John Reginald Christie
Timothy John Evens
Mrs Ethel Christie
I reproduce this ramble as a tribute to to a great British actor and director who passed away on Sunday (24th August 2014) aged 90, Richard Attenborough.
Richard Fleischer made only a handful of British films, by far the best was 10 Rillington Place shown at 2013's EIFF as part of the retrospective, Fantastic Voyages: The Films of Richard Fleischer. The story begins in 1947. We witness ‘Reg’ Christie murder a women in a drab ground floor kitchen in a run down 3-story house in Rillington Place Ladbroke Grove West London. He renders her unconscious with a homemade gassing device, struggles her and buries her in the garden of the house where we can’t help but notice the remains of a previous murder. We move on 5 years to 1949 and a family has moved into the top floor of the house, the illiterate lorry driver Timothy Evans, and his wife Beryl and their infant daughter Geraldine. When Beryl discovers she is pregnant again she asked Christie, who tells her he assisted a Doctor and knows how to perform abortions, for help with a termination. Based on the book, Ten Rillington Place by Ludovic Kennedy and adapted for the screen by Clive Exton it tells the true story of a grave miscarriage of justice involving Timothy Evans.
John Reginald Christie.
During the introduction to the film we were informed that the print we were about to watch was direct from the Sony vaults in California in the USA and had not been seen for many years. We were also told that in 1954 Rillington Place was renamed Ruston Place because of the notoriety that the court case had brought to the street. The house was still occupied in 1970 and the three families that were living there at this time refused to allow the filming to take place, so an empty property, number 7, was used instead. The houses and the street were eventually demolished and the area has changed completely.
In an interview with the Times newspaper in 1970 Richard Attenborough spoke about the role of Christie and was quoted as saying ‘I do not like playing the part, but I accepted it at once without seeing the script. I have never felt so totally involved in any part as this. It is a most devastating statement on capital punishment’ His role in this film is probably one of the best in a long and distinguished career. The fresh-faced John Hurt, who plays Evans, was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie has lost none of its creepy atmospherics and 1940 period detail is spot on, you can almost smell the pealing wallpaper and the rotten plasterwork. This is, I must admit, the first time I had seen the film and most confess it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.