Frenzy, 1972

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast

visit the film locations

London: Flights: Heathrow Airport; Gatwick Airport

Covent Garden: tube: Covent Garden (Piccadilly line) The name Covent Garden is a corrupted reference to the old convent garden which once occupied the area.

This was once one of the capital's three great produce markets: Billingsgate for fish, Smithfield for meat and Covent Garden for fruit, veg and flowers. It was a world in itself; one of the few places where the UK 's stringent licensing laws were officially relaxed, allowing porters to down a pint at the civilised hour of six in the morning. In 1973, though, the whole operation moved to a soulless new facility at Nine Elms, south of the Thames near Vauxhall, and the old market buildings were titivated to become terrace cafés and boutiques.


Trivia

Alfred Hitchcock’s last London film had been The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956

Frenzy  filming location: the Covent Garden Piazza, London

Frenzy filming location: the old Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market: now the Covent Garden Piazza, London

There are wonderful London locations in Alfred Hitchcock’s first British film since The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956, but first the collision between the blackly humorous script and director Alfred Hitchcock’s virulent misogyny, previously kept in check by production codes, makes for queasy viewing today.

The body of the Necktie Strangler’s first victim drifts into view in the Thames alongside County Hall, while a politician blathers on about pollution to an audience including a rubber-necking, bowler-hatted Hitch

The film has become an invaluable record of its setting, the old Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market. In 1973, the whole operation moved to a soulless new facility at Nine Elms, south of the Thames near Vauxhall, and the old market buildings were titivated to become terrace cafés and boutiques stocked with designer clothes and scented candles.

By 1992, Richard Attenborough was obliged to use the meat market at Smithfield as a stand-in for the Garden in his biopic Chaplin. The real fruit and veg business market was still in full swing in 1972 though, when Alfred Hitchcock used it as the setting for his first London-based film since the 1950 Stage Fright.

The film is an adaptation of Arthur La Bern’s novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square scripted by Anthony Shaffer, the writer of Sleuth and cult horror flick The Wicker Man.

Frenzy filming location: The Globe, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London

Frenzy filming location: the pub in which Blaney works: The Globe, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London

Many of the locations are still recognisable, however. The Globe, Bow Street, the public house from which Blaney (Jon Finch) is sacked from his job as a barman by landlord Felix Forsythe (Bernard Cribbins – far nastier than he was as Stationmaster Perks in The Railway Children), is serving pints again after being closed for several years (though it’s been substantially renovated since the film was made here in 1972).

By the way, don't confuse this pub with the other Globe, in Borough south of the Thames, which was home to Bridget in Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Frenzy  filming location: The Nell of Old Drury, Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London

Frenzy filming location: lubricious talk in the pub: The Nell of Old Drury, Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London

The pub where Blaney overhears the city gents drooling over the wave of sex killings remains unchanged. It’s the Nell of Old Drury, 29 Catherine Street, WC2 opposite the Drury Lane Theatre. The pub has connections – literally – with the Theatre Royal: an underground tunnel joins the two establishments. An interval bell once rang in the pub for theatregoers who’d popped across the road for a quick drink. The Nell in name of the pub, of course, is King Charles II’s favourite, Nell Gwynn.

Frenzy  filming location: 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London

Frenzy filming location: villain Robert Rusk’s place: 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London

Blaney takes his barmaid friend Babs (Anna Massey) to the Hilton Hyde Park, 129 Bayswater Road, alongside Queensway tube station opposite Hyde park, where they check in as Mr and Mrs Oscar Wilde. This is where Blaney is recognised but nevertheless manages to make his escape before the law arrives.

At the time of filming this was the Coburg Hotel. Coincidentally, London’s other Hilton hotel, the London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, is where Blaney goes to ask for help from his old RAF chum Johnny Porter (Clive Swift), despite suspicious wife Hetty (Billie Whitelaw – the creepy nanny from The Omen).

Frenzy  filming location: the Hilton Hyde Park, Bayswater Road, Bayswater, London

Frenzy filming location: Blaney and Babs check into the old Coburg Hotel: the Hilton Hyde Park, Bayswater Road, Bayswater, London

Opposite the Hilton Park Lane is the tiny patch of grass where Babs meets up with Blaney after his escape from the Coburg.

I don't have to post a 'spoiler' alert – this isn't a whodunit. Hitchcock reveals the identity of the killer early on. The flat of ‘necktie strangler’ Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), where Hitchcock pulls off the eerie silent tracking shot up and down the stairs, is 3 Henrietta Street (main picture, top). Notice the barely perceptible cut as a porter carrying a sack of potatoes passes in front of the camera – the interior is a studio set.

Frenzy  filming location: Ennismore Garden Mews, Knightsbridge, London

Frenzy filming location: Brenda Blaney's flat: Ennismore Garden Mews, Knightsbridge, London

The home of doomed Brenda Blaney is 31 Ennismore Gardens Mews, tucked away in a maze of streets in South Kensington. From another era of British film altogether, 17 Rutland Mews South was home to John Gregson and Dinah Sheridan in the cosy 1953 comedy classic Genevieve. If you were wondering, 'mews' were originally stables, the name deriving from the sound of falcons that were kept alongside horses.

There’s another bravura Hitchcock sequence at Brenda’s marriage bureau, after she is raped and strangled (in the director's most disturbingly graphic scene). When Brenda's secretary returns from lunch, Hitchcock holds the still shot of the exterior for an astonishingly long time before releasing the tension with a scream.

Frenzy  filming location: Ennismore Garden Mews, Knightsbridge, London

Frenzy filming location: wrought ironwork on Oxford Street is the only reminder of the alleyway: Oxford Street, London

Unfortunately, the little alleyway running south from Oxford Street, on which the bureau stood, has now gone. It’s been incorporated into a shop (ownership seems to change regularly), though you can still see its elaborate wrought-iron arch above 119 Oxford Street near the southeast corner of Wardour Street.




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