In 1944, a woman was gassed, strangled and ravished by John Christie, the first of several victims of a seemingly quiet, respectable man living in a drab London district.
Richard Fleischer has turned out an authenticated documentary-feature which is an absorbing and disturbing picture. But the film has the serious flaw of not even attempting to probe the reasons that turned a man into a monstrous pervert.
Could be that Fleischer, like most other people, found more interest in the other central figure in the case, Timothy Evans. He was an illiterate who, with his young wife and baby, was Christie’s lodger. Mrs Evans and their daughter became death victims of Christie. The bewildered lad, duped by Christie, confessed and was executed. Several years later Christie was arrested for the murder of his own wife, confessed to the murder of seven women, including Mrs Evans, but vigorously denied strangling the child. Some 12 years later Evans was pardoned. All this is dealt with in the Ludovic Kennedy book from which Clive Exton has written a factual, interesting but not particularly moving or emotional screenplay.
Though Richard Attenborough, playing the killer, is the central character, the acting honors are firmly wrapped up by John Hurt as Evans. He gives a remarkably subtle and fascinating performance as the bewildered young man who plays into the hands of both the murderer and the police.