#932: 2008, Felice Brothers, Frankie’s Gun

by George_East on September 15, 2014

I’ve been meaning to post this song for a good long while now but for one reason and another haven’t got round to it. The Felice Brothers are an upstate New York folk rock band who channel Bob Dylan and the Band.

There were three brothers Felice in the original line up, but Simone (and that is a bloke, by the way) left a little while ago first to form Bobby West favourites The Duke and The King (who released two great albums) and then went on to release some solo materials. The other brothers, Ian and James continue with the three other members of the band.

This song is from the Simone Felice era, and from their eponymously titled second album. It is a great narrative song and has a singalong quality about it live. You can’t mess with lyrics like this:

I saw a man hit my mom one time, really
I hurt him so damn bad I had to hide in Jersey
Called my mama told her
In the dresser
There’s ten or twenty dollars but there ain’t no lesser
That’s for to take my sister to the picture show

Marvellous stuff.

{ 0 comments }

John Christie: ‘It’s the moral question that concerns me, the taking of life – no matter how rudimentary’

Richard Attenborough, Dickie, the ultimate Labour luvvie. Famous, of course, for directing historical epics like Ghandi, Cry Freedom and A Bridge Too Far – films that are perfectly watchable, but somehow do not quite make it into the great category.   Films that, when you watch them, make you think I wonder what David Lean would have done with this. Attenborough, in the director’s chair, was a craftsman rather than an artist, I think.

But Dickie was an actor too.   In fact it was acting that was his primary trade. In my cinematic mind he is deeply impressed as the commanding officer in The Great Escape, a film I must have watched a dozen times or more with my Dad as I grew up.   Noble authority figures are what it is most instinctive to associate him with, and yet the truth is that his greatest performances were pretty often as villains.

Three in particular came immediately to mind on hearing of his death at the age of 90 at the end of last month. Towards the beginning of his career there was his utterly terrifying boy-faced gangster, Pinkie in John Boulting’s take on Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock (1947) – one of the greatest of all British gangster pictures.   Later there was his brilliant portrayal of cynical British colonial general, Outram, in Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players, advancing the interest of Empire (and himself) as the local Indian potentates distract themselves with frivolities.

Thirdly, there was his performance as serial killer, John Christie, in Richard Fleischer’s true crime drama, 10 Rillington Place.  It is this film which the Cine-East Film Club has decided to present in Richard Attenborough’s honour.

The story is one that immediately lends itself to a film, involving as it does the last execution of an almost certainly innocent man in Britain, the execution of Timothy Evans for the murders of his wife and baby daughter – murders that were actually carried out (along with 6 others) by John Christie, who also lived in the same building, the address of the title.   It was a case that along with those of Ruth Ellis and Derek Bentley, led to the abolition of the death penalty.   The Ellis (Dance With A Stranger) and Bentley (Let Him Have It) have, of course also been made into films – both I think, significantly inferior to 10 Rillington Place.

The opening credits establish the film’s credentials. This is a true story, we are told. And then a second title card – it is not just that the film is true but also that the dialogue has been, wherever possible, taken from official records. This is a film, which sets itself up to be of documentary-style authority.

It is not intended to be a whodunit or to leave ambiguities. The film opens in 1944 with Christie drugging, raping and strangling a woman, Muriel, under the pretence of administering medicine to her. We then see him burying the body in the back garden, which reveals the hand of another body. From the outset we know, then, that we know that this quietly and deliberately spoken middle aged man is a serial killer.

Despite its documentary affectations, 10 Rillington Place is deeply cinematic. The art design captures perfectly the tired, literally war-torn, austerity of the late Attlee years. The London portrayed is grey and dimly lit. Save for the red of the trial judge’s robes and the red label marking on Evans’ file marked ‘death penalty’ which is placed before the Home Secretary after Evans’ conviction, bright colours are absent.

Attenborough’s performance as Christie is extraordinary. All understatement. No histrionics at all. He always seems to be there, lurking, watching, listening and waiting for his opportunity to kill again.   We know who he is and what he is capable of, but the Evanses don’t. When Christie appears with a cup of tea for Beryl towards the beginning of the film he seems to arrive out of nowhere, and then disappear back there as quickly, when his visit is interrupted by Beryl’s friend.

