Cast & Crew
In London in 1944, soft-spoken John Reginald Christie, the landlord of 10 Rillington Place, invites his neighbor, Muriel Eady, into his flat. After assuring Muriel that he has a medical background, he promises to cure her bronchitis with a "medicine" of vapors she breathes in through a mask. Soon, he adds carbon monoxide to the mix, and when she attempts to break away, he forces the mask onto her face until she passes out, after which he rapes and strangles her. Later, he buries the body in the garden along with his previous victims. Five years later, Timothy John Evans, his wife Beryl and daughter Geraldine rent the upstairs flat from Christie. Tim, who is illiterate, frequently lies to impress his friends, inventing a wealthy relative and insisting that he has multiple lovers. Taking an instant interest in Beryl, Christie subtly urges them to rent the apartment, despite Beryl's misgivings. Soon, Christie is visiting Beryl after Tim leaves for work, offering her tea and mentioning that he was in the police force during the war, doing medical consulting. When Tim returns home one night, Christie informs him that he owes six weeks' payment for his furniture. Blaming Beryl for not paying, Tim promises he will soon be promoted to manager, then goes upstairs to chastise his wife. Stating that she cannot cover all the bills with his meager pay, Beryl announces she is pregnant. Upset by the news, Tim is further horrified to hear that Beryl is taking pills that she hopes will abort the baby. Furious, Tim fights loudly with Beryl, and as Geraldine begins crying, he storms out to the local pub. Later, he returns home drunk and slaps Beryl. The ensuing fight attracts the attention of Christie, who advises Beryl to see a doctor and warns them both to stop fighting. The next day, Beryl visits Christie to apologize, and after informing him about the pregnancy, asks for his help. Christie suggests a doctor he knows she cannot afford, then finally, as if coerced, offers to do the "termination" himself. Following Christie's advice to obtain Tim's permission, Beryl picks up Tim from work and takes him to a movie and the pub. There, she tells him about the procedure. Disgusted, he promises to make more money, but when she cries, he gives in. The next morning, Tim gives his consent to Christie, who shows Tim a "doctor's book" to prove his medical background, knowing Tim cannot read the words. When Tim asks how the procedure is performed, Christie replies that it must remain secret, and warns him that one in ten patients can die. Seeing Tim waver, Christie feigns offense, prompting Tim to assure him he trusts him. After sending his wife Ethel out to pay bills, Christie heads upstairs, but is interrupted by the arrival of two workmen who have come to repair the outdoor washhouse. Despite the men's clatter downstairs, Beryl invites Christie into her kitchen. As he sets up, he reassures her about the procedure, then lovingly applies the mask to her face. Soon, she realizes something is wrong and struggles, so he punches her until she falls unconscious. He then rapes and strangles her. Just then, Beryl's friend Alice arrives, but finding the door locked, she leaves. Later, when Tim comes home, Christie informs him the operation did not succeed, and showing Tim Beryl's body on the bed, states that he had to secure her arms to keep her from struggling, after which she concussed her head. Tim, helpless in his grief, believes Christie's claims that Beryl's blood had been poisoned by the pills she was taking. When the landlord then refuses to call the police, stating that he would be accused of manslaughter and Tim of being an accessory to the crime, Tim agrees to keep silent. Christie offers to bury Beryl, and when Tim grows hysterical, Christie declares that he will deny any involvement and Tim will be hanged for murder. Confronting Tim about the lies he tells about his family, Christie confuses him further, until he agrees to do whatever Christie says. Christie directs Tim to go away, during which time he will dispose of the body down the manhole out front, tell people the couple went on holiday together and send Geraldine to Acton to be looked after. Later, after Tim has left, Christie strangles Geraldine. Not knowing his daughter has also been murdered, Tim visits his aunt and uncle in Wales, telling them that Beryl and Geraldine went to Brighton to visit her father. While Christie tells his wife that Tim killed the baby, and hides both Beryl's and Geraldine's bodies in the washhouse wall, Tim's aunt and uncle learn from Beryl's father that she has not been in touch with him. Trapped and bewildered, Tim goes to the local police, declaring that he is turning himself in for disposing of his wife's body. He states to the police that Beryl died from pills she hoped would abort her baby, and finding her dead body, he buried her in the manhole in a panic. When the London police explore the manhole, however, they find nothing, and Tim is questioned again. This time, Tim reveals the true story, blaming Christie for the crime. But Christie has planted newspaper clippings of past murders in Tim's nightstand, and cleverly suggests to the police that the Evanses had a discontented, violent relationship. Searching the house, the police find the bodies in the washhouse. They