Monday, April 20, 2009

Film Review: 10 Rillington Place (18-04-09)

Made in 1971 and set during the 1940’s, 10 Rillington Place tells the story of real life UK serial killer, John Reginald Christie, who murdered several women (including his wife) and destroyed the lives of a young couple who rented his upstairs flat. Distraught at the idea of having another baby they cannot afford, the couple, Beryl and Timothy Evans, turn to Christie who manipulates them into letting him conduct an amateur abortion with murderous results.

There is apparently still some controversy in the UK regarding these events despite Christie eventually confessing and being hanged. Regardless of what really did happen, this an amazing film. Horrific and intense - though with little actual onscreen violence, director Richard Fleischer’s effort is easily one of the best ever made about a serial killer and reminiscent of a similar masterwork, 1960's Peeping Tom.

At the centre of the film is two brilliant performances by two of Britain’s best actors. Richard Attenborough’s John Christie is a chillingly cold portrayal. No doubt an influence on certain elements of Anthony Hopkins’s essay of one Hannibal Lector, he is a soulless man, his inadequacies’ fuelling his need to murder, boarding up his victims inside the home’s crawlspace or burying them in his back garden. Opposite him is a young John Hurt, outstanding as the simple-minded, naïve Evans. He stands little chance against Christie’s manipulation of the facts during an eventual trial involving both men. Both rise to the challenge, being utterly convincing in their interpretations.

Based on a book written in 1961, it is the perfectly sombre realisation of post-war Britain that first strikes you as a major achievement for the film. The score is muted, barely rearing it's eerie head helping the film produce an even more creepy atmosphere as number 10 itself becomes a quiet house of horrors. Despite all it’s flawless moments of construction however, the pace does lag getting started, making it not easy to get into. Regardless, 10 Rillington Place's main intention is to highlight a certain dark chapter in UK legal history as well as examine capitol punishment unflinchingly. In that sense, in succeeds remarkably. See it for the acting, stick it out, and admire it for everything else it manages to accomplish.

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