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Stark, chilling account...
on 30 November 2005
10 Rillington Place is not a fun movie for those looking for a Saturday night popcorn/splatter fest. It is a hard-edged, harrowing account of British mass-murderer John Reginald Christie and his hapless fall guy, Timothy Evans. The film, directed by Richard Fleischer and featuring Richard Attenborough and John Hurt in the two leading roles, is based on the book of the same name written by Ludovic Kennedy. This controversial case, which resulted in two hangings, came back to haunt Britain after everyone thought it had been resolved and was paramount in the abandonment of capital punishment in the UK. The slant in this film is unmistakeable.
Starting in 1949, the Evans family: Timothy, his wife Beryl and their baby daughter Geraldine, arrived at Christie's dingy Rillinton Place address to rent the flat on the top floor. Christie had already killed two women by this time and would continue to do so after the Evans's had gone. Timothy Evans was a compulsive liar of rather limited intelligence and it was his gullibility combined with Christie's manipulative talents which would eventually get him into trouble.
Posing as a backyard abortionist, Christie sets to work on the newly-pregnant Beryl with predictably awful results and this is one of the most distressing scenes in this very disturbing film. He then convinces Evans that he should leave or face the consequences, promising to place the baby in the care of some friends in Acton. For Evans, as if things weren't bad enough already, they only get worse from here.
Shot in the original street and using exteriors fronm the actual house, the film has a very stark confronting look with a seedy brown look, all accentuated by the quietness and lack of music. The acting is very powerful: Attenborough being particularly villainous and the direction is very tight. Intelligently scripted and with no actual gore, it is "the thinking person's horror movie". The result is superb pace and an utterly chilling atmosphere. I think the feeling I got most from this film was one of absolute helplessness and revulsion. A first rate film which makes a very clear point, 10 Rillington Place has a very important message for all and goes way beyond other films of the same genre.