Following the strain of Evans's trial, Christie finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the charade. As his marriage breaks down, he embarks upon a course of action that will finally reveal his ...
The story about the murder of an 11-year-old boy, Rhys Jones in Croxteth, Liverpool, in 2007 and his parents, Melanie's and Steve's ordeal, and how Rhys's murderer and associates were eventually brought to justice.
Brían F. O'Byrne,
The Secret is the story of a real-life double murder. James Nesbitt plays Colin Howell, a respectable dentist and pillar of the community, who became a killer in partnership with a Sunday ... See full summary »
One of the filming locations (West Princes Street, Glasgow) is a short walk from the location of another notorious murder, that of Pierre Emile L'Angelier who was poisoned with arsenic in 1857, as told in the David Lean's 1950 film Madeleine. See more »
This was a very stylised dramatisation of the life and heinous crimes of serial-killer John Reginald Christie who besides killing seven women, his wife included and almost certainly a baby girl (to which he never confessed, right to the end), also caused the execution of one of the victim's husband, the hapless Timothy Evans, who was given a Royal Pardon in 1966 some 16 years after his hanging. Stylised in that the filming itself is low-key and washed-out in appearance, while the direction makes use of slow-motion shots, unusual camera-angles and a strangely disembodied soundtrack of contemporary songs, most notably "Whispering Grass".
Then there's Tim Roth's turn as Christie, where he reminds me of none so much as Leonard Rossiter's classic comedy creation of Rigsby, another sleazy landlord-type but with a less murderous bent. Roth speaks in a hissing whisper, walks with a shambling gait in his miles-too-big overcoat and hides his evil behind a pair of National Health spectacles. Almost everywhere he goes, creepy background music surrounds him. I also found it strange that each episode started with a scene after his arrests, such as the discovery of the bodies in his bricked-up kitchen, before abruptly stepping back in time to depict the lead-up to the murders.
Interestingly, there are almost no graphic recreations of his killings, rare but welcome in modern TV and cinema, indeed there's no murder shown in episode one at all, plus we only start the story after he's killed his first two victims, before the doomed Evans family arrive as upstairs neighbours.
As I indicated, Roth's mannered acting dominates proceedings, not completely to the production's advantage, but there is good support from Nico Mirallegro as Evans and Samantha Morton as Christie's long-suffering wife. The period reproduction is up to the BBC's usual high standard. However, I never really felt at any point that Roth's Christie was truly evil, for example, there are only the vaguest hints of his necrophilia and while I can imagine the difficulty in compressing eight murders into a three hour duration, can't help but feeling the concentration on the Evans murders detracts from the fact that the man was an evil serial killer as well as showing a disrespect for his previous victims. Arguably, the key murder was the first one, which set him on his grisly path, yet we get no real indication it ever happened and are thus given no real motive as to how this lecherous little man could be driven to his terrible crimes.
Naturally, those of us with longer memories will compare this dramatisation with the excellent feature film from the 1970's starring Richard Attenborough, where I sensed the aura of evil much more than Roth emanates here. Perhaps that was partly due to effective casting against type, but in the end I felt that the depiction of Christie was misguided here and that this, plus the strained direction ultimately detracted from the dramatic impact of the piece as a whole.
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