Mild mannered John Christie (Attenborough) and his wife Ethel (Heywood) live in a dingy little apartment in London. Despite his meek demeanor, Christie is a cold-blooded killer with two bodies already buried in his tiny back garden. In 1949, Tim Evans (Hurt), his wife Beryl (Geeson) and their infant daughter move into the top floor apartment. Christie fixes his predatory eye on the comely Beryl. When she confides in John about her unwanted pregnancy, he claims a medical background and offers to help her out. Things go dreadfully wrong, and soon Evans is charged with murder. Will the truth ever come to light?
Fleischer directs this harrowing true story with straightforward efficiency and clinical detachment; much of the courtroom dialogue is taken from actual documents. London is depicted as a drab, grimy place where the privations of war are still felt acutely. Location shooting at Rillington Place only accentuates the prevailing sense of foreboding. As the unwitting victims, both Hurt and Geeson are excellent, but it's Attenborough's chilling performance that will haunt you long after the lights come up. (Note: the miscarriage of justice in the Christie case helped bring about England's abolition of the death penalty.)