Tag Archives: John Hurt

10 Rillington Place-1971

10 Rillington Place-1971

Director Richard Fleischer

Starring Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, John Hurt

Scott’s Review #1,424

Reviewed March 22, 2024

Grade: A

Richard Fleischer has directed films such as Dr. Doolittle (1967) and Soylent Green (1973) that are remembered better than 10 Rillington Place (1971).

That’s a shame because the film is one that I hadn’t seen nor heard of but is chilling, macabre, and masterful in its bleakness and atmosphere.

It’s also wonderfully acted.

One can’t help but notice the stark similarities to Frenzy, an equally disturbing and great 1972 film by Alfred Hitchcock.  Did this film influence the master of suspense to create that one? Only he knows the answer to that question.

Mostly set in one dreary apartment building in London named 10 Rillington Place it tells the true story of the British serial killer John Christie (Richard Attenborough), who committed many of his crimes in the tall terraced house, and the miscarriage of justice involving his neighbor, the simple-minded Timothy Evans (John Hurt).

Timothy was used by John as a scapegoat for the murders.

John is a seemingly model citizen but a killer, as the audience witnesses in the first scene. He poses as a kindly doctor who convinces naive women that he can cure whatever might ail them whether it be aches and pains or making a pesky pregnancy go away.

He usually strangles them to death and buries them in a makeshift graveyard in the pretty garden in front of his residence.

The main story in 10 Rillington Place follows John as he cons a pregnant bride (Judy Geeson) struggling financially to utilize his help and medical methods. John’s dutiful and clueless wife, Ethel (Pat Heywood) slowly discovers her husband’s shenanigans but will she fall prey as his next victim?

Of course, Richard Attenborough steals the show as the demented killer with a calm, cool, and collected exterior. As an average-looking Joe type, he can use his trusting appearance to his advantage.

I’d trust him.

Attenborough became an Academy Award-winning director for 1982’s Gandhi so he knows his craft well. He also directed Cry Freedom in 1987 and Chaplin in 1992.

In actor mode, he is phenomenal in the crazed killer role. His greatest skill is his demeanor. Thoughtful and pondering he never plays psycho or nuts. He is careful but that’s part of his creepiness. With every noise, he peers out the window drawing the living room curtain ever so slightly revealing his face.

Hurt and Geeson are terrific as the young couple with the cards stacked against them. They are simply looking for tranquility and the means to raise their child.

Simplicity is a winning formula and most of the film is subdued thanks to Fleischer’s laid-back direction techniques.

The look of 10 Rillington Place is perfection. The colors are muted and faded giving a dank and depressing look. Even a bright red velvet sofa appears dark and dreary.

As Timothy and Beryl agree to lease the top floor flat this will not bode well for them and somehow we can just sense this.

Towards the end of the film, it is almost too much to bear with the knowledge that John strangles a toddler to death and unceremoniously stuffs the child, wrapped in a blanket in a washroom.

Brilliantly, the murders rarely happen onscreen and with none of the principal characters. That’s what’s so haunting about the film and reminds me of Hitchcock’s Frenzy.

Remember the scene where the necktie killer lures a female victim upstairs to her death? There is silence and a shot of the staircase for seemingly an eternity until the killer descends the stairs.

We know what’s happened.

What we don’t see is sometimes much more frightening than what we do see.

The ghastly reveal at the end of 10 Rillington Place that the story is based on real-life events packed a punch since I didn’t have this knowledge going into the film.

Thankfully, 10 Rillington Place (1971) has received its just desserts in terms of praise and achievement in recent years. This proves that great films are like cream and rise to the top…..eventually.

Only Lovers Left Alive-2014

Only Lovers Left Alive-2014

Director Jim Jarmusch

Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

Scott’s Review #237

Only_Lovers_Left_Alive_English_film_poster

Reviewed April 24, 2015

Grade: B

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) is a bizarre trip into the strange and unusual world of vampires.

The film, moving slowly, becomes hypnotic, grabbing me into the plot, though the plot itself seems almost secondary to the gothic mood and dark ambiance of the film.

Thanks to the wonderful Tilda Swinton, who I find mesmerizing in every film role she appears in, the methodical film never completely bored me and, at times, even fascinated me.

Set in present times, Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play vampires named Adam and Eve, who are lovers separated geographically. Adam is a musician living in a vast Victorian house in Detroit and Eve resides in Tangier.

Realizing that Adam is lonely and suicidal, Eve makes the international trek to the United States to be with her love. While they begin enjoying a quiet existence immersed in music and thoughts, Eve’s rebellious sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) from Los Angeles adds havoc to their lives.

Also cast in the film is John Hurt, who plays Marlowe, an ancient vampire assisting Adam and Eve, who succumbs to sickness due to tainted blood.

The film is a creative, atmospheric offering from edgy independent film director Jim Jarmusch, known for such left-of-center fare as Broken Flowers (2005) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), which are visual and visceral achievements.

While I did not completely love this film, feeling that the actual story is the weakest area, the magical and beautiful arrangements almost make up for any shortcomings.

Set entirely at night (when vampires are awake) and featuring several shots of Adam and Eve posed naked or almost naked in lovely, artistic angles, I think the film is going for a “look” as much as for storytelling and not completely centering on the plot.

It is also a lovely romantic film, though not in the typical sense of silly misunderstandings, and comical moments, but rather in romantic artistry, as Adam and Eve connect spiritually.

Married hundreds of years ago, Adam and Eve have been inexplicably separated by thousands of miles and coasts, though the reason is not explained.

Why are they the few remaining vampires alive? Does the human race know they are vampires or think they are odd-looking people? They both have money to burn and pay a high cost for being vampires as they either pay a contact to steal blood from hospitals to survive or obtain the blood elsewhere.

They are tempted to bite humans but resist those urges. The film does not explain why they are two of the few vampires left in the world or other questions. Adam, supposedly a famous musician, is wealthy beyond words and lives in a haunted-looking mansion surrounded by music and musical instruments.

The plot holes, of course, are secondary to me. None of them matter.

The film has beautiful moments- it is musically centered and Adam and Eve on more than one occasion engage in beautiful, tender dances the film is a pure love story, but a very left-of-center one.

I admire the film’s creativity and going where most filmmakers do not dare to go. Jarmusch dares to be different and deserves much praise.

The negative for me was the pacing of the film- the story almost does not matter as the film feels more like an experience in art than a “mainstream” film containing strong plot points and focus.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) is a different type of film and one worth admiring.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Tilda Swinton, Best Screenplay