Getting off to a bad-tempered start with Jon Finch as a drunken, charmless soon-to-be ‘wrong man’, this penultimate Hitchcock movie finally settles into a first-rate chiller with the onset of the rape and murder. The film is grippingly paced at any rate and directed far better than it is written (by “Sleuth” scribe Anthony Schaffer but almost all the swearing is rubbish and the dialogue is clunky until the rape and murder). This is better and more satisfying than his previous three films “Marnie”, “Torn Curtain” and “Topaz” and is understandably regarded as the last great Hitchcock.
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The Necktie Killer is piquing tourist and local interest in London’s Covent Garden but a down-on-his-luck ex-army man Richard Blaney is about to find himself on the wrong end of a giant pile of circumstantial evidence.
• Director: Alfred Hitchcock
• Writer (Original Novel) “Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square”: Arthur la Bern
◦ Jon Finch: Richard Blaney
◦ Alec McCowen: Chief Inspector Oxford
◦ Barry Foster: Robert Rusk
• Writer (Screenplay): Anthony Shaffer
Mild swear words, strong adult dialogue. Substance abuse (sleeping pills). Graphic disturbing violence, extremely unpleasant scenes. Rape scene (Barry Foster on Barbara Leigh-Hunt), full female nudity
Classified 18 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over.
Any scene with Barry Foster in is brilliant. The most famous or infamous scene in the film is his character Robert Rusk’s rape and murder of Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt). It is superbly put together. Disturbing, terrifying and convincing. The Hitchcock touch is that you cannot turn away. You are gripped. Later, the best scene in the film, is Rusk’s retrieval of the tie-pin in the back of the potato truck memorably grim and darkly, horribly humourous.
Another surprisingly great scene is the discovery of Brenda Blaney (Barbara Leigh-Hunt). The assistant goes in, the camera comes out and waits outside. We know there is going to be a scream, there always is. It is the cliché. Hitchcock holds the moment brilliantly. You are subconsciously holding your breath waiting for the scream. It feels like its never going to come. You wonder if the assistant is going to come running out, it’s been so long. Then it comes! The scream and… I jumped! Amazing.
The revelation of the guilty verdict is wonderfully done with Hitchcock generating genuine suspense through the closed door.
As a bonus, Hitchcock delivers a couple of wonderful, generous scenes where the lead investigator discusses the case in explicit detail while miserably prodding the gourmet meals his wife keeps insisting on preparing – much to his chagrin.
To cap things off, Hitchcock delivers a low-key but brilliant ending where it looks like our ‘wrong man’ will have inadvertently incriminated himself beyond redemption. Then he finishes the film instantly. It reminds one of the ending of his masterpiece “North by Northwest” in its crispness.
Special mention for an amazing trailer featuring Hitchcock floating belly-up in the Thames: “I dare say you are wondering why I am floating around London like this.” Or when explaining that the setting is the Covent Garden market he is rudely interrupted by a rigor mortis leg popping up out of a bag of potatoes: “I’ve heard of a leg of lamb. I’ve even heard of a leg of chicken but never a leg of potatoes.” They don’t make trailers like that anymore.