Straw dogs

It is still intensely nasty in its intimately English way, perhaps because it is quite explicit and coolly sordid and because we still can’t quite believe that nice Richard Attenborough is going to appear in so chilling a guise, despite the fact that this is one of his most famous acting roles.

This is perhaps Britain’s last real kitchen-sink movie, conjuring a world of people making each other nice cups of tea in rundown kitchens in rundown bits of town, whispering about pregnancies and what to do about them, where kids played noisily out in the street and where curtain-twitching folk were intensely aware of other curtain-twitchers’ disapproval. The film achieves a kind of petit-bourgeois nightmare when Fleischer cuts from Evans’s muddled and panicky confession, straight to a scene showing three or four policemen hauling up the manhole outside No 10 Rillington Place where the body is supposed to be hidden – with Christie peering from the window and the inevitable crowd of kids gawping.

Christie’s connection with Evans arises when Evans’s wife Beryl (played by Judy Geeson) confides to this nauseating, ingratiating man that she is pregnant again and hardly knows what to do. Christie claims to have medical knowledge arising (somehow) from his war service as a special constable and says that he can perform a “termination”. Having warned Evans of a “1 in 10” danger of death, Christie persuades Beryl that they can go ahead while Evans is out at work; it is, of course, merely a twisted pretext for murder.

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