Frenzy  

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  1. A state of wild activity or panic.
  2. A violent agitation of the mind approaching madness; rage.

From Middle English, from Old French frenesie, from Latin phrenesis, from Ancient Greek *φρένησις (*phrénēsis), a later equivalent of φρενῖτις (phrenîtis, “inflammation of the brain”): see frantic and frenetic.

See also: frenzy (disambiguation)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Frenzy is a 1972 British psychological horror-thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The penultimate feature film of his extensive career, it is often considered by critics and scholars to be his last great film before his death. The screenplay by Anthony Shaffer was based on the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern. The film stars Jon Finch, Alec McCowen, and Barry Foster and features Billie Whitelaw, Anna Massey, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Bernard Cribbins and Vivien Merchant. The original music score was composed by Ron Goodwin.

The plot centres on a serial killer in contemporary London. In a very early scene there is dialogue that mentions two actual London serial murder cases: the Christie murders in the early 1950s, and the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888. Barry Foster has said that, in order to prepare for his role, he was asked by Hitchcock to study two books about Neville Heath, an English serial killer who would often pass himself off as an officer in the RAF.

Frenzy was the third and final film that Hitchcock made in Britain after he moved to Hollywood in 1939. The other two were Under Capricorn in 1949 and Stage Fright in 1950 (although there were some interior and exterior scenes filmed in London for the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much). The last film he made in Britain before his move to America was Jamaica Inn (1939). The film was screened at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition.

Plot

In London, a serial killer is raping women and strangling them with neckties. Most of the film takes place in Covent Garden, which at the time was still the location of the city's wholesale fruit and vegetable market. Fairly early in the film, the audience sees that fruit merchant Robert Rusk (Barry Foster) is in fact the murderer. However, circumstantial evidence has already built up around his friend Richard Blaney (Jon Finch).

Blaney's ex-wife, Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), runs a matchmaking service that Rusk used until he was blacklisted for beating up his dates. One day, Rusk shows up at her office and tries to seduce her; when she spurns his advances, he rapes and strangles her in a fit of rage. Suspicion falls on Blaney, who is previously seen threatening his ex-wife in public, as well as being seen leaving her building shortly after her murder. The subsequent murder of Blaney's girlfriend, Barbara "Babs" Milligan (Anna Massey), occurs off-screen: the audience sees her entering Rusk's apartment with him, but the camera then pulls back down the stairs all the way out to the other side of the street.

The audience next sees Rusk at night carrying a large sack and lifting it into the back of a lorry among sacks of unsold potatoes bound for Lincolnshire. Rusk soon finds that his distinctive jeweled tie pin (with the initial R) is missing, and realises that Babs must have torn it off as he was murdering her. He climbs into the back of the lorry, but it starts off on its journey north. The killer desperately scrabbles through the sack of potatoes to find the dead woman's hand. Rigor mortis has set in, and he has to break her fingers in order to prise the pin from her grasp.

Owing to fake evidence set up by Rusk, Blaney is gaoled while protesting his innocence. Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen), the detective investigating the murders, reconsiders the previous events and begins to believe that he has arrested the wrong man. He discusses the case with his wife (Vivien Merchant) in several scenes of comic relief concerning her pretensions as a gourmet cook.

With the help of his fellow inmates, Blaney escapes from prison. Oxford knows he will head to Rusk's flat for revenge, and immediately goes there. Blaney arrives first, to find that the door to the flat is unlocked. He creeps in and sees what appears to be Rusk asleep in bed, and strikes the body three times with a tyre iron. However, the body is in fact the corpse of another of Rusk's female victims, strangled by a necktie.

Oxford bursts through the door. Blaney is still standing by the corpse holding the tyre iron, and begins to protest his innocence, but then they both hear something or someone banging heavily coming up the staircase. The two men wait in the flat and witness Rusk dragging a large trunk inside to cart away the body, only to come face to face with two determined witnesses. The film ends with Oxford's urbane but pointed comment, "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie." Rusk drops the trunk in defeat.

Cast

Template:Col-breakTemplate:Col-endCast notes


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