Frenzy was Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film. It dates from 1972, and boasts a fine cast and a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, based on the book Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern, whose work I have not read (but I don't think he specialised in crime.) It's a story about a psychopathic serial killer, and Hitchcock tried a number of tricks with the movie, as well as combining black humour with a very dark subject. The result is a curious mish-mash, which has some strengths - yet one feels it could and should have been better.
Hitchcock returned here to his native London, and much of the action takes place around Covent Garden, just before it ceased to be a traditional market. Women are being strangled by a "necktie killer", and a bad-tempered loser called Blaney (the charismatic Jon Finch, an actor who never quite achieved as much as he seemed capable of) becomes the prime suspect. But the suspense derives from the fact that the audience soon realises that he is being set up by a false friend, played by Barry Foster.
Other members of the cast include Barbara Leigh-Hunt, whom I once saw on stage in the 80s, Anna Massey, Jean Marsh, Vivien Merchant and Alec McCowen. All very good actors, and there is one superb moment of film-making when we see Marsh enter the office of her boss, Leigh-Hunt. We know the latter has been murdered, but are made to wait before Marsh discovers the body, and we hear her scream. Very clever, but there are also some lapses of taste (I know taste is very subjective, but I don't think the women characters would be treated in the same way today). There's some nudity and the overall feeling I had is that Hitchcock was trying to "get with it", but with only limited success.
Apparently La Bern hated the film, which was not an uncommon reaction among writers whose work Hitchcock adapted. I felt the film was too long, and that its length blunted its edge. We also never really understand the killer's psychology. But - and it is a big but - I also feel it would be a mistake to dismiss this film as a failure. It's interesting and watchable even with its faults.