How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison
The Lodger, Hitchcock’s first thriller, started on the close-up of a scream, and then to the revelation of a dead body, surrounded by a crowd and police. Frenzy starts with a great helicopter shot over the city of London, down (or up?) the Thames towards the iconic Tower Bridge, The music score is very stately, and Hitch is clearly establishing a British feel to this film – a feel that would last throughout the entire picture.
Tower Bridge represents London the same way the Eiffel Tower represents Paris, or the Capital building represents Washington. They are icons. So Hitch is establishing the film’s Britishness. The film will feature other typical and iconic British elements in it: Covent Garden Market, The British Pub culture, Dinner Clubs, and so on. The people featured are lower class, but very British –Rusk works at Covent Garden, Babs and Dick work at a pub, The Police Sergeant a typical British character, and so on. Even food is stressed to be simple British fare – meat and potatoes, sausages and eggs – as the Police inspector struggles with his wife’s recent cuisine classes and is making exotic un-British food which he cannot stomach (pun intended).
So Hitch is first establishing the atmosphere, which he didn’t do with The Lodger, which starts In medias res.
It is also almost a reverse of the events in The Lodger. In the Lodger, A woman screams, there is a dead body, and a crowd forms. In Frenzy, a crowd forms (for a political speech), a person screams, and then we sees the dead body. It is a great shot as first one person, then two, then three then four, then the entire crowd see the body.
Because we are in the sound era the irony is expressed through sound and visuals, instead of visuals alone. After a speech about cleaning up pollution in the Thames, we see a dead body floating in it. In the lodger we see the dead blond followed by the sign ‘Tonight Only Golden Curls’ – it has to be told visually.
A key difference that we will see later in the film – a fundamental difference – is that in The Lodger we never meet the killer, whereas in Frenzy we spend much of the movie with him.
There are similarities to the Lodger though. In both cases we are dealing with a serial Killer. In both cases our lead will be mistaken for the killer. In both cases there is humorous talk about the killing (in the pub).
What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific.
Irony – the speech on cleaning up pollution in the Thames followed by a dead body floating in it.
The opening helicopter shot – which is a directorial flourish but serves a purpose as well, establishing the London setting
Of course the cameo – Hitch standing in the crowd with his hat on
The cutting – first one person sees the body, cut to two people, cut to three people, cut to four people.
The element of danger in ordinary public places. The body is not found in a back alley but rather floating down the Thames by a political speech.
Humor – it is not just ironic, it is humorous that a dead body should float by as a politician talks about cleaning up the Thames.
Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career.
I think the main purpose of a Hitchcock opening scene is to engage the audience, regardless of the design of the openings, which vary greatly from film to film. We have had:
- Visual introductions to characters (Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt)
- In Medias Res openings (Vertigo, The Lodger)
- Voice over narration (Rebecca)
- Character set ups (The Lady Vanishes, Foreign Correspondent, Psycho)
- We’ve started with murders (Rope, The Lodger)
- We’ve built up to murders (Psycho, The Birds, Frenzy)
We can see how many differences there are in a Hitchcock opening, but they all have some method of engaging the audience. The visual introduction of the two characters in Strangers on a Train is no less engaging than the immediate murder in Rope, which is no less engaging than the pan of the apartments in Rear Window.
The main thing about Hitchcock openings is it grabs the audience’s attention somehow.