What an unpleasant movie. Utterly relentless in its nastiness, the whole thing is grounded by a handful of exceptional performances. Richard Attenborough disappears into the role of mass-murderer John Christie to the point where just looking at him made me uneasy. It features a terrific and key early performance from John Hurt too as well as stellar work from both Judy Geeson and Pat Heywood.
The film unfolds over decades but director Richard Fleischer really doesn’t draw attention to the passage of time by smearing his actors in increasingly complex make-up and story re-sets. Soderbergh and Scorsese are the same. It makes the whole thing far more coherent. The performances sell the time-jumps better than any wig could and as the years tick by, Christie becomes more pathetic but his evil becomes all the more suffocating.
I love how horrible this vision of Britain is too. So bleak, so 70s. All this from an American filmmaker too. The cinematic eye is extremely immersive. I’m astonished at how versatile a filmmaker Fleischer was (just look at his filmography to see what I mean) but he was as adept as the best of them. The way he shoots the murder sequences here is sublime. It’s a very low-key film and, considering the extreme subject matter, impressively avoids hysteria and sensationalism. It hits you with blunt force, leaves you with mass trauma. A film I would describe as being genuinely upsetting. For feel bad vibes*: watch immediately.
*Real talk: was 1971 the ultimate year in bummer cinema? A Clockwork Orange, Straw Dogs, The Devils, Dirty Harry, Wake In Fright, Two Lane Blacktop, Get Carter, Polanski’s Macbethand 10 Rillington Place. Bummer, man.
Watched on Indicator blu-ray