks of his typical style is more than compensated by the vicious 70s spirit that seeps into this thing.


The opening scenes are a Hitchcock version of "Dre Day", as the director pulls a gat on his critics by flaunting his continuing command of style.  The camera swoops in like a predatory beast on a capacity crowd drawn to a speech about pollution (this the fantasy film portion of Frenzy).  This section acts as an overture to all the film's themes—the increase of grotesque violence represented by a strangled woman floating down the river, the intersection of dead river lady and the anti-pollution speech previewing the film's dives into dark comedy.


River lady, like her cousin in Jaws, doesn't figure prominently into the film as a character, but acts as the starting point for a long line of deaths.  It seems that London women are being strangled and dumped, nude, in assorted places.  After a while, suspicion lands on Richard Blaney, who is certainly unpleasant enough to be a believable murderer.  The use of repellent people as protagonists fits right in with the 70s grindhouse aesthetic, but it's really an expansion of something Hitchcock had been doing forever.  Psycho, Strangers on a Train, all that.  What's fairly new and also very 70s is the pitch-black comedy that pops up in Frenzy, sometimes to glorious effect.  See the recurring gags about the inspector's wife and her terrible cooking, or this incredible piece of dialogue:

"We haven't had a good juicy series of sex murders since Christie. And they're so good for the tourist trade. Foreigners somehow expect the squares of London to be fog-wreathed, full of hansom cabs, and littered with ripped whores, don't you think?"


If that doesn't convince you that Hitchcock was not really interested in being the nice gentleman of murder-mystery any longer, please see the scene in which someone falls face-first into a dead lady's crotch.  Divorced from its director's famous name and maybe dialed down in terms of quality, this could have played to crowds of hobo junkies on 42nd Street.  As it stands, Frenzy makes for the perfect blend of quality filmmaking and seedy obsession, plus it's endlessly quotable.  "Just thinking about the lusts of men makes me want to heave!"


***1/2

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