bring Tim back to London, where he is shocked and anguished to learn of Geraldine's death. In a daze, he agrees to the confession written by the policemen, stating he killed his wife and child while the Christies were away. At the trial, Tim reverts back to his accusation of Christie, but the landlord maintains that Tim is lying about his involvement. Tim is stunned to hear Christie lie on the witness stand about everything he previously told the Evanses about his medical background. Despite the defense's charge that Christie has multiple previous sentences for robbery and violence, the prosecution counters with Christie's admirable war record, impressing the jury. Tim is called as a witness, but his inarticulate defense cannot save him from the prosecution's emphasis on his signed confession. In jail, Tim begs his aunt to bring Christie in to talk with him face to face, but with no ally, Tim is sentenced to hang. As the verdict is read, Christie breaks down in tears. Although Tim continues to insist that he is innocent and Christie guilty, stating that he confessed only because he had nothing left to live for, the death sentence is soon signed. When Tim is hanged, Christie suffers crippling back spasms, and unlocking his medicine cabinet, sees the rope he used to strangle Beryl. That night, after Ethel intimates that she knows he murdered Beryl, Christie kills her and hides the body under the floorboards. Over the next few years, he continues luring other women with the same ruse about being a doctor. Unable to work because of his back pain, he sells the house and moves into a shelter, where he is reduced to bragging about his involvement in Tim's case. As new tenants move into 10 Rillington Place, they notice a false wall, and soon uncover some of the murdered bodies. The police set up a search for Christie, and one day while he is loitering by the wharf, a policeman recognizes him. Almost as if he has been waiting, Christie meekly submits to his arrest. Later, Christie confesses to killing Ethel and is hanged. Twelve years later, Tim is posthumously pardoned, exhumed and buried in consecrated ground.
Thomas P. Westendorf
10 Rillington Place
First, the facts: In 1950, a simpleminded man named Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his pregnant wife and infant daughter. An illiterate habitual liar well-known for violent quarrels with his wife, Evans was the most obvious suspect. To the end, he insisted that he was innocent and that it was actually his fellow tenant at 10 Rillington Place, Mr. John Christie, who had committed the crimes. Yet no one, not even Evans, could offer an even remotely plausible motive for why Christie would do such a thing.
Years later, police discovered that in fact 10 Rillington Place was lousy with corpses - they were buried in the garden, shoved under the floorboards, and stuffed into the crawlspaces. The bodies predated Evans's tenancy, and postdated his execution. Mr. Christie was a serial killer.
At first, the police resisted public cries to reopen the Evans case. Rather than admit to such a monstrous error, the police preferred to argue that Evans had killed his family, and it was a mere coincidence that his next door neighbor was a serial killer with an identical M.O. Such flimsy excuses fell apart over the years, and eventually Evans was posthumously pardoned. The British public had to come to grips with the realization that, at least once, the full force of the state had been used to hang an innocent man. To prevent any future miscarriage of justice of the kind, capital punishment was no longer permitted as a penalty for murder.
Social change of such enormity never comes cheap. Just a few years after the abolition of the death penalty, there were anxious calls for its reinstatement. Into the middle of this roiling debate, the case of 10 Rillington Place returned to public attention via an unflinching film adaptation by Richard Fleischer. Thanks in part to the film's reminder of the cautionary tale of Timothy Evans, the law was not changed back. Over the years that followed, more crimes were removed from the list of offenses for which capital punishment was allowed. Eventually in 1999, the U.K. finally and officially banned capital punishment in all cases-but this was a mere formality, as no crimes then remained on the books for which execution was a permissible punishment.
The son of cartoon pioneer Max Fleischer, Richard was an adept hand at every genre of movie imaginable: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , Fantastic Voyage , Tora! Tora! Tora! , Conan the Destroyer , Mandingo , Doctor Dolittle , The Narrow Margin , Soylent Green ..."I've done every kind of movie," Fleischer told interviewer Paul Talbot in 2006, "and I put the same energy into all the pictures." If Fleischer could be said to have a specialty, it was crime thrillers, especially those based on true stories. Having already made the true-crime pictures The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing , Compulsion  and The Boston Strangler , Fleischer seemed the perfect choice to dramatize journalist Ludovic Kennedy's non-fiction book about the Christie case. And he just happened to be in England at the time, on a tour that would find him making three films abroad before returning to Hollywood.