Christie is portrayed by Attenborough as having a precise bureaucratic mind, always able to cite regulations or laws to support his views as to why things aren’t possible (such as the use of the garden) or his experience as a police officer in the war or, so he says, medical training to justify his views. The banality of evil indeed – more like a local authority jobsworth or small town bank manager than the typical depiction of an unhinged serial killer. It is all an act, of course, but it is just about plausible enough to the illiterate Evans, and the desperate Beryl (who knows that she and her husband cannot afford to have another child) to enable him to win their trust.

The film is also a reminder of a time when John Hurt was still a great actor, before he turned into the sad ham he is today. His Evans is like Christie a fantastist – bragging about the number of women he’s got on the go or that he is a rich son of an Italian Count or that he is about to be promoted to managing director of the freight company for whom he works as a lorry driver. However, Evans is at core an innocent – an man-child out of his depth with his family responsibilities and in the big city. As such Christie is able to manipulate him without much effort into acting effectively as his own executioner.   The scenes between Hurt and Attenborough are wholly plausible, as Christie plays with Evans like a particularly sadistic cat with a baby mouse.

Some of the film was actually shot in the now demolished Rillington Place (with number 7 apparently standing in for the number 10) makes the film even more disturbing.  The run down terrace with its blackened walls and claustrophobic interior really did host this horror.    Like many serial killers, Christie relied on police looking for the easy and first solution that came along to the crimes that had been committed (in this case in Evans a man who repeatedly lied out stupidity and an initially misplaced attempt to protect Christie). Further like many serial killers what in the end undid Christie was the ever accelerating pace of his killings – his wife, after the two Evanses and then a series of three women in quick succession (two of whom are only shown as bodies).

10 Rillington Place is also fascinating for depicting the beginnings of a changing London – from the all white mostly working class city of the war and immediate period afterwards, to the beginnings of its current ethnic diversity, as the Windrush generation settled in the capital in the 1950s.   The discovery of Christie’s crimes took place when new West Indian tenants settled in the grotty run down 10 Rillington Place, Christie having been evicted (in the film for failing to pay his rent; in reality for unlawful subletting).   This is the era of ‘no blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ – and these old run down tenements became the only places that many recently arrived immigrant workers could find to lodge.   The irony, of course, is that 10 Rillington Place was in Notting Hill – which now has, carnival aside, very little of its West Indian past remaining – and has instead been taken over by David Cameron and his ilk.

But 10 Rillington Place is so much more than simply a historical drama or social issue picture. It is a great British crime film and a truly disturbing piece of cinema.

Richard Attenborough RIP.

{ 0 comments }

Carpe Diem, Scotland

September 15, 2014

I have written and ranted about Scottish Independence to the point of boring myself. I have now said almost everything that needs to be said on this momentous issue. So, I have decided that this is the last article that I will write on the big vote on Thursday. I never wanted Scotland to leave […]

Read the full article →

#931: 1981, Au Pairs, Armagh

September 15, 2014

With the death of that old villain, Ian Paisley, I thought I should post a song about The Troubles he did so much to propagate. So, a bit of a rustle around the internet to find something appropriate… There were plenty to choose from. Oliver’s Army? Stiff Little Fingers? U2? I have to confess that […]

Read the full article →

Week 37: Villain – The Rev Dr Ian Paisley

September 14, 2014

This week, Ian Paisley receives both our Hero and Villain of the Week awards Ian Paisley led a life that was by and large destructive and deeply damaging to the province he claimed to love. The coverage of his death this week has focused on the mitigation for that damage: his year as first minister […]

Read the full article →

Week 37: Hero – The Rev. Dr Ian Paisley

September 14, 2014

This week’s hero is the former First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP, Big Ian. Crikey, Big Ian, dead. He was one of those who you thought would go on forever. But, alas, for the big man, just as in life, there are some things that you can only say ‘never’ to […]

