Released by: Twilight Time
Released on: March 15th, 2015.
Director: Richard Fleischer
Cast: Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt
Year: 1971 Purchase From Screen Archives
Director Richard Fleischer’s 1971 film 10 Rillington Place follows the success of his serial killer film, The Boston Strangler made in 1968, but it takes a considerably more subdued approach to its subject than the earlier picture did.
The film takes place in the London of 1944 where we meet a policeman named John Christie (Richard Attenborough). He uses gas he claims is to treat his bronchitis to knock out a woman, rape her and then bury her corpse in his back yard, where some of his earlier conquests already lay in rest. From here, we move five years into the future where John and his wife Ethel (Pat Heywood) rent the two upstairs rooms in their home to Tim and Berly Evans (John Hurt and Judy Geeson) who hope to live quietly with their infant daughter Geraldine. In reality, however, Tim and Beryl are broke and when it turns out she’s pregnant with a second child, John, who has convinced them he’s a doctor, offers to take care of the problem for them.
But of course, Christie is not at all who he seems to be, and he’s clearly not got Beryl’s best interests in mind…
Based on the true story of the real life serial killer after which Attenborough’s character is named, 10 Rillington Place puts aside the flashy splitscreen techniques that director Richard Fleischer used (and quite effectively at that) in The Boston Strangler in favor of a far more down to earth approach to the subject matter. The movie is all the better for it as this tactic as it perfectly suits Richard Attenborough’s take on John Christie. This is not a slobbering lunatic or hockey mask clad monster nor is this a cunning, Hannibal Lector-esque evil genius we are seeing portrayed, but rather a very common man how was simply clever enough to lie convincingly to people less intelligent than he. It’s this very common approach to his murderous tendencies that makes the Christie character as interesting, and in turn as frightening, as he is. It really does feel like this guy could be your neighbor, your co-worker – he’s just a run of the mill nobody who doesn’t seem to seek attention at all but who clearly needs a way to satisfy his most unholy urges. Seeing an actor as skilled and rightfully lauded as Attenborough play the part is reason enough to see the film, but he’s surrounded by a very talented supporting cast. John Hurt plays Tim Evans as a bit of a fool, but rightly so. Tim lies to people just as much as Christie does, but he’s far less convincing when he does so and his motives are really just to hide the embarrassing fact that he’s a bit of a failure in life (which is in stark contrast to the sex crimes Christie commits). Tim is not evil, he’s just naïve.
The female characters in the film, however, are quite sympathetic. Judy Geeson (who has popped up in a lot of great genre fare over the years, as well as more mainstream fare) is clearly in peril very early on in the picture even if she doesn’t realize it, and she plays her very conflicted character perfectly. Additionally, Pat Heywood delivers strong work as Christie’s unassuming wife.
Production values are solid, with some great cinematography creating a post war London quite effectively. The film is gritty, grimy, ugly in spots – it is nicely lit and shot but the locations are appropriately dire. John Dankworth’s score works well here too.
There is no humor here. No witty banter, no one-liners. Richard Fleischer wisely keeps things on a very serious note from start to finish, but the film is never dull. The acting is too good for that to ever happen, while the very realistic horror portrayed in the film has a lingering effect on the viewer long after the end credits roll.
10 Rillington Place arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and it looks very good indeed presented here in its proper original aspect ratio. The 50GB disc gives the film plenty of breathing room so as to avoid compression problems while the increase in detail and texture that you’d see over a standard definition presentation is pretty substantial. This is a grainy looking movie, but that shouldn’t upset anyone as overall the image is quite clean and free of any major print damage. Skin tones look good, colors are nicely reproduced and we get solid black levels here as well.
The DTS-HD Mono track, which is in English with optional English subtitles, is also of fine quality. Levels are nicely balanced throughout the film and the score has good range and moments of surprisingly immersive depth. The track is free of any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is easy to understand and to follow.
Extras start off with a commentary track from actress Judy Geeson moderate by film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. This is well paced and on target as Geeson shares some interesting stories about her time on set, her experiences working alongside some pretty well respected male co-stars, Fleischer’s directing and more. Redman and Dobbs chime in throughout, adding their input on varsiou aspects of the production and keeping Geeson invested in the talk. Also on hand is a commentary track from John Hurt that would appear to have originally been included on the Sony UK DVD release from some years back (prior to this Blu-ray release Sony had only given the film an MOD/DVD-R release domestically and it was, not surprisingly, devoid of any extras). This is also a good track, with Hurt talking up the talents of Fleischer behind the camera and some of the tactics he employed in this picture. He also shares some interesting stories about working alongside Attenborough and, not surprisingly, has plenty to say about his own experiences in front of the camera as well as his thoughts on the character that he played in the film.
The disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, an isolated score option in DTS-HD format, menus and chapter selection. Twilight Time’s regular scribe Julie Kirgo offers up an insightful essay on the film that provides a bit of history and some critical insight. It’s contained in a full color booklet of liner notes that is nicely illustrated with some archival stills and poster art.
The Final Word:
10 Rillington Place manages to be both disturbing and quite unsettling without ever delving into exploitative tactics to get there. The performances from John Hurt and Judy Geeson are remarkable but it’s Richard Attenborough who steals the show here – his work here is insanely good. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray contains two excellent commentary tracks as its main set of extra features and it properly presents the film in an excellent presentation. A great package for a great film – highly recommended!
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!