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By Lee Gardner | Posted 6/11/2008

After a string of 1960s damp squibs in Hollywood (Topaz, anyone?), Alfred Hitchcock returned to England for what would end up being his penultimate movie and last hurrah, 1972's Frenzy. The streets of London are being stalked by the Necktie Killer, and classic Hitchcock "wrong man" Dick Blaney (Jon Finch) winds up the sole suspect when his ex-wife (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) turns up raped and strangled. As Blaney tries to find a way to prove he's innocent, the real killer, Blaney's spiv-ish friend Bob Rusk (Barry Foster), looks for his next victim, and Chief Inspector Oxford (Alec McCowen) works to put the right man, whoever that might be, in the stir. Being back in London clearly invigorated Hitchcock--the street-life bustle and grit enlivens the footage in ways missing from his Hollywood movies--but the keeping-up-with-the-times violence and nudity feel ill-fitting and overreaching. It doesn't help that the story sprawls and the focus dithers between slice-of-life stuff, droll but baffling humor, and straight-up thriller business. Hitchcock occasionally reminds you that there's a master at work, though, as when Rusk lures Blaney's girlfriend (Anna Massey) into his flat; a long, quiet tracking shot back down the stairs and out into the street, letting your imagination fill in the gruesome details of what happens next.

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