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Calgary Herald (12/Nov/1992) - Food figures big in Hitchcock's 'Frenzy'



Food figures big in Hitchcock's 'Frenzy'

FRENZY (1972), starring Jon Finch and Barry Forster

The term "a feeding frenzy" may have been lurking in the back of Alfred Hitchcock's mind when he made his 1972 hit film Frenzy.

As Donald Spoto points out in his book, The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, images of food, sex and death are connected in this simultaneously funny and brutal thriller, which is set in London.

Particularly intriguing is the director's fascination with the cooking of the wife of police inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen). The middle-aged inspector and his spouse (Vivien Merchant) are clearly from the generation previous to the swinging '60s.

The frigid artificiality of their relationship is characterized by the tiny, unappetizing French meals this housewife presents to her hungry husband at the end of each working day.

He groans to his co-workers about wanting a real, hefty dinner and then returns home to miniscule course after miniscule course of slimy fish soup and tiny quail nestled in a handful of grapes. Presumably these two sleep in twin beds, between extremely cool sheets.

Meantime, Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is having a swinging time, sleeping with all sorts of "birds." A ne'er-do-well who is fired from his job as a bartender at the beginning of the film, Blaney is cursed with unfortunate timing and a brusque manner.

When his successful ex-wife Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) is strangled by a serial rapist-murderer shortly after being seen publicly with him, Blaney becomes Inspector Oxford's number one suspect.

We know he isn't the culprit, because we witnessed Mrs. Blaney's murder at the hands of Bob Rusk (Barry Foster), a jovial wholesale grocer who works in Covent Garden.

To Rusk, raping and killing a woman is only slightly more satisfying than munching on a good apple; after either event, he picks his teeth. When Rusk stuffs the body of another victim into a sack and tosses her onto a potato truck, the simile "like a sack of potatoes" instantly springs to mind.

There's an amusingly macabre sequence in Frenzy when the vulpine Rusk realizes his latest casualty is clutching evidence that may give him away. Desperately attempting to pry the item out of her fist, which is firmly clenched because of rigor mortis, Rusk breaks the dead woman's fingers. The camera cuts to a scene of Oxford using a knife to chase a puny quail around his plate.

There are lashings of misogyny in this film, but whether they reflect Hitchcock's own attitude to women or simply viewpoints that he wanted to explore on the screen is difficult to guess. Certainly the repressed sexuality for which his work is famous is evident here.

There's plenty going on in Frenzy: a plot with enough spice to please mystery buffs, meaty characterizations and a simmering subtext. In other words, it's a full-meal deal.