More graphic than Psycho following the relaxed censorship in the ’70s, this typically English and terrifying story of a sex killer at large, written by Anthony Shaffer (screenwriter of Sleuth and The Wicker Man), deploys Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man plot structure one last time. Jon Finch (Polanski’s Macbeth) plays the disaffected bartender and ex-RAF pilot suspected by the police of being the “Necktie Killer” after his ex-wife is murdered. In truth, the killer is his cheerful Cockney friend, fruit-merchant Bob Rusk, unforgettably played by Barry Foster (after a disgusted Michael Caine turned down the role). Hitchcock has great, morbid fun with a cast of English character actors—Billie Whitelaw, Alec McCowan, Anna Massey, Bernard Cribbins, Jean Marsh, Vivien Merchant, and Michael Bates—and takes particularly dark pleasure in using London’s Covent Garden Market, the filmmaker’s childhood haunt where his greengrocer father worked, as ground zero for the murders.
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