Rillington Place – Episode 3

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Rillington Place – Episode 3

December 14, 2016 - 10:53
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If you don’t watch the other two episodes, please watch this one, and the final hanging scene is as grim as anything you’ll see on the box this year.

Rillington Place

By Phil Jones @PhilLlwynog

In the late eighties I lived in a run down squat in Stoke Newington, North London. The other ‘tenant’ was a drug crazed bearded Greek sculptor, intent on a game of challenging chess in the middle of the night. Not on his own, of course, he insisted on a partner to play along with at 4.00am. How could I refuse a bearded Greek high on coke? One cold evening in December 1988 I heard a strange “hacking” noise, assuming I was dreaming, when I suddenly woke I could see the bedroom door being chopped up by this crazed drug fueled lunatic, like a scene from a low budget version of ‘The Shinning”. When I cried out “What the hell are you doing?” his reply, which has stayed with me all these years later, “It’s getting cold out, we need some firewood for Christmas”. He’d already dismantled the bathroom door, that September, replacing it with a flimsy stained, yellowing sheet, so you had to whistle whilst doing your business! He’d used the khazi door to make what he described as “a fitted kitchen”. When I eventually moved out a few months later, after meeting my first wife, I came back to Wales. Six months or so went by, but the Greek sculptor turned up at our front door in the valleys with a large wrapped up fish, (a Cod I think) and a glint in his eye. “I’ve come to cook you dinner”, he whimpered. Those were the days!

Moving on, and adding some context. 10 Rillington place, as seen in this short three episode drama by the BBC reminded me of that house in Stoke Newington. Not only the furnishing, the depressing colour pallet, but also the streets, the vibe, the poverty, the lighting and the damn right depressing and wet streets of London. Things look like that when you’re poor, and you’ve long realized the streets are not paved in gold, but sick and syringes. I guess most people reading this know the story of John Christie, and the vile crimes he committed in that house. This episode concentrates on ‘Reg’s’ story (‘John’ Christie was known to family and acquaintances as ‘Reg’), and for the first time in the series it ramps up the violence as we see first hand how he strangled wife Ethel (played beautifully by Samantha Morton). This is effective ‘real’ violence as we feel and see the effort it takes to take someone’s last breath. No Hollywood glamour here, folks! But it’s Tim Roth’s acting that makes this episode, and the whole series so memorable. Take the scene mentioned here, it’s the little things, as an actor that Roth delivers that make’s the whole dreary affair so realistic. If you want to observe an acting class, just study this scene. Beginning at 28.40 if your viewing via iPlayer. Wife Ethel is asleep, and looks so warm and cosy (a rarity here). “Whispering Grass” plays in the background, and Reg appears in his blue and white stripped pyjamas. The fact that each button of his pyjama jacket is done up is spot on. He so ‘matter-of-factly’ ties her own stocking around her neck, and then, out of character, jumps violently on top of her, to apply as much pressure as possible, as he pulls with all his strength, suddenly he seems strong, suddenly he seems like a monster, but pointedly, he cannot look her in the eye. If this was Hollywood he’d look at her, but this creature cannot look his victim, and wife in the eye. He’s not a Hannibal Lecter, he’s a 'real' bastard of a man, who knows he’s doing wrong. We see her struggle for life as she battles with her remaining strength, she looks at Christie, her eyes begging for life, but Christie now straddling her is too strong, and to callous, the complete opposite to how he has attempted to portray himself as a weak, disabled ex war hero, who was given a seat to sit on by the gullible judge in the earlier court scene. Stunning acting, stunningly directed, a scene that really does give you a shiver up your spine, it plays with all your senses, so much, you can smell the damp, taste the nails “cheap and metallic”, that he uses to ‘stuff’ her under the floorboards. The hammering of nails in her final resting place echoes in my thoughts.

If you don’t watch the other two episodes, please watch this one, and the final hanging scene is as grim as anything you’ll see on the box this year.

By the way, I still can’t play chess very well, and Andreas the Greek ended up being a secondary school teacher, not a serial killer, thankfully. Our kids are in safe hands.