Hitchcock returned to Britain after almost twenty years and made this, one of his last films. Using the grim, yet bustling background of London we watch the story of a serial killer who uses his neck tie to strangle his victims after raping them. For the first part of the film we assume that the killer is Richard Blaney, a man with a suspicious looking tie who has just been fired from his job at a pub. A war veteran of some note, he has failed to make an impact on the post-war world, and is known for his fiery temper. His ex-boss seems like a prejudiced fool, Blaney is sleeping with co-worker Babs, is friends with successful comrade Robert Rusk, and decides to meet his ex-wife to get the money she owes him. They divorced a while back, and during a heated discussion her secretary Monica hears a loud bang before going to lunch. Blaney leaves with the money, but annoyed about his bad day. We then see Rusk going to see Brenda, Blaney’s ex-wife in her office. She runs a lonely hearts bureau, setting people up, and Rusk is a frequent customer. However, he wants women who have strange habits. When Brenda refuses him, Rusk rapes and kills her and we see that he is the neck tie killer. The police believe it is Blaney, the secretary says she saw him go in to the office and believed the bang she heard was him hitting her. As the evidence piles up, Robert goes on the run with Babs who believes he is innocent, and they try to find a way to prove his innocence. There seems to be no way out though. This is another intricate film by Hitchcock, skilfully built up then taken apart just when we thought there was going to be no justice. This is notable as it was Hitchcock’s first ’18’ rated film, and features some full frontal nudity, swearing and graphic violence. There is still a heavy amount of tension though, and the scenes of murder are shocking. There are good performances from all here, including those in smaller roles- Jean Marsh as the secretary, and Clive Swift of Keeping Up Appearances fame. There is much humour also, the scenes between Inspector Oxford and his wife are the obvious funny parts, but there is also the more subtle, darker humour- the death grip, the body falling off the van, the ending. Another thoroughly watchable, clever, and interesting film from the Master. As this is not one of Hitchcock’s most famous works, the extra features are light. This should not detract potential buyers, though it is disappointing.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the movie and review- had Hitchcock lost it by this point or was he still capable of thrilling an audience?