Based on Ludovic Kennedy’s 1961 non-fiction book of the same name, this film was a sombre, articulate, and chilling dramatisation of the infamous murders in London when John Reginald Christie – a mild-mannered psychotic mass killer – murdered scores of women and buried them under the floorboards and inside the walls of his rooming house at 10 Rillington Place in Notting Hill.
After the wrong man – Timothy Evans – was convicted and hanged in 1949, the furore that surrounded the case was responsible for the abolition of the death penalty in England.
Richard Attenborough gives one of the screen’s finest and most subtle performances as the drab landlord who strikes again and again without suspicion, and John Hurt is especially fine as the poor illiterate fall guy who goes to the gallows in his place.
Although Christie’s crimes are eventually revealed, it is only by accident. He sells his house and when new residents move in they find the remains of his “work” behind a hidden wall panel.
While 10 Rillington Place is not a film for people looking for fast-action suspense, it is eerie, creepy, and fascinating, with meticulous details and actual locations. And it’s better than any fictitious murder mystery a screenwriter could dream up because it is amazingly true.
The maniac responsible for these sordid events remains dull and unimaginative, just as he was in real life, with the victims dim-witted and stupid.
The result is scary, credible, and ultimately ironic. The impact is gruesome yet hypnotic.
John Reginald Christie
Timothy John Evans
Mrs Ethel Christie