10 RILLINGTON PLACE. (1971) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘TEN RILLINGTON PLACE’ BY LUDOVIC KENNEDY. DIRECTED BY RICHARD FLEISCHER. STARRING RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, JOHN HURT, JUDY GEESON AND PAT HEYWOOD.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a superb film- it’s beyond superb, even- but the subject matter is chilling in the extreme. John Reginald Halliday Christie (born in 1898) has always given me the willies as a serial killer. He was no gleaming-toothed, charismatic Ted Bundy with an army of ‘Ted’ groupies behind him and the hearts and minds of women everywhere under his belt.
Christie comes across as a creepy little man, odious and whispery, with his big bald dome of a head, his prissy, old womanish mannerisms and all those repressed sexual hang-ups that come from his apparently having been abused by his father and dominated by his mother and sisters.
I’ve always reckoned that dear old Dickie Attenborough (JURASSIC PARK and the original DUNKIRK movie) plays Reg Christie pretty much as he really was, the softly-spoken weirdo. (Christie, I mean, not our lovely cuddly John Hammond!) Rubbish at sex, maybe under-endowed to boot, drawn to women but afraid of them too, only really relaxing around them once he’d killed them and they no longer represented a threat.
He doesn’t seem to have sought out the company of men at all. Men probably scared him with their loud voices and latent capacity for violence always just simmering away under the surface. Women were easier prey, women could be pushed around and gassed and, once they were ‘under,’ as it were, well, it was playtime for the man known throughout his adolescence as ‘Reggie-No-Dick’ and ‘Can’t-Do-It-Christie.’ Well, that won’t surprise anyone. These kinds of sickos are frequently impotent, aren’t they, or have some complicated sexual hang-ups that can only be satisfied by a particular, peculiar set of circumstances.
10 Rillington Place is one of those British addresses notorious for having had horrific murders committed there. 25 Cromwell Street (Fred and Rosemary West) and 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley (Ian Brady and Myra Hindley: the Moors Murderers) are two others you might know. The local council normally ends up having to raze such properties into the ground, to prevent their becoming shrines of evil for sightseers and souvenir hunters.
(In the extra features on the DVD, Richard Attenborough relates how that’s exactly what happened to 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. People nicked nearly enough of the bricks to make the house a safety risk, for crying out loud! Part of the film, by the way, was made in and around the real-life Rillington Place, which no longer exists today. Now, how gruesome and grisly is that…?)
In the film, we know straightaway that Christie is a killer. There are women’s bodies buried in his garden, and it’s extraordinary that no-one discovered them for so long, especially given that the Christies were only renting and didn’t own the property. Christie’s living with his rather passive wife Ethel (Pat Heywood, Nelly Dean from the 1978 BBC dramatisation of Wuthering Heights), but God alone knows how he persuaded anyone to marry him, is all I can say.
What happens to his lodgers, Tim and Beryl Evans and their baby daughter Geraldine, is sad beyond words. Christie commits the most heinous of crimes against Tim’s little family and poor, stupid Tim, young, Welsh and frequently unemployed, known for telling ridiculously tall tales down the boozer that even the drunks don’t believe, takes the rap for it.
Tim, who can’t read or write, isn’t the brightest tool in the box and he allows the sneaky liar that is Reg Christie to run rings around him. It’s just too sad. What happened to Tim ultimately should, of course, never have happened. All the pardons and exhumations in the world wouldn’t have given him back what he lost in 1949 and 1950.
Christie was a mad thing altogether, with his hypochondria and his ‘medical books,’ his potions and bits of hose and his preoccupation with gas. It’s true he was respected for joining the police as a special constable during ‘t’ war, even though he had a criminal record (I suppose anyone would do in a crisis!), and convictions for fraud and malicious wounding, but I bet he had no more medical experience than my left big toe.
Pretending that he did, however, have the skill-set of a doctor and, particularly, of an abortionist, was a grand handy way of luring unsuspecting women back to his flat while his wife was out. He was a pest, a menace to society in general and to womenkind in particular. Their house truly was a bona fide House of Horrors.
I’m getting all angry here now, lol, thinking about what a nasty piece of work John Christie was. He’s certainly on a par with John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, and George Joseph Smith, the guy who drowned his wives in the bath and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.
I’m angry with his wife Ethel too though. From remarks she makes to her husband towards the close of the film, it’s clear she knew something of Christie’s disgusting activities and may have been at least partially responsible for sending an innocent man to his death. I’ve heard she feared her husband, and that may well be true, but if she could have saved Tim Evans from his cruel fate, then surely she had an obligation to do so?
Ah well. Superb acting from everyone involved (John Hurt was AMAZINGLY GOOD as poor Tim Evans!) makes the film a pleasure to watch, although the content is greatly disturbing. You must certainly watch this magnificently acted film if you haven’t already seen it, but don’t watch it alone. I did, and it still has the power to freak me out.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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