When Fleischer asked Richard Attenborough to take the lead role, the distinguished actor leapt at the opportunity without even asking to review a script first. Known for investing himself fully in each of his roles, Attenborough was revulsed by the character of Christie and hated doing the work itself. However, the desire to make a political point against the death penalty trumped his own personal disgust, and Attenborough gave a standout performance. Attenborough had recently directed his first film, the troubled production of Oh! What a Lovely War , and returned to acting briefly for 10 Rillington Place before resuming his directing career on Young Winston .
Playing opposite Attenborough as the unjustly accused Evans was John Hurt. The son of a small town vicar, Hurt had originally studied art. When his scholarship money ran dry, though, he found himself shifting into acting instead. It proved to be a fortuitous transition, which led to a long and still active career as a busy and much admired performer. As his wife, Fleischer cast Judy Geeson, an actress who had come to prominence as a teenager when she appeared with Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love . From there she distinguished herself primarily on television, first in the 1960s soap opera The Newcomers, and later on American screens in such shows as Mad About You, Star Trek Voyager, and The Gilmore Girls.
Fleischer's approach to the material differed from the more melodramatic flourishes of his earlier true-crime pictures. 10 Rillington Place strove for a low-key realism that felt more like a quiet slice-of-life drama than the story of a necrophiliac human vampire. Some of this is attributable to the subdued screenplay by Clive Exton, a television writer with few big screen credits. Exton dampens the more salacious details of the source material, as if expecting to have to meet the more stringent censorship standards of TV. Exton deserves credit for capturing the stifling mood of postwar Britain, an atmosphere that Fleischer had not personally experienced. The sense of place that dominates the film is so pronounced that the 1971 production attains a sort of timelessness. This is not a movie about what kind of environment could create such a monster, but what kind of environment would allow him to hide.
As his cinematographer, Fleischer chose Denys N. Coop, whose CV is chock-a-block with important British pictures, as a cameraman and director of photography. Not too many years after his work with Fleischer, Coop would handle some of the special photographic effects on both Superman  and Superman II .
In search of a documentary touch, Fleischer set up shop on the actual Rillington Place. The current occupants of Number 10, however, refused to move out for the production, so the film was actually made next door to the notorious address in an unoccupied flat at Number 7. In the service of this cinema verite ethic, Fleischer hired executioner Albert Pierrepoint as a consultant, to advise on the authenticity of the hanging scene. Pierrepoint had been the hangman responsible for executing both Evans and Christie, just two of the roughly 700 British convicts he ushered into the next world. When asked his opinion on the death penalty debate, England's executioner scoffed at the notion that it served any deterrent function at all. "If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. All the men and women who I have faced at the final moment convince me that I have not prevented a single murder."
Perhaps Mr. Pierrepoint has not prevented any murders. But the motion picture 10 Rillington Place played a role in preventing executions, by re-galvanizing British popular support against them.
Producer: Leslie Linder, Martin Ransohoff
Director: Richard Fleischer
Screenplay: Clive Exton (writer); Ludovic Kennedy (book "Ten Rillington Place")
Cinematography: Denys Coop
Art Direction: Maurice Carter
Music: John Dankworth
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Cast: Richard Attenborough (John Reginald Christie), Judy Geeson (Beryl Evans), John Hurt (Timothy John Evans), Pat Heywood (Mrs. Ethel Christie), Isobel Black (Alice), Miss Riley (Baby Geraldine), Phyllis MacMahon (Muriel Eady), Ray Barron (Workman Willis), Douglas Blackwell (Workman Jones), Gabrielle Daye (Mrs. Lynch).
C-111m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
By David Kalat
David Castel, Richard Attenborough
Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn, "Pulped Fiction? Cinematic Parables of (In)Justice," University of San Francisco Law Review Issue 1181
Phil Hardy, BFI Companion to Crime
Jefferson Hunter, English Filming, English Writing
Chris Lloyd, "Cutting Down the Hangman's Noose," Northern Echo
Paul Talbot, "The Third Dimension of Evil," Video Watchdog Issue 124.
Richard Fleischer Obituary, Entertainment Insiders, March 24, 2006.
10 Rillington Place
Filmed in the real Rillington Place, which had changed its name to Ruston Close after the notorious killings. However, the house that was used was not 10 Rillington Place. The street was demolished in the year after the film's release to make way for the Westway urban motorway.
