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A Is for Acid (2002)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | TV Movie 9 September 2002
John George Haigh, the notorious "acid bath murderer" in 1940s England, becomes the subject of this dramatization.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
John George Haigh
...
Gillian Rogers
...
Archie Henderson
...
Rose Henderson
Rowena Cooper ...
Mrs. Durand-Deacon
John Flanagan ...
Arnold Burtin
...
DS Heslin
Matyelok Gibbs ...
Mrs Constance Lane
Barbara Marten ...
Emily Haigh
...
John Haigh Senior
Christopher Town ...
John George Haigh (as a boy)
Neil McKinven ...
Donald McSwan
Claire Nielson ...
Amy McSwan
...
William McSwan
Christopher Ettridge ...
Steven Rogers (as Chris Ettridge)
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Storyline

Dramatisation of the true story of the notorious "acid bath murderer" John Haigh, who murdered women and disposed of their bodies in vats of acid in the 1940's. He was only caught when the gallstones of one of his victims, Mrs Durand-Deacon, failed to dissolve in the acid and were detected by the pathologist who examined the residue from the acid bath. Written by van_whistler@hotmail.com

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

9 September 2002 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Crimes Quase Perfeitos  »

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Did You Know?

Goofs

Haigh meets the Hendersons at the seaside and comments "splendid weather for February!" (it was in fact 12 February 1948 when he killed them). He is then seen driving Archibald Henderson to his workshop down a road with trees in full leaf; this must have been filmed in May or early June. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Psychoville: Joy (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

When the Lights Go On Again
(uncredited)
Performed by Vera Lynn
[detectives inspecting the first crime scene]
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User Reviews

 
The Blandness of Evil
16 April 2006 | by See all my reviews

Martin Clunes has an amazing range as an actor; he has attempted everything from Mr Chipps in "Goodbye Mr Chipps" to Garry the Slob in "Men Behaving Badly". In this TV film scripted by Glenn Chandler, creator of "Taggart", he impersonates a dapper, cheerful, sport car driving type who is also an accomplished pianist called John Haigh who turns out to be a diabolical serial killer who disposes of his victims in acid baths.

. It is a nice performance and the production values are splendid – seldom has England in the 1940s been better evoked, but there is something missing. What happened is clearly conveyed. How it was done is depicted as graphically as most audiences could reasonably take. But, the question of "why" is left hanging, as it were. Was it for the money? Did Haigh, like Dr Shipman, just get a kick out of killing? Or, despite the opinion of the dozen or so experts the prosecutors and the Home Office consulted, was Haigh crazy? At the trial, not shown in this film, Haigh, represented by top-flight counsel paid for by "The News of the World", pleaded insanity. Only one psychiatrist gave evidence for the defence, to such little effect that the prosecutor didn't bother to cross-examine him.

Well, it's not the film-makers' fault that Haigh was one of those bland serial killers who defy understanding. In line with his own account, Haigh's Yorkshire Plymouth Brethren parents are depicted as strict and narrow, but not as unloving. He turned to crime at an early age and had quite a record of petty dishonesty offences. For him, prison was Crime University and he hatched the idea for his body disposal method, the acid bath, while inside. He was capable of conducting an emotional relationship with the youthful "Gillian" (Keely Hawes) while luring his victims to their deaths.

For what it's worth I think Haigh's train of thought went something like this: "I am an outsider, society does not value my true worth, I will be good to people who do really appreciate me (like my parents and Gillian), and the rest are fair game." At least it makes more sense than the vampire theory. Haigh is also one of those criminals who were bound to be caught sooner or later (his arrest was not a miracle of detection), which makes one ask: did he think he was invincible or did he really want to be caught? The film doesn't help us with this, but it's a good reconstruction and a fine piece of acting by Martin Clunes.


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