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London, 1949. John Christie is an unassuming, middle-aged man who, along with his wife Ethel, lives in the ground-floor flat at 10 Rillington Place. His demeanor masks the fact of being a serial killer. His modus operandi is to act as a person with a medical background, lure unsuspecting women to his apartment on the pretense of curing them of some ailment, knock them unconscious with carbon monoxide gas, gain his sexual release through contact with the unconscious body, then strangle the victim dead before disposing of the body somewhere in the house or outside area. His next intended target is Beryl Evans, a young woman who has just moved into the top flat in the house. Beryl's husband, Tim Evans, is an illiterate man who likes to put on airs. Already with an infant daughter named Geraldine, the Evanses learn they are going to have another baby, which they cannot afford to have, nor can they afford to abort the pregnancy. This problem, on top of the constant issue of lack of money ... Written by
This British thriller is one of the best films I have ever seen. It tells the story of John Christie, the serial killer whose "career" lasted from the middle 1940's until the early 1950's. The name is taken from the scene of the murders; 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London.
Chillingly portrayed by the great actor Richard Attenborough , Christie was a little mouse of a man who first lured his victims home on some pretext or other, usually by saying that he could perform some desired medical procedure on them, for example, an abortion, which was illegal at the time. Once there, he put them at ease by offering them a cup of tea, deceived them into breathing gas from the pipe, rendering them unconscious, then strangled them. He disposed of the bodies, at first by burying them in the garden, then putting them under the sink in the water closet, and finally by tearing up and replacing floorboards and papering over cupboards.
The primary reasons that Christie was able to do what he did for so long were first of all the war. London was undergoing the blitz, and people had a tendency to disappear during the bombing. Another reason was that he was able to turn the suspicions of the police from him to a not very bright truck driver named Timothy Evans, (played by John Hurt) who was convicted of the death of his baby daughter, and was also suspected in the murder of his wife, but due to English law could only be tried for one or the other of them. He was hanged in 1950. The scene in the film where Evans is hanged is chilling, and quite accurate.
Slow at first and shot on location at the actual scene of the murders, the film shows a dangerous manipulative killer hiding behind a bland, mild exterior. Because he appeared so mild, Christie was all the more terrifying. Attenborough brings this out expertly and the overall effect is very creepy.
This superbly-acted film is British cinema at its' very best.
Cup of tea, anyone?
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