10 Rillington Place 1971 ***


Serial killer films are not a new invention; the story of John Christie is one of Britain’s most notorious examples. Adapting Ludovic Kennedy’s book on the subject, Hollywood veteran Richard Fleischer adapts a deliberately drab, procedural style that finds an ideal centre in Richard Attenborough’s performance as Christie. Killing again and again for sexual kicks, it’s a turn highly untypical of Attenborough’s usual work, but he rises to the challenge, making Christie a fascinating but repellent character. John Hurt and Judy Geeson do good work as the husband and wife who unwittingly stay at Christie’s property, and a hanging scene, supervised by real-life executioner Albert Pierrepoint, adds to the gloomy sense of authenticity.

Grey Owl 1999 ***


Sir Richard Attenborough’s deeply personal film about the true story of Grey Owl was barely released worldwide, and not at all theatrically in the US; the casting of Pierce Brosnan as a Native American seems to grated on modern sensibilities. The point of the film was that Grey Owl was not a Native American, but a British man from Hastings called Archie Belaney who successfully passed himself off to the media as an environmental spokesman. A young Attenborough was amongst those who gathered to hear Grey Owl speak, and his intelligent, stately film details how Belaney was converted to environmental causes, and how his identity crisis came to public attention. Brosnan is better here than he is as Bond, and there’s a genuine warmth in his scenes with Annie Galipeau as his wife Pony. Grey Owl doesn’t rank alongside Attenborough’s best, but it’s a strong and relevant film that doesn’t deserve to be dropped into the dustbin of cinema history.

Conduct Unbecoming 1975 ***


Veteran British director Michael Anderson gets explosive results from a remarkable cast in this forgotten but highly charged drama from 1975. Adapted from a play by Barry England (Figures in a Landscape), it’s the story of a British army court-marshal in colonial India, with Arthur Drake (Michael York) assigned to defend Edward Millington (James Faulkner) from rape charges, with Susannah York the victim. Sir Richard Attenborough, Stacey Keach, Trevor Howard and Christopher Plummer are amongst those testifying; shot in five weeks, it’s a brisk and stately portrait of the labyrinthine working of the officer class.