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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Treacherous Uncle


Plot Overview

Frenzy's opening is anything but frenetic as we drift along the Thames River, watching smoke waft into the air—black from a tugboat, white from a smoke­stack—, a massive draw­bridge parting in the near distance. There's a gathering on the quay, an official speech touting the soon-to-be-implemented “clean water, clear of waste products” above a certain line on the river. Presumably the water below the line will still be as fouled as ever. The speech is inter­rupted when some­one notices a body in the water, “It's a woman!” Yes, it's “another neck­tie murder.” With a tie around her neck, the blood and air in the lower half of her body could not exchange with the upper half and she died. This has been happening a lot, as a news­paper head­line tells us: “ANOTHER NECK­TIE STRANGLING”. Wry specu­lation in the pub has it, “sex murders … are 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?

At the Globe Public House in Covent Garden ex-RAF Squadron Leader Richard “Dicko” Blaney (John Finch) pours him­self a couple stiff ones before coming on his barman shift, and the boss Felix Forsythe (Bernard Cribbins) fires him for stealing—or was it for drinking?—(“I have just been given the push.”) Dick's barmaid/lover Babs Milligan (Anna Massey) defends him as he always puts money in the till for his drinks, but to no avail (“Life can be very unfair.”)

Then as serial murders mount in London (“ANOTHER NECK­TIE MURDER”) the police come to suspect Dick (“I'm probably their only suspect”), and they arrest him (“The police have got the whole thing arse-about-face”), and he's convicted (“That ties it up then.”) Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) recounts this case to his wife (Vivian Merchant) over her haute cuisine, but she won't buy it (“Woman's intuition is worth more than all those labora­tories.”) He him­self cannot stomach her cooking and in the end she finds her own drink disagree­able, while he realizes there's some­thing really “fishy” about his case.


Marriage is necessarily difficult for these fly-boys on account of the wife worrying over her hubby's return—he's been divorced two years now. As Dick received a plaque “for inspiring leadership, skill, and tenacity of purpose,” we may take it that he put some effort into comforting his wife Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) for when he was off in the wild blue yonder. Indeed, she recites from memory part Psalm 91 as she's being raped and strangled by the necktie murderer, not that it did her much good, but it's just the sort of thing her husband may have used for protection, it having been quoted in the 1942 war movie "Mrs. Miniver."

(Psalm 91:5) “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.” His girl­friend Babs sub­jected her­self to “the terror by night” when she unwit­tingly accepted a place to spend the night from the neck­tie murderer, but Dick slept peace­fully in a doss-house catching a would-be thief in the act. His ex Brenda came eye­ball to needle with the mono­grammed tie­pin of her assailant as he was strangling her, but Dick seems to have avoided “love's little arrows” in the “Cupid Room” with Babs.

(Psalm 91:6) “Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” Dick seems to have recovered extra­ordin­arily well in the prison hospital effecting a night escape, and the tumble down the stairs in jail that put him in hospital, well, he landed with the assurance of a trained parachutist.

(Psalm 91:7) “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” He rubs elbows with the inmates of prison and hospital, but unlike them he's just passing through.

(Psalm 91:8) “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.” Finally, he'll observe the real neck­tie murderer getting caught in the act.

The remaining verses Brenda recites before she expires, Psalm 91:9-11, have to do with seeming good luck following the recipient around, the angels being given “charge over thee.” If Dick's luck seems to be all of it bad, well, he's such a repro­bate, what can he expect though he takes “refuge” under a Salvation Army blanket?

Brenda has been running The Blaney Bureau, brokering “friendship and romance.” She refused to service one romantic consumer on account of his “peculiar tastes.” His complaint, “If you can fix up a lot of idiots, why not me?” is countered by the sensibilities of the bureau promoting romance of “The respectable kind, of course. The married kind.” He is in the camp of “Men like this leave no stone unturned in their search for their disgusting gratifi­cations.” These days certain perverts have used the very divide between sensible people and a fouled legal system to attach the marital label to their perverted friend­ships, in the guise of marriage equality. This movie does not specify what the perversion was (“Just thinking about the lusts of men makes me want to heave”), so it's adapt­able to today's news, reflected in the disgust of the police­man at his wife's cooking even though she tries to dignify it with fancy labels.

Production Values

“Frenzy” (1972) was directed by Alfred Hitchcock; it was his penultimate film and sort of a Valentine to his native England. The screen­play was written by Anthony Shaffer, based on the book Good­bye Pic­cadilly, Fare­well Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern. It stars Jon Finch, Barry Foster, and Alec McCowen. Their acting was pass­ably good. The movie's rated ‘R’, Hitchcock having taken full advantage of the relaxation of censor­ship standards when the MPAA ratings system was adopted in 1968 replacing a more stringent production code. Be prepared for violence and nudity, although the book's violence was more graphic. The film boasts a great score by Ron Goodwin.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I think Hitch did a good job milking the suspense and our sympathy for a wrongly accused man. It was an enjoy­able film for those who like his style.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.