Director Richard Fleischer must have been particularly interested in serial killers as this film followed a biopic of the Boston Strangler made just a few years earlier. This time the setting is the Notting Hill of the 1940s and 50s, at this time a dreary suburb during an era of post-war austerity rather than the desirable area known to viewers of 1999's romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.
The film has an authentic feel, being filmed in part in the actual street where the events portrayed took place though it was actually no 7 that was used as the occupants of no 10 were unwilling to move out during the production period. Despite the fact that it was made in the early 70s the impression is given that the area had not changed much over the years, having an extremely drab look and desolate atmosphere.
Into this area come the hapless fantasist Timothy Evans played by John Hurt and his likeable partner Beryl (Judy Geeson). They rent out a cheap, tatty apartment from the landlord John Christie which proves to be an unfortunate choice. Hurt does well with the Welsh accent and Evans emerges as an impressively rounded character, annoying at times yet also inspiring pathos elsewhere. His fantasising and outright lies are irritating yet he is also naive and at times easily manipulated. Beryl is a less complex personality, but sympathetically portrayed by Geeson.
British character actor Richard Attenborough took on the Christie role and gave a performance of impressive restraint and control. Apparently the real life Christie was extremely softly spoken and Attenborough was faithful to this. Christie never raises his voice yet is extremely sinister, seeming to relish the control he can gain over others. The cramped environs of the flats have a claustrophobic feel to them which gave the whole thing an oppressive, stifling mood. In some scenes Christie is shot in partial shadow, a nice touch of film noir stylistically.
The action eventually leads to a mishandled court case, a travesty of justice which is followed by a discovery which shed new light on the preceding events.
Based on Ludovic Kennedy's non-fiction account of the same title, 10 Rillington Place sensitively portrays some grim events and aims for historical accuracy rather than sensationalism. There was one part of the plot which was based on supposition rather than hard evidence but this otherwise seemed to stick very closely to the facts. Attenborough was truly memorable as Christie, amazingly cold and ruthless. For me the film's only flaw was that it does not explore Christie's early life very much so there wasn't a substantial amount of explanation for his perverse crimes. In every other respect this was extremely impressive and strangely overlooked.