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10 Rillington Place (Special Edition, DVD)

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Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 1970 / Director: Richard Fleischer / Actors: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson ... / DVD released 29 March, 2004 at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL, Widescreen

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    6 Reviews
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      22.06.2012 09:42
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      A disturbing and well-made true crime film

      A review of the Sony DVD, which costs £5.50 on amazon.

      John Reginald Halliday Christie was a famous English serial killer active during and after the Second World War. His MO was to gas his victims (all were female), having persuaded them they were inhaling some kind of cure for whatever ailed them; and then, while they were unconscious, strangle them while raping them. He then buried their bodies in the garden, behind the walls of his house, or under the floorboards.

      This would be notorious enough by itself, but what made the Christie case a cause celebre was the fact that another man, Timothy Evans, was convicted and hanged for two murders which were almost certainly carried out by Christie. This contributed to the swell of public opposition to capital punishment. Ludovic Kennedy wrote a famous book about Evans and Christie, which this 1971 film is based on. It focuses on the Evans case, fitting it into the context of Christie's wider career as a serial killer.

      As a true crime film, it follows the real facts of the case closely, and it feels like we're probably supposed to know going in what happened. We see a wartime murder, but then it cuts to Evans arriving at 10 Rillington Place with his wife, Beryl, and their daughter Geraldine. The Evanses rent the top floor room. Timothy is a fantasist, seemingly slightly simple, and unable to read or write. The couple quarrel about money. When Beryl gets pregnant again, and decides they can't afford another baby, Christie persuades her that he knows how to perform abortions...

      It's a tragic, shabby little story. Although hardly an impressive specimen, Christie manages to find people even further down the food chain than he is to prey upon. He picks on gullible victims who believe his easy lies about medical experience and only realise much too late that he's not the friend he seems to be. Timothy and Beryl are just the latest in a line of too-trusting victims that Christie uses to satisfy his urges.

      The film brilliantly recreates the down-at-heel world of the Christies and Evanses. A lot was actually filmed on location in Rillington Place, and they apparently filmed in one of the houses there (in the extras Richard Attenborough claims they filmed in number 10 itself, while John Hurt says it was a different house; either way, it's pretty much unthinkable that they'd do that with a true crime movie these days). Wherever it was filmed, though, it captures the seedy ambience perfectly. British serial killers always seem to exist in grinding poverty, and always lack any kind of glamour. Christie's cheap, tiny flat, with no indoor toilet, is grim enough without the murders.

      The killings themselves are unpleasant without being explicit - it would probably defeat the purpose of the film to have nastier, more exploitative murder scenes. It's pretty clear what's going on, anyway. The film follows the case as it happened, although it certainly doesn't include every victim. Much of the dialogue is as it was reported as having happened. It is at its weakest in the relationships between Christie and the two main women, Beryl Evans and his wife. This is probably because we never got to hear their side of the story, for obvious reasons. But while the scenes between Christie and Timothy are horribly credible, the film never quite persuades me that Beryl really agreed to Christie's ministrations as readily as she does in the film.

      The film is powered by two great lead performances. Richard Attenborough is excellent as Christie, the quiet little killer. He's maybe too creepy to be completely convincing as someone who gained the trust of so many women, but it's a great serial killer performance. Perhaps it's just the northern accent, but he does occasionally remind me of Steve Pemberton in the League of Gentlemen. One murder sequence does have him constantly interrupted, by workmen and a visiting friend, in a way that could almost be sitcom if it weren't so horrible.

      The other great performance is from John Hurt as Evans. While Attenborough is quiet and still, Hurt is noisy and twitchy, really giving it some. The two play well off each other, but Hurt gives probably the better performance. You can really follow his too-slow mental processes just from incredibly subtle changes in his facial expression, and he evokes genuine pity even though he often acts like a jerk. His Welsh accent wobbles a bit, but he tries to explain that in the commentary as evidence that Evans had been out of Wales for years. Maybe.

      Judy Geeson is also great as Beryl, although she's not in it for as long as Hurt. Pat Heywood is good as Christie's timid wife, and Robert Hardy, Geoffrey Chater and Andre Morrell are fine as the lawyers and judge at Evans's trial.

