How does the BBC series com­pare to the clas­sic film about the 1950s se­rial killer?

The real-life case of Not­ting Hill mass mur­derer Reg Christie was fa­mously filmed by Richard Fleis­cher in 1971 as 10 Rillington Place, fea­tur­ing Richard At­ten­bor­ough in one of his finest screen per­for­mances as Christie (and John Hurt play­ing the wretched Ti­mothy Evans, who was wrongly hanged for Christie’s crimes). But in the BBC’S three-parter, Tim Roth equals (maybe even sur­passes) At­ten­bor­ough. Roth’s Christie – round­shoul­dered, bald and be­spec­ta­cled, shuf­fling, smil­ing apolo­get­i­cally and speak­ing in a self­ef­fac­ing whis­per – seems to be such an in­signif­i­cant, harm­less lit­tle man that his killings are all the more hor­ri­fy­ingly hard to credit. As, ap­par­ently, was the case with the real-life killer.

The rest of the Rillington Place cast – Sa­man­tha Mor­ton as Christie’s ma­nip­u­lated wife Ethel, Nico Mi­ral­le­gro as poor naive, gullible Tim Evans – are all note-per­fect, and the BBC have done a mas­terly job in recre­at­ing the drab seed­i­ness of ’40s and ’50s Lon­don, all dim light­ing and sludge­brown wall­pa­per. Each of the three episodes homes in on a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter – Ethel, Tim, Reg – giv­ing us in­ter­est­ingly shift­ing per­spec­tives.

But in the end this is Tim Roth’s show, and he rises to it su­perbly.

A true story brought mas­ter­fully to life.

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