Hitchcock, 1972, 114m
This late Hitchcock is atypical of the period when it is made. It is a strong brew of murder and suspense, seasoned with humor and continual wit. It is suspense not of the who-did-it type, which is clear from the outset, but what-next. It is set in the heart of London, in and around a bustling fruit and vegetable market. Hitchcock is ever innovative in his compositions of violence, which are depicted with economy and restraint, though this time he does go a little further in the gruesome bits. He caters to our love of the gory and unusual, with a very British nonchalant understatement, managing to stay within the bounds of taste and propriety, even at his most outrageous.
Particularly salacious is the sequence where the killer is at the back of a van loaded with potatoes, grappling to extract a tie pin from the hand of a body in which rigor mortis has set in. The potatoes roll out from behind, and then the body. Hitchcock scales heights of creativity in his depiction of the gruesome, achieving something akin to sublimity. This macabre sequence carries the mark of his artistic genius.
In another eery sequence, after following the murderer and his about to be murdered victim up the stairs, the camera retraces it's path down the staircase and into the busy street, hinting at the gruesome events in progress upstairs, leaving them to our imagination. It is sheer poetry, as though the camera momentarily becomes a living being and recoils from the ghastliness. His grip on the audience is unrelenting, playing it "like an organ". This is the master in his element.
Since this film is about a psychopathic serial killer, whose modus of choice is strangulation with a necktie, there is inevitably some psychology talk, but mercifully it is minimal here. Psycho and Marnie are the worst for that, but I believe Hitchcock intends the Freud stuff more as fun poking, since Hitchcock is first and last an entertainer, a showman and an artist of cinema. He does mention in the 1973 documentary about him that he doesn't believe that our personalities are determined by "the awful things that happened to us in childhood."