10 Rillington Place is a genuinely creepy and powerful film about the real life murder of Beryl Evans and her baby Geraldine. Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his wife and daughter in 1950 but it turned out his landlord John Christie was actually the man responsible. When the police finally caught Christie they found the Evans family were not his only victims and when he was hanged they exhumed the unfortunate Evans and buried him in consecrated ground. Despite eventually getting the right man there was no escaping the fact that they had hanged an innocent man and this awful mistake contributed to the abolition of the death penalty in the UK in 1965.
The film was released in 1971 and is based on the book of the same name by Ludovic Kennedy. The action is set in the grim aftermath of the war in London. The depressed and desperate mood is captured perfectly and the young Evans family are clearly struggling to make ends meet. Timothy Evans (John Hurt) is well below average intelligence and has never learned to read so he naturally trusts the seemingly respectable and learned Christie (Richard Attenborough). The family are struggling for cash and so when they find out Beryl is pregnant again they decide abortion is the only option. Christie is quick to volunteer, claiming that he used to be a doctor. When poor Tim returns to find that he has lost both his wife and daughter he is unable to understand what has happened. He flees and is subsequently captured and executed for the crime.
The film is very slow paced and brooding, gradually building an atmosphere of intense creepiness largely through the amazing acting performance of Attenborough who is truly disturbing as the demented Christie (by chris). This softly spoken, apparently kind man has a chillingly cold side lurking beneath the surface and he is happy to use any position of authority he can create for himself to lure in and murder women. The violence is not graphic and there is nothing you´d describe as x-rated content yet this film is far more disturbing than your average horror.
While Attenborough perfectly captures the methodical Christie and makes your skin crawl every time he is on screen, Hurt gives a similarly excellent performance as Evans. His raw emotion upon discovering the deaths and pathetic lack of reason or will when it comes to taking the blame is painful to watch. Judy Geeson plays his wife Beryl and Pat Heywood plays Christie´s wife Pat.
Richard Fleischer was the director responsible and he treats the subject matter with a great deal of respect. The directing style is claustrophobic and adds to the tension as this horrific game of cat and mouse plays out in an innocuous London tenement.
This is a very good film with an important point to make and while the true history will never really be known it is generally accepted that Evans did not commit the murders, although he was never officially pardoned. The character of Christie as played by Attenborough is genuinely one of the creepiest characters I have ever seen in a film and this is worth watching for his performance alone.