The opening credits are preceded by the written statement: "This is a true story. Whenever possible the dialogue has been based on official documents." The film ends with the still image of Richard Attenborough's face, as "John Reginald Christie," with the following titles superimposed over it: "Christie confessed his crimes and was hanged at Pentonville Prison. Twelve years later Timothy John Evans was pardoned, his body exhumed and reburied in consecrated ground." As noted onscreen, the film was shot at Rillington Place and at the Lee International Studios and Shepperton Studios in London. In addition, press notes state that many scenes were shot on location in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London. The New York Times review mistakenly lists the film's running time as 139 minutes and Los Angeles Times as 119 minutes.
As noted in historical sources, Christie (1898-1953) was abused as a child and later in life reportedly suffered from sexual dysfunction and experienced sexual pleasure from raping women and then strangling them. The film closely mirrors real-life events. After already having murdered several women, in 1949 Christie took on Timothy John Evans and his wife Beryl as tenants at his home at 10 Rillington Place, London. Soon after, Beryl gave birth to their daughter Geraldine. Christie raped and murdered Beryl under the pretense of helping her abort her second pregnancy, then blamed the murder on Evans, who was sentenced to hang on March 9, 1950. After Evans was executed, Christie killed four more women, including his wife. After he left 10 Rillington Place, the bodies of his victims were discovered buried throughout the property, and Christie was found guilty of killing his wife. He was hanged in 1953.
Some facts from the real-life case, and details from the best-selling novel based on Christie's life, were not included in the film. Some reviews pointed out that Evans' limited mental capabilities were not depicted, nor was the fact that the trial disallowed evidence that Beryl had been raped after her death as well as the workmen's testimony that the bodies were not hidden in the washhouse while they were there working. In addition, the film suggests that Evans was convicted of several murders while, in fact, he was convicted only of Geraldine's murder.
Although Christie never confessed to the killings of Beryl or Geraldine, and no definitive evidence exists to his guilt, the public presumed him culpable, and his conviction years after Evans' death spurred an outcry against capital punishment in Great Britain. In 1961 journalist Ludovic Kennedy wrote Ten Rillington Place, a biography of Christie, as a plea for reform. According to contemporary sources, the case and Kennedy's book contributed to the 1964 decision to abolish capital punishment in Britain. Evans was granted his posthumous pardon in 1966.
In June 1962, as noted in Hollywood Reporter, producers Elliott Kastner and Stan Shpetner bought the film rights to Kennedy's novel. In March 1968, Shpetner's Forest Park Productions announced in Daily Variety that they would team with William Dozier's Greenway Productions and CBS Films to produce the film version of the book. They hoped to star James Mason and Dirk Bogarde, with Joseph Losey directing. Dozier would serve as executive producer and Shpetner as producer. Daily Variety noted on August 22, 1968 that the producers had signed Sean Graham to write the screenplay.
By March 1970, however, Film Daily stated that Filmways would produce 10 Rillington Place as a Columbia release. Although Columbia's European production chief, John Van Eyssen, and Filmways head Martin Ransohoff announced in a March 1970 Hollywood Reporter news item that Basil Appleby would serve as executive producer, he is listed onscreen as associate producer. Director Richard Fleischer stated in a June 1970 Hollywood Citizen-News article that he had wanted to make the picture for years, but was prohibited by a British law requiring fifty years to pass before a real-life murder could be shown onscreen. The law, however, was changed to thirty years shortly before the production began.
Press notes and contemporary articles reported that the film renewed interest in the case and in the location of Rillington Place, by then renamed Ruston Close. A June 1970 Hollywood Citizen-News article described the area as "like a vacation resort," frequented by tourist buses and squatters. The press notes indicate that because filming could not take place at the actual building, most scenes were shot at the house next door. In 1970, the street was demolished and rebuilt as Bartle Road.
Press notes state that the production hired as technical advisors Albert Pierrepoint, the man who hanged Evans and Christie; police constable Ledger, the man who arrested Christie; and John Nutting, a London criminal lawyer. Although Filmfacts includes Bernard Lee in the cast as "Chief Inspector," according to the BFI index, this role was cut from the finished film.
Despite receiving excellent reviews for his portrayal of Christie, Attenborough stated in press notes that he disliked playing the role and accepted it only because the film was such a devastating statement against capital punishment. The Sunday Times (London) review stated that British response to the film was bound to be painful, as "the memory of the execution of poor trapped Evans is still too fresh."
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970