10 Rillington Place (1971)

Synopsis:

In 1949, London, England, a mild-mannered man, John Christie (Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park), leads a simple and quiet life along with his wife, Ethel (Pat Heywood, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?). What no one knows is that Christie is a really a serial killer who lures unsuspecting women to his apartment to rape and kill them.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Often cited as one of the best thrillers ever made, and for once the critical mass was not exaggerating. Sadly, Richard Fleischer’s 10 Rillington Place (aka The Strangler of Rillington Place), which is based on a true story, is also one of the most overlooked thrillers too. I tend to be a little apprehensive about movies based on real people because reality is usually duller than fiction. That’s not the case here — it’s gets under your skin really quick.

From the opening scene to the last shot I couldn’t help but be marveled at the clinical precision of the whole thing. 10 Rillington Place is an engrossing, suspenseful, truly extraordinary film. The post-WWII malaise is handled particularly well.

Screenwriter Clive Exton adapted Ludovic Kennedy’s book about the infamous real-life murder case. Exton combines the story of Christie’s most famous victim, Beryl Evans (Judy Geeson, To Sir With Love and The Lords of Salem), with the killer’s deadly crime spree. Director Richard Fleischer (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Fantastic Voyage) handles well both the brief moments of violence and the character-driven vignettes. This is as much a thriller as a character study so having a seasoned filmmaker like Fleischer working with great actors is of paramount importance.

Attenborough’s performance is so convincingly creepy that it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job in the role. Attenborough’s Christie has been compared to Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter — they are both equally compelling, equally scary. Geeson and John Hurt (Midnight Express and The Elephant Man) offer strong support as Attenborough’s unsuspecting neighbors. Denys N. Coop’s camera work contributes greatly to the film’s nearly unbearable drab atmosphere — the movie looks and feels depressing, and that’s a compliment.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

10 Rillington Place is unquestionably a great find. The cast also includes Robert Hardy (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), André Morell (Ben-Hur), and Isobel Black (Twins of Evil). Color, 110 minutes, Rated R.

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