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When a temperamental man's ex-wife falls victim to a serial killer, he becomes the number one suspect.
In London, one day along the Thames, a crowd spots a young woman's strangled body wash ashore, another in a string of victims known as the Necktie Murders. Blocks away at the Globe bar, bartender Richard Blaney is badgered for taking a brandy by manager Felix Forsythe. The down-on-his luck ex-RAF pilot decides to quit rather than suffer the humiliation, thus losing both his job and his dingy apartment above the bar. After a short farewell to his girl friend, Babs Milligan, a Globe barmaid, Blaney seeks solace with his old friend Robert Rusk, a congenial man who owns a Covent Garden fruit business. Although Rusk offers him money and betting advice on the afternoon's horse races, Blaney is too consumed with his plight to go to the races. After spending his last pound on brandy and then learning that Rusk's sure bet won at twenty to one, a thoroughly frustrated and drunken Blaney visits his ex-wife, Brenda, at her matrimonial agency. Envious of her success, Blaney loudly insults Brenda, who then asks her prim and concerned secretary, Monica Barling, to leave early to ensure some privacy for her and Blaney. An understanding woman, Brenda invites Blaney to dinner at her club hoping to calm him down, but Blaney becomes more derisive and breaks a glass. Unaware that Brenda has secretly put twenty pounds in his coat pocket, Blaney spends the night on a free bed at the Salvation Army. The next day, Rusk, known to Brenda as "Mr. Robinson," visits her agency during Monica's lunch hour, to insist that Brenda find him a date. After Brenda sternly refuses, citing his perverse request for extreme submission, Rusk claims that Brenda is his "type" and corners her. Although Brenda tries to escape, Rusk rapes and strangles her, leaving his tie around her neck and taking money from her purse as he leaves. Moments later, Monica spots Blaney leaving the building, not knowing that he had visited Brenda's office but found the door locked only moments after Rusk's departure. When Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Oxford questions Monica during the investigation, she is quick to accuse Blaney, stating that she saw him leave the office as she returned from lunch and that he was violent during his visit the previous day. She then describes Blaney and his tweed jacket with leather patches in great detail for the police, who have discovered money is missing from Brenda's purse. Meanwhile, Blaney, upon discovering Brenda's money in his coat, decides to rent a hotel room and invite Babs, who brings his belongings from The Globe. After Blaney turns his pants and jacket over to the hall porter for cleaning, the couple enjoys an evening of lovemaking. When the morning newspaper is delivered to their door, Blaney and Babs discover that Brenda has become the next necktie murder victim and Blaney is the prime suspect. Meanwhile downstairs, the hall porter calls the police, recognizing the newspaper's description of Blaney and his jacket. The police arrive only moments later, but Blaney and Babs have already fled to a nearby park, where Blaney convinces Babs that he is not a murderer. Moments later, Johnny Porter, Blaney's old military buddy, spots the couple in the park and, believing Blaney is innocent, invites them to his apartment. Johnny then offers Blaney and Babs jobs working at his English pub in France, where they can hide until the real murderer is found. After Blaney and Babs arrange to meet at Victoria Station the next day to go to France, she returns to The Globe. Meanwhile, Oxford has matched Brenda's face powder to that found on the money Blaney used to pay for the hotel. When he then learns that Brenda divorced Blaney on the grounds of abusive treatment, Oxford is convinced of Blaney's guilt. Back at The Globe, Babs promptly quits when she discovers that Forsythe reported that she was dating Blaney to the police. Afraid to return to her apartment above the bar, Babs accepts Rusk's offer to stay at his apartment for the night after he lies that he will be out of town, but once she enters the apartment, Babs becomes yet another victim of Rusk's psychopathic rage. That evening, the long-suffering Oxford carefully hides his disgust with one more of his chipper wife's attempts at preparing an outlandish gourmet meal, a result of her recent cooking classes. As he shares the details of the case while surreptitiously pouring his helping of fish soup back in the tureen, his wife questions why Blaney would have performed a "crime of passion" against his wife after ten years, but Oxford is still convinced he has caught his man. Meanwhile Rusk puts Babs's body in a potato sack and loads it on a truck bound for Lincolnshire that night, but then finds that his tiepin engraved with his initials missing. Supposing that Babs grasped it in the struggle, Rusk climbs under the truck tarpaulin to find Babs's body just before the truck pulls away. As the truck bumps down the road, Rusk breaks each of Babs's fingers, stiffened by rigor mortis, to release the pin from her grasp. Finally the truck driver stops at a truckers' cafe, where Rusk quickly hides in the restroom until the driver leaves. While Rusk goes into the restaurant, miles away, the trucker is forced to stop when police spot Babs's arm hanging from the truck. The next morning back in London, after reading the newspaper reports about another murder the previous evening, Johnny agrees to be Blaney's alibi; however, Johnny's wife Hetty insists that her husband will be convicted of accessory to murder, convincing the weak-willed Johnny to forsake his friend. Incensed, Blaney asks Rusk if he can hide at his apartment. Rusk agrees and offers to take his bag, while the unsuspecting Blaney enters through the back to avoid being seen. Moments later, Rusk alerts the police, who arrest Blaney and then find Babs's clothing, which Rusk planted in Blaney's bag, confirming their suspicions. At the courtroom days later, when Blaney is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, he screams repeatedly that Rusk is the murderer and vows to kill him. Blaney's pleas prompt Oxford to question his judgment and continue the investigation. Many days later Oxford sends Sergeant Spearman to the truckers' café in Lincolnshire with a picture of Rusk after learning from the driver that it was his only stop that fateful night. The same evening, Blaney, having purposefully injured himself to gain admittance to the prison hospital, makes an escape and heads directly to Rusk's apartment. Meanwhile, Spearman discovers that the café waitress does recognize Rusk from the night of the murder, and she hands Spearman the brush Rusk used to dust his jacket, which smells of potato dust. Learning of Blaney's escape, Oxford rushes to Rusk's apartment, while Blaney, already inside, spots a body under the bed covers and strikes it with a tire iron only to discover he has bludgeoned another necktie victim, not Rusk. At that moment, Oxford rushes in and signals for Blaney to be quiet as they await Rusk, who is carefully dragging a trunk up the stairs to hide the body of his victim. Opening the door, Rusk is greeted by Oxford, who aptly notes, "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie."
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||R||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 21 Jun 1972; Los Angeles opening: 28 Jun 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
AFI-DVD; Netflix; AFI Library
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Universal Pictures|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Universal Pictures, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||116||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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