Tag Archives: John Hurt

10 Rillington Place (1971)

10 rillington place 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He enjoys strangling women.

This film depicts the true life account of John Christie, played here by Sir Richard Attenborough, who strangled eight women, had sex with their corpses and then hide their bodies in his London flat at 10 Rillington Place. The story begins with Christie having already murdered several women when Timothy and his wife Beryl (John Hurt, Judy Geeson) arrive looking for a place to stay and decide to rent a room from Christie who immediately takes a fancy to Beryl. When she confides in him that she is pregnant and looking for an abortion he uses it to his advantage by pretending to be a former Dr. who can secretly perform the procedure. He then strangles her after giving her some anesthesia and tells Timothy that it occurred during the abortion and threatens him not to go to the police since it was an illegal operation at the time and Timothy was aware that she wanted it done, which would have made him an accessory. However, after moving out his suspicions continue to nag him and he eventually goes to the police, which culminate in a dramatic trial with both men accusing the other of being a liar.

The film comes off as being quite authentic to the actual events with the dialogue taken straight off of the court transcripts. The exteriors were filmed at the actual flat were the murders occurred while the interiors scenes where shot at an apartment house that was just three doors down from Christie’s real life one. Richard Fleischer’s direction is low-key with emphasis put on keeping things real almost like a documentary instead of trying to sensationalize it. The music is used sparingly and has a certain quite tone of loneliness and detachment to it almost like it is representing the feelings and mood from Christie himself.

Attenborough and Hurt give strong performances and the diametrically divergent personalities of the two characters are what drive the film. Attenborough accepted the role without even having read the script. He wore a skin-like skull cap for the part, which gives him a very pronounced bald head and a creepy alien-like quality. I also really liked the scene where he looks at himself in the mirror just before he commits the murder with his eyes conveying a frightened and ashamed look like even he himself is horrified at the murderous out-of-control obsession that drives him. Geeson does well as the sympathetic victim and Pat Heywood is memorable in an understated role as Christie’s wife Ethel who initially believes her husband to be innocent, but then slowly becomes aware of what a monster he really is.

The film would have been stronger and a more multi-faceted had it shown even in brief flashback more of Christie’s background including the fact that he was dominated by his mother and older sisters and raised by a father who showed no emotion for him as well his lifelong struggles with impotence, which all could’ve helped explain why he became the way he did. It also might have allowed for more tension had the story started with the court case and leaving it a mystery to the viewer at the beginning as to which of the men was telling the truth instead of having the narrative done in a very matter-of-fact, by-the-numbers way. In either case the film is still quite strong and great example of how a true-life crime story should be done.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 10, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video

Partners (1982)

partners

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pretending to be gay.

A serial killer targeting gay men is on the prowl. When one of his victims turns out to be the son of an influential politician pressure is put on the police force to find the culprit. The police chief (Kenneth McMillan) feels he has no choice but to pair Sgt. Benson (Ryan O’Neal) a straight cop with Kerwin (John Hurt) who is a gay desk clerk at the station. They are to masquerade as a gay couple in hopes of infiltrating the gay underground and find clues to the elusive killer, but their contrasting personalities and lifestyles threaten to blow their cover before they can make headway.

This film was controversial at the time of its release for its overuse of gay stereotypes and there are indeed some especially at the beginning, but the film’s biggest offense is that it is just plain boring. The idea that two cops could be forced to pretend to be a gay couple or have one of them pose naked for the cover of a gay men’s magazine as part of their investigation is dubious enough, but had it been funny I might have forgiven it. Unfortunately this thing can’t even elicit a few chuckles.

The idea that Kerwin would automatically fall in love with Benson while working together simply because he is another man is absurd and makes about as much sense as a heterosexual male falling for every woman that he meets, which of course doesn’t happen. The Benson character is also quite callous and disrespectful to Kerwin while showing blatant homophobic tendencies and being a confirmed ladies’ man, so I didn’t see what there was about him that Kerwin would have fallen in love with anyways.

Benson’s transformation to being more sensitive to gays and their issues during the course of the story might have been more compelling had it been better written. However, his liberal use of the word ‘faggot’ makes the film seem quite dated and wouldn’t be heard in a movie today especially from a character that is supposedly a protagonist.

Hurt plays the gay caricature well, but the idea of placing someone on such a dangerous mission without having any undercover experience of even knowing how to use a gun seemed stupid and unrealistic. Out of all the characters McMillan’s comes off best and he even manages to be slightly amusing, but unfortunately isn’t seen enough. Character actors Jay Robinson and Sydney Lassick can be spotted very briefly.

This was intended to be a parody of Cruising, which was released 2 years earlier and was a much more serious and graphic look at a true life killer of gay men. That film starred Al Pacino and will be reviewed next Monday.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 30, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated R

Director: James Burrows

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD