Tuesday, 29 June 2010

10 Rillington Place

Last night I re-watched Richard Fleischer's 10 Rillington Place, a film which I first saw in the late 70s at the then called Hull Library Theatre. It is one of those films that, when seen, remains ingrained in the mind, at least it did so in mine. Fortunately, it was shown on TV many years ago and had the foresight of videotaping it. Unfortunately, the video tape is now finished, broken.

For those of you who haven't seen it, it follows a real life serial murder case in London during the 40s and 50s, which resulted in the wrong man having been convicted and hanged. Richard Attenborough, what a fine actor he is, was absolutely brilliant as the sinister John Reginald Christie, the serial killer, who we first see in action one dark night in 1944, during the last stages of the war, sweet talking to a young woman for then to proceed to murder her by gas and strangulation. Rape is not shown, but it effect is even more devastating by having been left out. We presume that the young woman may have gone to him after the sweet Mr Christie offered her to get rid of the unwanted child she was carrying, a common occurrence during the war. We see another woman foot sticking out of the ground in his back yard when Christie is burying her body.

The action then moves forward to 1949, during post war austerity, when a young couple, Timothy Evans and his wife Beryl rent the flat on the top of his house in 10 Rillington Place.Timothy Evans, who is unable to read and write and who is, apparently, mentally deficient, young John Hurt's performance conveying the nuances of the character with deep conviction, is involved in constant rows with Beryl, a young and charming Judy Geeson playing the part,  after she discloses that she is expecting another baby. Money is short, we know that they had to move downwards from a river front flat, so row after row ensue.

Sweet talking John Christie convinces Beryl that he can help her to get rid of the baby. Murder and rape follows. Timothy is talked over by Christie, and runs away as he believed that Beryl's death, which he believed was caused by an abortion gone wrong, will be pinned on him. Geraldine, the older baby, is left behind as he also believed that a couple known to Christie was going to take care of her. Of course, that couple did not exist, and the child is also strangulated

To cut the story short, Timothy Evans, his conscience bugging him, gives himself up in Cardiff. Christie manipulated the facts and his testimony during the trial in such a way that Evans is found guilty of the murders, and he is executed. Many years later, as Christie, after murdering his own wife as she knows too much, is forced to sell the house as money dried up - no one wants to rent a flat in a house where murders happened, is caught as the new West Indian owners of 10 Rillington Place discovered the bodies of some of his murder victims behind a panel.

Christie is finally arrested and hanged. We know little of what made him to commit those murders, one after the other, apart from hints of repressed sexuality behind that smooth talk and sweet face of a gentleman. The film is even more blood curling because of that, because of us knowing very little of his background, apart from the disclosure during the trial that he had several convictions for petty crimes and violence. We also know that, as a soldier, he was gassed during WWI.

It made me for years to look with suspicion at people in the street, including my own neighbours.

10 Rillington Place is based on a book by Ludovic Kennedy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please comment on issues relating to cinema or the specific post theme. All comments are moderated. All other comments will be rejected, particularly those marketing other sites or blogs.