10 Rillington Place (1971)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
If 10 Rillington Place weren't based on real events, it would take the warped mind of Jim Thompson to imagine such paranoid, psychosis-driven characters as the soft-spoken serial killer John Reginald Christie (Richard Attenborough) and his dim-witted, unknowing cohort Timothy John Evans (John Hurt). Christie is a closet deviant who lures desperate women to his home under false pretenses of being a doctor. The illiterate Evans moves his wife and child into the apartment above Christie because it's all he can afford. His life is nothing but two rooms the color of rotting mouse fur, filled with furniture his wife neglected to pay, and a child on the way that he can't afford. Unfortunate circumstances have thrown the group together, and while Christie's phony doctoring seemingly offers Evans and his wife a way out of this purgatorial existence, it's only the beginning of a descent into murder, madness, and the overbearing weight of guilt that's enough to bury any man alive and make them wish for the gallows.
The locations of the two characters begs for a psychological reading of the characters: Christie downstairs, the murderous desire, the impulses that can't be denied; and Evans upstairs, waiting to be led around by his nose, unaware of the things happening around him. It's as if the two faces of Thompson's psycho sheriff in The Killer Inside Me have literally split in two: the simpleton façade and deviant id are now two separate beings, waiting to be reunited. The upstairs/downstairs division also illustrates the class divide, a subtext which informs not only Evans' inferiority complex, but also Christie's exploitation of working class women in need of medical support they can't afford.
Crossing the Atlantic to direct the film was Brooklyn-born Richard Fleischer, who brought with him the expert, B-noir stylizations that characterized the best of his Hollywood pictures. In particular, the claustrophobic ambiance of The Narrow Margin (1952) (set almost entirely on a train) reappears in the cramped, dingy, immobile sets of 10 Rillington Place. With its lifeless, ashen walls shot just two doors down from where the real murders occurred, 10 Rillington Place evokes an uncommonly dismal atmosphere perfectly suited to its uncompromisingly bleak story and unredeemable characters.