      The film is shot in a largely realistic style, with very little incidental music. This is one of the best true crime films I've seen, seeming to capture some of the truth of the case. It would be easy to try to draw parallels with wider British society at the time, but the film doesn't do anything so tacky. This is very good indeed; much better than it feels like it should be.

      As far as the DVD goes, the film looks pretty good. It's not a pristine print, but it is more than adequate. There are two main extras. One is an interview with Attenborough (called 'Lord Attenborough' on the DVD box, but only 'Sir Richard' in the extras menu). He's pretty interesting, although I'm dubious about a few of his claims. Hurt's commentary is a bit less interesting, but then he has to keep talking for a lot longer, and inevitably drifts into unengaging anecdotes. He remembers the shoot as quite fun, while Attenborough remembers it as unpleasant.

      Other than that, there's a timeline of the crimes and a floorplan of Christie's flat showing where the bodies were buried. There are also filmographies for the main cast and director, which only go up to 2003 (presumably when the DVD was released).

      The extras don't really add much to the DVD, to be honest. But this is a good film, much better than I thought it would be, and at the price it's worth getting.

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        27.01.2012 19:28
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        A brilliant serial killer film without all the gory, bloodlust trimmngs

        RELEASED: 1970, Cert.15

        RUNNING TIME: Approx. 106 mins

        DIRECTOR: Richard Fleischer

        PRODUCERS: Leslie Linder & Martin Ransohoff

        SCREENPLAY: Clive Exton

        MUSIC: Johnny Dankworth

        MAIN CAST:-

        Richard Attenborough as Christie
        John Hurt as Timothy Evans
        Judy Geeson as Beryl Evans
        Pat Heywood as Ethel Christie

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        FILM ONLY REVIEW

        Based on Ludovic Kennedy's book of the same name, 10 Rillington Place delves into the activities of serial killer John Christie.

        The film begins in 1949 and is mostly set at 10 Rillington Place (which apparently was demolished shortly after Christie was executed for his crimes) in the Notting Hill district of London....in those days, a rather seedy slum area in contrast to its fashionable and trendy image of more recent times.

        Christie and his wife Ethel advertise that they have a small upstairs flat to let in their house, and a young couple (Timothy and Beryl Evans) move in with their young baby. Unbeknown to Timothy and Beryl, the garden is awash with buried dead bodies, victims of Christie's penchant for murder.

        Beryl and Timothy have a stormy, argumentative relationship, and before long they discover that another baby is on the way. The couple has serious financial problems due to Beryl's habit of overspending, and she takes some pills obtained through the black market, hoping the dosage will cause a spontaneous miscarriage.

        After finding that she is still pregnant as the pills didn't work, Mr. Christie steps in to help - with murderous results - that when the police investigate Beryl's alleged disappearance, he turns around to make it look as though her husband Timothy was the culprit.

        That gets the storyline rolling....a storyline which a lot of people who haven't seen the film know the outcome of, due to it being a screen adaptation of events that really happened.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        Just before the opening credits roll, a note appears on the screen saying that where possible, the dialogue for the film 10 Rillington Place is based on the contents of official documents.

        Watching 10 Rillington Place, especially as it is factual, is a pleasing change from how serial killers are presented In films of later years and today. The only tiny bit of blood contained within has nothing to do with Christie's murders, and there are no knives, swords or any other kind of slashing implements present. The direction/production of the film solely concentrates on presenting a true life story as authentically as possible, with great attention having been paid to choosing the right actors to play the parts of John Christie and Timothy Evans.

        10 Rillington Place is a film I have watched several times through my life, and it never ceases to interest and absorb me....on each occasion of viewing, I am glued to the screen from start to finish.

        The acting is truly stupendous, with Richard Attenborough giving a first class performance as the quiet, unassuming, yet simultaneously cold, vicious and manipulative serial killer John Christie. A very young John Hurt is astonishing in his role as Welshman Timothy Evans, who although kind and well-meaning at heart, is also capable of being extremely volatile. His inability to read and write (Timothy Evans' inability I mean!!) makes it easier for Christie to transfer all responsibility for Beryl's death over to him.

        The only way I can determine this film's accuracy to the real events which took place in the 1940s is to read literature about Christie, and as I see it, 10 Rillington Place seems very close to the truth.

