Richard Fleischer is one of those directors that is kind of a touchstone for hardcore movie fans. Other folks are certainly aware of him, but he's not necessarily a guy whose films show up in the Criterion Collection (and not for lack of quality mind you). He made a lot of high profile films like TORA! TORA! TORA!, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, DR. DOLITTLE, SOYLENT GREEN and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. He's really a heavy-duty genre workman though and his career is littered with underrated classics like THE NARROW MARGIN, VIOLENT SATURDAY, THE VIKINGS and MR. MAJESTYK. Then there are his underrated gems like SEE NO EVIL, THE NEW CENTURIONS, THE LAST RUN and BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. Beyond that, Fleischer also showed and interested in true crime stories, specifically those involving murderers. In 1959 he made COMPLUSION, which was based on the Leopold and Lobe case. Then in 1968 he made THE BOSTON STRANGLER with Tony Curtis in the titular central role. In 1971, he followed made another 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, which was founded on the doings of British serial killer John Christie. Of all Fleischer's "murderer" films, 10 RILLINGTON PLACE is the most chilling in my mind. A lot of this has to do with the remarkable lead performance by Richard Attenborough. Apparently this was a role that he was both enthusiastic to play, but equally relieved when he to finish. When you see how effectively he does so, it is easy to imagine that he would want not want to inhabit a man like this for too long. He was made up with some prosthetics to give him the dome-shaped bald head that was characteristic of the real John Christie and that not only helps make him look more creepy, but also helped him more become the killer in some subtle way.
John Christie was thought to have killed at least eight women in real life. He may have murdered more, but it is unclear based on the evidence that the authorities were able to find at the time of his conviction. He had bodies buried in his garden, under his floorboards and elsewhere in his residence. He was a very sick individual to say the least and a significant serial killer for the time despite not being well known today.
In 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, Christie is established from the very first scene to be a seriously ghoulish gentleman as he murders one of his neighbors through some off-putting trickery and has implied sex with her corpse after strangling her. It's the kind of thing wastes no time bringing us into the dark recesses of this man's twisted mind. Shortly after that murder we see an ominous "Flat To Let" sign in Christie's window and a young couple with a baby, renting the place. The couple - Tim and Beryl Evans (played by John Hurt and Judy Geeson) - are a bit desperate for somewhere to live and so they are easily swayed by Christie's coaxing. I won't go any further with the plot, but suffice it to say that there are other killings. Attenborough is so unsettling as Christie and much of it has to do with the way he moves and speaks. His voice is often just above a whisper and as much as that should make him feel like a rather gentle person, it has this shudder inducing effect after we have seen what he is capable of. Each time Christie is left alone in a room with anyone, especially women, we cannot help but feel a disquieting unease take hold of us as we wonder what he might do to them. The acting here is all about nuance and the power of the slightest gestures and comments. Attenborough is often hailed as a thespian of the highest caliber, but this movie truly shows just how great he could be. Few films or characters can effectively make my skin crawl as much as this one. I think this has a great deal to do with Attenborough and the way that he is somehow able to bring the slightest bit of a sympathetic side to Christie. We want him to get caught but we also can see that he is not fully in control of what he is doing or why he feels the need to act this way. I can't think of too many actors that could pull this off and few have as effectually as Attenborough does in this film.
10 RILLINGTON PLACE itself feels a bit like later Hitchcock in some ways in that it is well put together and darkly macabre, but frequently doesn't show much in the way of gratuitous violence. It is this kind of restraint and craftsmanship that really demonstrates how good Fleischer was in his prime.
-An Audio commentary with Actress/star Judy Geeson, and Twilight Time regulars Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. This is an excellent track and it contains much discussion of the true details of the incidents portrayed as well as specific recollections from Judy Geeson regarding the production itself. I have mentioned that I very much enjoy commentaries that include both Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs and this track is made all the more interesting by having an actor who worked on the film at the time to fill in her thoughts and memories of working with the other actors and Richard Fleischer as well. Dobbs denotes early on in the commentary that he saw this film when he was about twelve years old and it not only stuck with him, but has remained one of his favorites for a long time.
-Also Included is a second audio commentary with actor John Hurt, which adds even more to the backstory of this movie. Also a neat track.
-An Isolated score track is here as well.
10 RILLINGTON PLACE can be purchased directly from Twilight Time here: