Monday, June 27, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Frenzy (1972) - How Hitchcock Hides Exposition

[Quick Summary: An innocent ex-R.A.F. officer is accused of two murders, while the real serial murderer is on the loose.]

Yes, yes, yes, Hitchcock scripts are filled with Stuff We Do Not Do Today:

- Lots of shots and directions
- Long length (148 pgs. here)
- Long paragraphs.

BUT they are excellent examples of how to tell a story.

For example, humor is an excellent means to distract and hide exposition:


Oxford, sitting at the table, watches apprehensively as his wife brings the tureen of soup from the kitchen, and puts it down on the table. His worry increases as she starts to ladle it out, and strangely shaped objects are seen to plop into his soup bowl along with the liquid.

MRS. OXFORD: It's a soupe de poisson, dear. I know you'll enjoy it.

OXFORD: I have no doubt of it.

If there is any irony in her husband's last statement, Mrs. Oxford appears to be unaware of it. She moves off towards the kitchen.

MRS. OXFORD: I've just got a couple of things to do in the kitchen. Won't be a minute.

Left by himself, Oxford stirs his soup thoughtfully.

MRS. OXFORD (V.O.): Well, what's new in the case? (mocking him) Any sensational breaks?

OXFORD: No. I'll be pleased when we get Mr. Richard Blaney inside, though.

MRS. OXFORD (V.O.): Any idea where he is?

Oxford lowers his head and sniffs the bowl of soup.

OXFORD: No. Our only lead to him left her job this morning, and what's more, I don't know where she is either.

MRS. OXFORD (V.O.): You're certain, he's the one?

OXFORD:  He's the one, all right. There's not even the complication of another suspect. It has to be him.

He lifts his spoon out of the soup and brings out the gaping-mouthed head of a small fish. Carefully he places it on a side plate. He then tries again --gets some liquid, and drinks it cautiously. He gives it a highly qualified nod.

OXFORD: We have him identified as leaving the matrimonial agency at the time his ex was killed. We have the suit which he found necessary to send to the cleaners in a hurry. And we have the evidence of the face powder and the Salvation Army Hostel."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Humor can hide a lot of exposition.

Frenzy (1972)
by Anthony Shaffer
Based on the novel by Arthur La Bern

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