Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
The execution of Timothy John Evans for the 1949 murder of his wife Beryl and daughter Baby Geraldine eventually led to the abolition of the death penalty in England, but it would be another four years until the real murderer was brought to justice. That was Evans' neighbor, John Reginald Christie, who murdered eight times over a thirteen year stretch that finally ended with his capture at the age of 55. Evans had, in fact, identified Christie as the killer, but no one listened. Christie was even commended by the judge at Evans' trial, because he offered evidence to the court in such a clear way. Evans was neither a bright nor an honest defendant and his contrived confession led directly to the hangman, thus freeing Christie to end the lives of other victims.
In his long career, Richard Attenborough has played everything from cold-blooded killers to Kris Kringle, but in "10 Rillington Place," he bears an uncanny resemblance to the soft-spoken, unassuming Christie. He manipulates the dim Evans (hauntingly played by John Hurt) into an unimaginably incriminating position and takes the life of the sweet-faced Beryl (Judy Geeson) and her baby without a flicker of regret or a twinge of mercy. This is a grim, unpleasant tale, and altogether different in tone and scope from Richard Fleischer's prior fact-based entries, 1959's "Compulsion" and 1968's "The Boston Strangler." There is no attempt to explain or excuse Christie and the sheer matter-of-factness of his crimes is the most terrifying aspect of this film.
Adding to the horror is the fact that "10 Rillington Place" was shot, complete with meticulous period detail, on location at the actual address where Christie committed his dastardly deeds. In 1972, the building and the street (renamed Ruston Close) were leveled to make way for a parking lot for trucks. Christie's image is preserved in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Based on the book by Ludovic Kennedy, a tireless crusader for the abolition of the death penalty in England.
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/28/00
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