Alfred Hitchcock: Frenzy + Stage Fright

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Alfred Hitchcock: Frenzy + Stage Fright
Alfred Hitchcock,
Format: 35mm | 226 minutes

Frenzy
Alfred Hitchcock | 1972 | UK | 35mm | 116m

More gruesome and graphic than Psycho due to the relaxation of censorship in the 70s, this typically English and at times terrifying story of a sex killer at large, written by Anthony Shaffer, screenwriter of Sleuth and The Wicker Man, deploys Hitchcock’s Wrong Man plot standby one last time. Jon Finch (Polanski’s Macbeth) plays the disaffected bartender and ex-RAF pilot suspected by the police of being the “Necktie Killer” after the murder of his ex-wife. In fact the killer is his cheerful Cockney mate, fruit merchant Bob Rusk, unforgettably played by Barry Foster (after a disgusted Michael Caine turned down the role!). Hitchcock has great, morbid fun with a fine cast of English character actors—Billie Whitelaw, Alec McCowan, Anna Massey, Bernard Cribbins, Jean Marsh, Vivien Merchant, and Michael Bates—and clearly relishes shooting on location in London with Covent Garden, the market where his greengrocer father worked, serving as ground zero for the murders.

Stage Fright
Alfred Hitchcock | 1950 | 35mm | 110m

Although the Master of Suspense deemed it a failure, this backstage murder mystery set in the world of thespians is more than worth a second look, if only for the teaming of Hitch and Marlene Dietrich. Shot on location in postwar London, it begins in breathless media res with acting student Eve (Jane Wyman) driving on-the-run actor Jonathan (Robert Todd) as he explains the backstory in extended flashback: he’s the secret lover of glamorous actress/singer Charlotte Inwood (Dietrich), who turns up at his place in a bloodstained dress, confessing to the murder of her husband. Jonathan winds up as prime suspect after botching an attempted cover up and now needs Eve to hide him. Eve assumes a series of undercover acting roles as she sets out to clear the name of the dashing young thespian with whom she’s secretly in love, aided by her father (Alastair Sim), and wooed by the sympathetic Detective Inspector Smith (Michael Wilding) who’s in charge of the case. Hitchcock pulls off one his more outrageous tricks in Stage Fright, hoodwinking the audience with a rule-breaking narrative device. Watch out for Dietrich’s number “I’m the Laziest Gal in Town,” which would go on to become part of her stage repertoire, and Hitch’s cameo 39 minutes into the film.

Series: Film Comment Selects: Hitchcock Returns to London

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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