*Providing a warning that this film does contain sexual violence*
Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film is a mix of all his favorite things. There’s murder, sex, black humor and a man on the run.
With so little time left in his career and his life, Hitchcock decides to play around with the things we’ve become accustomed to in his work. There’s no mystery for us work out. We learn quickly who the killer is. However he plays the reverse with the two male leads. One is a perfect gentleman and the other an ass. By having the ass be pinned as the killer when we know he didn’t do it, it gives us a different protagonist for Hitch’s man on the run trope than what we are accustomed to with James Stewart or Cary Grant or Robert Cummings. Familiar faces who we root for because they are familiar faces. Jon Finch’s Blaney isn’t the nicest of persons. Being a jerk doesn’t mean he’s a murderer, but it allows the film to cast its version of reasonable doubt. We, the viewers just keep watching him hang himself and get into more trouble as he continues to bring suspicion to himself by not trying to act somewhat decent. He’s and angry hurting man not in control of his anger. The real killer however, does the opposite of Blaney and avoids trouble. It allows for a humorous take on his formula as well.
In addition to being near the end, times have changed for the film industry in matters of what can be shown and not shown. I believe (unless you count Psycho) that this is the lone Hitchcock film with nudity. He also allows sexual references such as the word “tits” and “fingering.” This is the work of man who always had to disguise sexuality in his films, now being able to do what he wants.
Hitchcock’s relationship with women has always been a discussion point. Frenzy certainly is a film that works to continue that discussion. The film opens with the public discovery of a naked woman, dead and floating in the river. A public official is speaking about the river will soon been cleaned up of dirt, debris and other wastes. The antagonist clearly despises women. Is this an indication for Hitchcock himself? Two officers in the beginning of the film discuss killers and how they revert to their baser instincts. The shot frames Blaney has not having a control on his anger, but with our killer he goes back to those actions during his murders. Does this mean Hitchcock, in his old age, is putting his vices and his issues on screen to purge himself of them? Possibly? Does the terrorization Hitchcock put women through in his later works like Psycho, The Birds and Marnie reflect something in his personality? Maybe? I asked this same question about Peckinpah when I first watched Straw Dogs.
Even with playing around with his norm, Frenzy still has the typical Hitchcock suspense. There’s an extremely powerful shot where we sit in absolute silence with nothing but footsteps as we wait for a character to make a discovery. Another where we see a character meet her end and we don’t see a thing. A somewhat stomach churning scene where in a frenzy (pun intended) the killer attempts to get an item back off a corpse.
Frenzy is essentially the close of Alfred Hitchcock’s career. After 2 failed Cold War espionage films, he returned to the thriller genre and went to town. He also returned to England where his career began. Switching up his formulas, playing with expectations. Still reminding us that he was a master of his craft and solidify himself The Master of Suspense. Family Plot is the final film, but that is more of the epilogue. Frenzy is the final chapter.