SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE BLU RAY REVIEW
10 RILLINGTON PLACE -Twilight Time -limited to only 3000 copies- Blu Ray 2016. 111 minutes. $29.95
One of the creepier true crime films ever made, 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (Columbia ,1971) is a sadly overlooked gem that deserves to be rediscovered. Thankfully, the wonderful folk at TWILIGHT TIME agreed, and once again have gone all out to create a blu ray that movie lovers must have.
Richard Attenborough embodies John Christie, a serial murderer who murdered at least eight women including his poor wife Ethel (Pat Haywood, best known as the nurse in Franco Zefferelli’s classic telling of ROMEO & JULIET, Paramount 1968).
The film begins with Christie murdering one of his neighbors, Muriel (Phyllis MacMahon, who later had small roles in I DON’T WANT TO BE BORN (Rank, 1975) and SEAN OF THE DEAD(Focus,2002)) in 1944. She like many of the poor of the time, could not afford doctors and so would go to someone who would claim to have medical knowledge. Christie exploited this and it meant doom for the women who believed him. *
The majority of the film then concerns itself with a young couple, Tim (a young John Hurt, four years before the tv film “The Naked Civil Servant” (Thames TV,1975) made him a star) & Beryl Evans (Judy Geeson (the biggest name to the overseas market due to her star turn in TO SIR WITH LOVE (Columbia ,1967). In 1948, they and their infant daughter move into the same address as Christie (who does not own the house, but acts as absentee landlord). Tim who is a bit slow, struggles at his menial job to pay for his family, though often falling in arrears on his bills. At the local pub, he tells big stories that no one believes but himself, which help him deal with his life. He and Beryl fight, with Christie once stopping a physical altercation. Beryl is pregnant again, and she knows that they cannot afford what they have now, never mind another mouth to feed.
Christie insinuates that he learned how to perform abortions during the war, though of course they are highly illegal. He asks her to come to his apartment when his wife and her husband are away. At the last minute Beryl panics and Christie brutally beats her into unconsciousness before strangling her and then having sex with her corpse.
Tim returns, but Christie says that Beryl died from complications. Christie tells Tim to flee or he will be charged as an accessory to her murder. Christie says he will place the baby with a childless couple, but in actuality murders the child.
Poor Tim is caught, but he keeps saying “Christie did it”. However, at the trial, when asked why he would do such a thing, Tim has no answer. Tim Evans is found guilty of murdering his family, and was hanged for the crimes in 1950.
In 1952, Christie murdered his wife when she threatened to leave him. In 1953, he murdered at least three more women and walled them up in his apartment. Christie, however was broke and had to (illegally) rent out his apartment in 1953. When the new tenant tried to find the source of the horrible smell in the kitchen alcove, he discovered the corpses in various state of decay.
The police were called but Christie had fled at first to a hostel. Hearing the police were looking for him, he was finally apprehended by a policeman as he wandered homeless.
He was tried and found guilty of murder. He admitted to seven murders, but denied having killed the child. He was executed in 1953 for the only murder he was charged with, that of his wife Ethel.
An end title informs us that Tim Evans was found innocently posthumously and removed from his prison grave and reburied (it was actually not until 16 years after he was wrongly executed).
An odd fact the fail to mention in this highly well researched film is that Christie was tried in the same courtroom as Evans, and also executed by the same hangman.
The movie works very well at creating the era in which it is set, often filming as close to the actual locations as possible. The film, though moderately budgeted, looks superb and TWILIGHT TIME’s restoration works wonderfully. The film looks brand new, and the sound as well as the picture quality are crisp.
The extras are a new audio commentary with star Judy Geeson, interviewed by Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. The trio cover both the real life case as well as the making of the movie, and even reference Geeson’s work on DOOMWATCH (1972). Her recollections are very happy ones of working on the project, as well as little memories as Attenborough’s relief at the movie’s completion that he wouldn’t have to occupy Christie’s skin any further. They also have high praise for American director Richard Fleischer . Fleischer was actually a perfect choice for this realistic crime drama, having done similar work on the highly praised THE BOSTON STRANGLER (20TH CENTURY FOX,1968).
A second audio commentary track is ported over from the U.K. DVD release in 2011 featuring John Hurt. His solo track is also informative (they drank real beer during the pub scenes, something you could not do on set today!).
An odd third track is the isolated score. I say odd, as there is only about ten minutes of music in the film. However, kudos for going that extra mile , Twilight Time.
Finally, there is a short booklet about the making of the film by Julie Kirgo, setting it in the context of its time (the U.K. banned capital punishment in 1969).
A fine, riveting, thoughtful thriller, I would recommend this to anyone who likes intelligent British films as well as great films in general.
-Kevin G Shinnick
*-Before you say that this is impossible today, here is a recent news story of a TEENAGER who pretended to be a DOCTOR for a year! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3450335/Doogie-Yowza-Florida-teenager-pretended-doctor-arrested-giving-medical-exam-undercover-cop.html