The film and its source book ("Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square") were inspired by the real-life unsolved crimes of the serial killer known as "Jack the Stripper". Unlike in the story, the real killings (which terrified London in the early 1960s) mirrored elements of "Jack the Ripper", in that the killer attacked prostitutes and that the killings mysteriously stopped.
Alfred Hitchcock's shooting schedule allowed filming to begin at 8 am and finish at 6 pm every day whilst on location in Covent Garden in London. One day during filming, Hitchcock was in the middle of finishing a take when a union representative showed up to inform him that it was 6:15 pm and that they had to stop filming. Hitchcock became furious and threatened to walk off the set and film "Frenzy" back in Hollywood. After that, no more union representatives were allowed on the set.
Henry Mancini was originally hired to score the film. According to accounts, upon hearing the proposed score, Alfred Hitchcock yelled at Mancini: "If I had wanted Bernard Herrmann, I would have hired him!" Mancini was fired from the project. His recording of his main title to Frenzy is available on one of his compilation of film music excerpts and can also be heard on the making of documentary on the Frenzy DVD.
The market scenes are set in Covent Garden, London, when Covent Garden was an actual fruit and flower market. This closed in 1974 and the market moved to Nine Elms. It was originally planned that the old market would be demolished, but most of it, including the central halls, was saved and is now a listed and popular tourist destination.
The role of Robert Rusk was originally offered to Michael Caine. He thought the character was disgusting and said "I don't want to be associated with the part." After Caine declined the role he later mentioned in his memoirs how Hitchcock completely ignored him when they met in a hotel a few years later.
Midway through the film, there is a famous continuous shot in which the camera backs away from the door of Rusk's upper-floor apartment and descends the staircase, seemingly without a cut, to the ground level, out the building's front door, and then to the opposite side of the street. The interiors were shot with an overhead track in a studio, and there is an imperceptible cut as a man passes by the front door, carrying a sack of potatoes. This is subtly blended into a new shot of the camera pulling away from the building exterior that was actually used on location.
Alfred Hitchcock originally planned to do his cameo as the body floating in the river. A dummy was even constructed to do the shot. The plans were changed and a female body, a victim of the Necktie Murderer, was used instead. Hitchcock instead became one of the members of the crowd who are listening to the speaker on the river bank. The dummy of Hitchcock was used in the typically humorous trailer hosted by Hitchock himself.
Much of the location filming was done in and around Covent Garden and was an homage to the London of Alfred Hitchcock's childhood. The son of a Covent Garden merchant, Hitchcock filmed several key scenes showing the area as the working produce market that it was. Aware that the area's days as a market were numbered, Hitchcock wanted to record the area as he remembered it. According to the making-of feature on the DVD, an elderly man who remembered Hitchcock's father as a dealer in the vegetable market came to visit the set during the filming and was treated to lunch by the director.
Several of the cast were unhappy with the lack of authenticity and Britishness of some of the dialogue. Jon Finch used to send notes to Alfred Hitchcock's secretary with suggested improvements. Hitchcock was not always pleased at this: "Jon, I said you could make alterations. I didn't say you could rewrite the whole script." However, many of Finch's script amendments were indeed used in the final film.
This was the first Alfred Hitchcock film to show nude scenes, four in total. The first is the body in the river. Two and three: Barbara Leigh-Hunt (rape of Mrs. Blaney) and Anna Massey (after she's spent the night in the hotel with Blaney). The fourth nude scene is a last blonde victim.
The bags of pork scratchings displayed in Covent Garden pub The Globe, owned by Felix Forsythe (Bernard Cribbins), show the prices in dual currency (1/- or 5p). The same is true on various price lists seen in the market. While the UK had introduced decimal currency in February 1971, both the new and old currencies were used until around 1973; hence in some places, you would have found dual currency in use and on display.
During shooting for the film, Alfred Hitchcock's wife and longtime collaborator Alma Hitchcock had a stroke. As a result, some sequences were shot without Hitchcock on the set so he could tend to his wife.
The documentary included in the DVD release shows 'Blaney' was originally named 'Blamey' (i.e. 'blame me'). This is as it appears in Arthur La Bern's source novel "Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square".
Novelist Arthur La Bern later expressed his dissatisfaction with Anthony Shaffer's adaptation of his book. Although he'd heard negotiations were underway to film his book, the author only learnt about Hitchcock's active involvement on reading about it in "The Times" in January 1971. He did benefit from the film, however, when his book was reissued as "Frenzy" as a tie-in.
One of the awful meals prepared for Chief Inspector Oxford by his wife - cailles aux raisins (quail with grapes) - is what both Andre and Wally order at the beginning of the film My Dinner with Andre (1981).
Rather than repeat the rape scenes that have already been seen when Rusk raped and strangled Mrs Blaney, Rusk simply says "You're my kind of woman" as he takes Babs into his flat - the same phrase that he had used before he raped Mrs Blaney. This is then followed by the famous "Goodbye to Babs" tracking shot from the door of Rusk's flat out into the street. The audience is left to imagine what is taking place.
There is no reprieve for Dick in the source novel "Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square" - Rusk's capture by Chief Inspector Oxford is entirely the film's contribution to the story. (Additionally, it's Miss Barling who is one of the victims.)
When long running films finish on an odd numbered side of a Laserdisc set, the other side usually has a short message saying that the program is recorded on the other side. On the old American DiscoVision sets (which were in CAV format and run for around 30 minutes a side) they would press a side from another film rather than have it blank. Side 6 of 'Frenzy' contains a side from 'Jaws'.
Alfred Hitchcock: in the first moments of the film in the crowd - he is the only one not applauding the speaker. He can also be seen in a following scene, after the body in the river has been found, standing next to a couple discussing Jack the Ripper.