        It appears whilst watching this film that Richard Attenborough and John Hurt had a unique rapport with one another as actors, and it really is a joy to watch their interaction. However, I don't find Judy Geeson's and Pat Heywood's performances as Beryl Evans and Ethel Christie respectively to be particularly outstanding; I would deem them no more than adequate, but it doesn't really matter as both Attenborough's and Hurt's highly commendable input is more than enough to compensate.

        As far as Johnny Dankworth's (credited on the DVD cover as John Dankworth) musical score is concerned, I only ever notice it during the opening and closing credits....I have yet to become aware of any music during the course of the actual film. As might be expected of Dankworth, the music has a definite jazzy flavour which I find quite pleasant to listen to.

        The only little fly in the ointment about 10 Rillington Place....and it is an extremely tiny fly....is that despite several viewings of the film and reading much literature about John Christie himself, it isn't clear to me as to whether his wife was aware of what he was up to or not. As far as the film portrays this, it sometimes seems as if she has no inkling or knowledge whatsoever of her husband's activities, yet at other times it appears she does know yet is either closing off from it inside of her head as an avoidance technique, or is simply standing back and letting her husband do what he feels he has to. However, that very minor issue in no way mars my enjoyment of what truly is an excellent, perhaps even underrated film.

        For anybody who is interested in the whole ballgame of serial killers, 10 Rillington Place I feel is probably one of the best films to watch, due to the true story element, John Hurt's and Richard Attenborough's unwaveringly perfect acting and a refreshing absence of blood, guts, gore and slicing instruments. For the most part, it is a quiet, thoughtful film, although the screaming arguments which Beryl and Timothy have...they are noisy, but are acted exceptionally well.

        My recommendation? Watch it!

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        At the time of writing, 10 Rillington Place can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-

        New: from £3.78 to £59.99
        Used: from £6.95 to £7.92
        Collectible: One copy currently available @ £3.84 (used)

        A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.

        Thanks for reading!

        ~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~

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          12.12.2008 02:47
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          Better than a lot of 'true crime' films.

          '10 Rillington Place' is one of those 'based on a true story' films. In this case it is the story of serial killer John Reginald Christie, who lived at 10 Rillington Place London with his wife Ethyl. Over a period of several years he killed people and buried them in the grounds of his house. Much like Fred and Rosemary West would do many years later.

          The story is given greater significance by the character of Tim Evans, a young Welshman who was convicted and sentenced to death for some of the murders which Christie is now alleged to have committed. There are some 'ifs' and 'ands' in all this, but it is certainly accepted that Christie was a serial killer.

          The film is based on the book by Ludovic Kennedy who wrote a damning condemnation of police procedure at the time and called into question the legitimacy of the death penalty. I was reminded of the film 'Let Him Have It', another story which deals with a miscarriage of justice in the British courts, resulting in death.

          Richard Fleischer's film comes from the perspective that Timothy Evans was completely innocent and a pawn in Christie's evil game. Whether this was exactly what happened or not is a subject of some debate, this probably isn't the place for that, but perhaps some further reading or research into the matter might be wise if someone were to become interested in the case.

          Anyway, the film itself is excellent. Richard Attenborough does an exceptional job as Christie, with his skull cap and quiet menacing voice. John Hurt is also superb in one of his early roles as Timothy Evans. Judy Geeson does well in support as Evans's tragic wife Beryl.

          The locations are perfect, the film uses the actual location of the murders in Rillington Place [renamed after the murders] just before the local council had the whole tenement pulled down to make way for new building. As Attenborough says in an interview on the dvd, 'this was a very eerie experience'. It's rare that filmmakers are so lucky as to be able to use the actual buildings/street/locale where incidents took place.

          In conjuring up the era, Fleischer and his cast does a wonderful job. The conservative nature of 1949 is well captured and the desperate lengths a young couple might go to in order to get rid of an unwanted child. This is the era in which Mike Leigh's 'Vera Drake' is set.

          The dvd has been well presented and is indeed a 'special edition' with both an introduction to the film, and an interview by Richard Attenborough. Its quite funny the way he warns the viewer that some of what's in this film 'isn't nice, and can at times be unpleasant'. He's such a luvvie!. But actually you get the sense that he really enjoyed this role, as he is an excellent actor and this was a great part to get his teeth into.

