October 30, 2012 is when Universal is releasing the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' containing fifteen of the director's seminal works. In an effort to bring you the most in-depth coverage on this set we are going through each included movie to give you the most thorough review we can. Feel free to visit the 'Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection' hub page. There you will find links to the other movies in this set and everything you'd want to know about the set's technical specifics and its packaging.
'Frenzy' is dark, even by Hitchcock standards. With censors relaxing standards for subject matter like brutal murder and nudity, it seemed that 'Frenzy' provided sort of a sandbox of play things that up until now, Hitchcock was only allowed to hint at. In 'Psycho,' another movie about a psychopathic killer, Hitchcock had to use the magic of editing to suggest murder and nudity because the censors wouldn't allow him to actually show it. In 'Frenzy' he lets loose, creating the kind of graphic serial killer movie he could only have dreamed about in the early part of his career.
Never one to shy away from lurid subject matter, Hitchcock seemed to embrace the depravity of 'Frenzy.' It isn't your normal serial killer movie either. This is a movie intended to dissect the mind behind the madness, all the while playing on one of Hitchcock's favorite themes: the wrongfully accused man.
The movie saw him return to his roots by not only filming in England after being absent for a couple decades, but he also got back to the hardcore thriller elements that made him so popular in the first place. After a career boom in the 60s with movies like 'North by Northwest,' 'Psycho,' and 'The Birds,' his popularity began to wane. Even though movies like 'Marnie,' 'Topaz,' and 'Torn Curtain' are looked upon with fondness nowadays, when they premiered they were lackluster offerings from the most popular director working. Audiences weren't nearly as impressed with those three movies, considering the string of instant classics he produced only a few years earlier. Hitchcock needed to get back to what he did best and he did that with 'Frenzy.'
Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) is the poor man who is destined to be the one wrongfully accused. There's a murderer running around London, and he's strangling women with neckties. He's a sexual deviant. He rapes the women, strangles them, and then disposes of their bodies.
Blaney, like many Hitchcock leading men, is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's seen leaving his ex-wife's office after finding no one there. What he didn't see was that his ex-wife had been brutally murdered in her office by the Necktie Strangler. The office secretary is just coming back when she sees Blaney leaving. Then she discovers the body. The manhunt is one for Blaney, all the while the real killer is roaming free.
What's great about the movie is that the true identity of the murderer isn't kept secret. It's revealed outright. The suspense instead comes from wondering if Blaney is going to be able to piece the whole thing together before he goes to prison for a crime he didn't commit. Watching him try to elude capture while trying to understand who the killer is, is a real treat.
Key to the movie's likability is the dark, subversive humor used in the scenes where the Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowan) talks over the case with his wife as she prepares unusual dinners for him. His wife is completely clueless to the fact that serving her husband cooked pig's feet might not be that appetizing. It's almost as if the movie is slyly winking at the audience.
'Frenzy' was indeed a return to form for the Master of Suspense. He got back to his thriller roots and was able to dabble in much more provocative subject matter. One wonders how graphic 'Psycho' would have turned out had Hitchcock been given the kind of freedom he was afforded here.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Check the main hub page for the complete detail of the packaging of this set. Everything about it can be found there.
The biggest worry about 'Frenzy's transfer was that the opening credits were completely messed up. Typefaces had been changed and typos had been introduced. This is supposedly what caused the set to be delayed. It appears that the studio simply went back to the old credit elements, which, after the debacle the first time around, was rather welcome. The original credits could've used a new scan and overhaul, they are quite noisy at times, but at least there aren't any egregious errors.
The next thing that caused controversy about 'Frenzy's 1080p Blu-ray presentation was rumors that the picture looked overly processed. That too much artificial sharpening and DNR was used, causing a phony looking end product. I don't think that the DNR looks too bad in the movie, but at times it is noticeable. DNR and edge enhancement appear to have been used quite often in the movie. Sometimes it's subtle and creates quite a crisp looking picture. However, there are other times where skin appears waxy and dull, especially in low light. Minor ringing is also visible in a handful of scenes.
Crushing is noticeable during the darker scenes. Blacks appear flat and depthless most of the time. Blending textures and details together. Well-lit scenes provide a good amount of detail though. Close-ups on faces reveal all the natural facial textures that one looks for when judging a high-def transfer.
As for artifacting, aliasing appears on a few windows, especially on the opening scene as the camera swoops down onto the crowd. There's some shimmering on a man's pinstripe hotel uniform. There are occasional times where errant noise spikes.
Color looks good though. Crimson red blood really stands out. The earthy colors of downtown London are also rich and well rendered. Skin tones are, for the most part, natural – save for the few times where low light scenes sap the life out of skin color. It isn't the best presentation in the bunch, although I don't think it's nearly as bad as it's being made out to be. Sure there are times where it looks too processed, but there are other times where the picture looks remarkably sharp. The presentation simply isn't consistent and therefore earns lower marks than many of the great looking transfers in this set.
Oddly, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track is one of the more confusing mixes in the set. The reason being that much of the dialogue sounds disembodied and detached from what's going on in the scene. Almost like much of the dialogue is the product of inferior ADR work. There's a moment where a cop is talking to Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) and the cop's voice in no way matches the way he's talking. It isn't a sync problem, instead it comes across far too deep. Almost like someone else is providing the dialogue. Now, I'm entirely aware that this could be an uncorrectable problem with the source, but it is the only mix I've run across in this set with this kind of problem.
Another annoyance is prioritization of the Ron Goodwin's original score compared to the dialogue and other sound in the movie. The score booms much louder than the movie's dialogue. It's quite jarring at times. Yes, the score is intended to draw your attention to some of the heinous acts depicted in the movie, like the first grizzly murder, but it still seems like it's amped up too loudly when compared to the volume of the movie's other sound.
Dialogue is clear though, even though much of it sounds detached from the people speaking it. There's a good amount of low-end production produced here too, especially during the "dun, dunnnnns!" of the score. There's some issues going on here, yet overall it's still a serviceable mix.
Dark, provocative, and salacious, 'Frenzy' exhibited many of the aspects Hitchcock was known for. He took on his familiar theme of a man wrongfully accused and sprinkled it with lurid violence and shocking nudity. It's apparent that Hitchcock was happy to play along with the relaxed censorship rules. 'Frenzy' includes everything that made him a great director. It's definitely recommended.