10 Rillington Place
Christie occupies his wife, Ethel, by sending her to his place of work with some paperwork. He grabs his killing tools, makes a cup of tea, and heads upstairs to Beryl. He is interrupted by a couple of builders who arrive to renovate the outbuilding. He lets them in, and when he sees they are well-occupied, he pours a new cup of tea and heads back upstairs. Beryl has a violent reaction to the gas, and Christie punches her in the face to knock her out. He then strangles and sexually assaults her.
10 Rillington Place
When Tim returns, Christie tells him that Beryl died of complications from the procedure. Tim wants to go to the police, but Christie convinces him that he will be seen as an accessory before the fact. Christie suggests that Tim leave town that night, while Christie disposes of Beryl's body. He promises that he will place the baby in the care of a childless couple from East Acton. Tim reluctantly agrees, and leaves the house in the middle of the night. Christie then strangles Geraldine with a tie.
Richard Attenborough took the leading part in 10 Rillington Place as a gesture in support of the striking down of the death penalty. Although we know the actor for his heroic and charming roles, Attenborough had achieved star status twenty years before by playing the "spiv" gangster Pinky in a film adaptation of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. His John Christie is a soft-spoken, heartless monster who places his sexual gratification above any human value. It almost makes one sick to contemplate Christie's crime against the Evans family. It's like watching an accident in slow motion -- we can easily guess what awful, pointlessly destructive thing Christie is going to do next.
John Reginald Halliday Christie - 'Reg' to those who knew him - has gone down in history as one of England's most prolific murderers. Though it is believed he may have also have killed elsewhere, the crimes which eventually led to his arrest took place in the apartment block at 10 Rillington Place in London's Notting Hill. 10 Rillington Place is also the name of the book in which campaigning journalist Ludovic Kennedy wrote about his crimes and challenged associated miscarriages of justice. Based on that book, Richard Fleischer's 1971 film attempts to reconstruct events and, in the process, delivers one of the most genuinely chilling entries in the serial killer canon.
Kennedy's book was fiercely confrontational and the film reflects this. This is a world where everybody is kicking downwards, with women damned if they do and damned if they don't; it's not just Christie who dishes out violence. It's a world where a man like Tim can find himself utterly isolated, unable to articulate himself due to his lack of education; where presentation and social standing are more important than the truth. We see the ineptness of police investigations, the ease with which things are covered up. To hammer home the point that this is more that mere polemic, much of the dialogue is taken from extant court records and witness accounts. The Christie case would eventually precipitate major legal changes, but many of the problems exposed in the film remain to this day. To place the film in context requires remembering that almost every discovery of a prolific killer is followed by the discovery of institutional failings that made things easy for them.
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