          Also on the dvd is an interesting commentary from John Hurt, an actor that is always worth watching. There are some production stills from the film and an interesting, though slightly pointless map of 10 Rillington Place, just in case you want to know exactly where each of the bodies were found. It is a pretty small house, and amazing that he managed to get away with it for so long!

          You get the feeling from Attenborough's performance that Christie, like many serial killers, was addicted to the risk of being caught. He was often doing things in broad daylight under the noses of other people and was probably seconds away from being exposed on several occasions. In the end he was caught, this was the only aspect of the film which I didn't like. After spending 90 minutes on the build up to Evans's trail and execution, Christie's continued killing spree and eventual capture is only given about 10 minutes of screen time. I guess that's almost another story in itself.

          I would highly recommend '10 Rillington Place' for the acting performances from Attenborough and Hurt and the wonderful eerie atmosphere captured from filming on the site of the murders.

          You should be able to get the dvd from Amazon or Play for around £5.

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            06.04.2006 17:48
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            A good film of a fascinating story

            Introduction
            I imagine only a few young things will have not heard of John Reginald Christie, who murdered a young woman, Beryl Evans, and her baby and managed to get her husband Timothy accused of her murder. Timothy Evans was eventually hung for this and constituted one of the biggest travesties of justice that this country has seen; to the extent that it was one of the factors that led to the end of the death penalty. Directed by Richard Fleischer, this film is based on the book by Ludovic Kennedy about the life of Christie.

            The director
            Richard Fleischer died just a week or so ago of natural causes. He also directed The Jazz Singer and Conan the Destroyer.

            The story
            As the story is so well-known, there seems little point in hiding what happens – too late anyway, I’ve already told you in the first paragraph. The interesting (and gruesome) part of this film is finding out how the murders of Beryl Evans and her baby were committed, not least all the other women that Christie murdered.

            In 1949, Timothy and Beryl Evans move into the top flat in the same house in Rillington Place in which Christie lives. What they don’t know is that in the back garden, there are the bodies of the women Christie has already murdered. Beryl and Tim have a somewhat volatile relationship – Beryl spends Tim’s money on treats for herself – and the neighbours are frequently forced to listen to their stormy arguments. The final straw is when Beryl becomes pregnant again – the young family just can’t afford another mouth.

            Explaining the situation to Mr Christie, Beryl discovers that he has medical expertise and persuades him to give her an abortion, with Tim’s blessing. But Christie uses the opportunity to satisfy his urges and kills her. On Tim’s return from work, Christie persuades him that they must hide the body or they will both be accused of being accessories to murder. Frightened for his life, Tim spins a web of lies in order to avoid arrest and eventually becomes accused of his wife and daughter’s murder.

            The actors/characters
            Richard Attenborough, better known for his role in the Jurassic Park movies, does an excellent job of portraying the slightly creepy John Reginald Christie. My only qualm about his performance is that if he really was so creepy, why in God’s name didn’t someone realise that there was something wrong long before they did? It wasn’t clear from the film, but it seems that even Christie’s wife wasn’t fully aware of what he got up to. However, for the purposes of a watchable film, Attenborough did a superb job.

            I wasn’t so impressed by John Hurt as Timothy Evans. The dodgy Welsh accent didn’t help. Timothy Evans was not the brightest spark – he was unable to read and write and was easily swayed by John Christie’s superior intellect. But somehow John Hurt didn’t really pull off the performance. Perhaps it is because he usually plays more middle class characters and this just didn’t seem to suit him. I have read great acclaim for his performance in this film, but I couldn’t see it myself.

            Judy Geeson, who played Beryl Evans gave an average performance. To be honest, she only needed to look sweet and young and she did that well, but there was no real spark there.

            Technical bits
            Classification: 15 (the murders are suggested rather than shown).
            Length of film: 1 hour and 46 minutes
            The film is in colour rather than black and white.

            Conclusion
            Anyone who has read any of my past reviews will know that I have a rather gruesome interest in true crime. It is for this factor and perhaps Richard Attenborough’s performance that this film is worth watching. If it were fiction, I don’t think it would have made much of a splash in the film world. Unfortunately, I, like many people, find true crime fascinating.

            I would also say that anyone who thinks that the death penalty should be brought back should watch this. This is one of the worst travesties of justice there has ever been. Fourteen years after his death by hanging, Timothy Evans was given a posthumous pardon. Bit late then wasn’t it.

            Acting-wise, this wasn’t all that impressive a film. Cinematography-wise, it wasn’t anything special either. But it does tell an amazing story of a serial killer that hid his tracks for years. If you have a fascination with true crime, then you’ll probably enjoy this, but don’t go out of your way to watch it if not.

            I watched the film version, but the DVD is available from play.com for £9.99.

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              02.09.2000 03:01
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              This is the movie of the book that, in 1968, probably ensured that capital punishment was abolished in the UK. I am personally not an enthusiast for capital punishment so, when it comes to this film (and the book) I am somewhat predisposed in its favour. It is a true story about a young man called Timothy Evans who was hanged for the crime of unwittingly moving into a flat two floors above a mass murderer (or, as the Americans like to say, "a serial killer") called Reginald Christie. Christie was also a necrophiliac but we are, thankfully, spared the hateful (and unnecessary) details in the film. Evans was hanged for the murder of his baby daughter in 1950. In 1963 he received a full pardon. In 1953, Christie was hanged for various other murders and confessed to the murder of Evans' wife but remained strategically silent on the subject of Evans' daughter. (In 1950, Evans would have been charged with the murder of his wife too if it had been possible to indict somebody for more than one murder at a time). In 1950, everybody was disgusted with Evans' attempt to exculpate himself by accusing Christie - Evans couldn't even suggest a credible motive for Christie to commit the murders. There was only one problem: Evans, at the end of the day, was telling the truth. The film is a careful and cautious reconstruction of as much of the book as you can usefully put into a film. This does not make it a gripping story. It does make it an important one. And the film is well worth seeing. The lead parts are played with great solidity by John Hurt (Evans) and Richard Attenborough (Christie). Some of it, gruesomely enough, was actually filmed on location, on the actual site of the murders. It is very solidly acted. I suspect that the makers of the film were concerned not to glamorise or exploit what was a hugely important and very tragic case. This means that it is told with tact rather than panache. I suppose, i
              f I could remake the film, I would have started with the trial of Evans and then gone backwards, so to speak. One of the things that the film perhaps doesn't convey is the absolute certainty that everybody who was closely associated with the trial in 1950 had that Evans was guilty. I suspect that even his defence lawyers thought he was guilty. Bertrand Russell once said that if you are absolutely certain of something, you are almost absolutely certainly wrong. "10 Rillington Place" is something of a textbook example of that fact.

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              26.06.2000 03:43

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              What awful secrets hide behind the seedy fascade of 10 Rillington Place? Sadly plenty...I say sadly because this film is based on the true story of Timothy Evans (played by the fantastic John Hurt), who was hung for the murder of his wife, only for it to be discovered later that she died at the hands of their landlord, John Reginald Christie (played in the slimiest way possible by Richard Attenborough) - a truly mesmerizing performance. The injustice (for those of us watching with the benefit of hindsight) makes this film almost unbearable to watch sometimes, but the fantastic performances and fascinating (if grotesque) story keep you watching with baited breath, right up to the last minute. An excellent British film...definitely one to watch.

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          • Product Details

            Based on Ludovic Kennedy's invetigative book, this is the true and horrifying story of mass-murderer John Christie, chillingly played by Richard Attenborough. When Timothy Evans (John Hurt) and his wife (Judy Geeson) move into Christie's tiny flat, they do not know that he has already killed several young women, their bodies buried in the back garden of the house. When Christie offers to help Beryl Evans have an abortion, neither she nor her husband know that it is just the latest plan Christie has hatched to lure yet another woman to her death. Killing her and her young baby, Christie manages to pin the blame on Evans, who is soon afterwards hanged. Years go by and more deaths, and it is only when he moves away from the scene of his crimes, the death-house at 10 Rillington Place in London, that fate transpires to put a stop to his crimes, and the wrongful hanging of Evans is exposed.