Read the full article →

Week 37: Prat – Jim Sillars

September 14, 2014

The debate in the Scottish Referendum campaign has turned a little nasty over the last week, with accusations of scaremongering and conspiracy against the Better Together campaign (including bias on the part of the BBC) and divisive comments on the part of the ‘Yes’ campaign, insinuating some how that those voters who oppose Scottish independence […]

Read the full article →

Scotland feels the cold smack of the English establishment

September 12, 2014

As the Scottish campaign for independence reaches its final few days, my ‘No’ stance of ‘please don’t leave us Welsh to the fate of perpetual Tory rule’, is waning – and I’m starting to feel like the dying hero in a melodrama, who crawls up to his fitter, stronger comrade and whimpers, ‘you go ahead, […]

Read the full article →

Some thoughts on the Oscar Pistorius Trial

September 11, 2014

I have it on very good authority that Oscar Pistorius doesn’t give a monkeys nuts about the Scottish Referendum on Independence. But, let’s take a break from that pressing matter for a second and consider the Pistorius trial – because, it’s absolutely fascinating. I mean, imagine if you went to a publisher and said, look […]

Read the full article →

#930: 1988, Hothouse Flowers, Don’t Go

September 10, 2014

Britain. How I fucking love it. Our Britain. Like a dysfunctional family – its dirty secrets, its squalid history, the wedding brawls, the cousin you fucking hate and his obnoxious brat of a kid who always seems to do better than everyone else, without half the fucking talent. Our secrets, our history, our brawls, our […]

Read the full article →

The PR disaster of “Better Together”

September 10, 2014

I have come out of my self imposed sabbatical from All That’s Left. It is like a drug. I am a political junkie that needs just one more hit. I just couldn’t resist the lure of commenting on Scottish independence. In my lifetime, I have never known Britain and the establishment to be shaken in […]

Read the full article →

Five Reasons Why No Will Win on 18th September

September 9, 2014

There is little doubt that the ‘No’ campaign and the pro-Unionist parties have descended into a panicked farce, in the face of the very real possibility of a vote for Scottish independence in 9 days. The last minute offer of  Devo-Max, the cancelling of PM’s questions tomorrow so that the leaders of the three main […]

Read the full article →

#929: 2014, The Haden Triplets, Single Girl

September 8, 2014

Yes, they really are triplets: Tanya, Rachel and Petra. The three daughters of the late great jazz bassist, Charlie Haden, released earlier this year what in their eponymous debut is, for me, the most purely beautiful record since the Fleet Foxes’ debut, full of close country harmonies that maybe you need to be siblings to pull […]

Read the full article →

Devo-Max Would Have Stopped Independence In Its Tracks

September 8, 2014

As the entire pro-unionist Westminster establishment scrabbles  desperately around in an almost open state of panic having suddenly woken up on Saturday night (when the Yougov poll placing ‘Yes’ in the lead for the first time was published) to the fact that Scotland might actually vote to break away from the rest of the UK, […]

Read the full article →

End of Cameron, Clegg, the Coalition and the Union?

September 8, 2014

This is perhaps the quickest and most straightforward blog I’ve done since we’ve been writing on these pages – but, I simply ask this question: If UKIP wins the Clacton By-election and the good people of Scotland vote to come out of the Union – then what the fuck will become of David Cameron? Surely, […]

Read the full article →

Week 36: Hero – Andrew George MP

September 8, 2014

This Week’s Hero of the Week Award goes to Lib-Dem MP, Andrew George. I have to say that, in the brief time I worked with Andrew George, I liked him. He seemed to me to be a serious, undemonstrative politician, with proper principles and a world-view. Alas, not all are the same, and, double, nay, […]

Read the full article →

#928: 1968, Joe Cocker, With a Little Help from My Friends

September 7, 2014

I’ve been in the States for a few weeks, flying back today. It started off in Texas and ended up in Arizona and then California, where I have relatives. My auntie in Arizona is one of those people who can tell slightly tall tales. She recounted this week how, when she lived in Sheffield in […]

Read the full article →

Week 36: Villain – Cee-Lo Green

September 7, 2014

This week, our panel has bestowed our regualr Villain of the Week award to singer Thomas DeCarlo Callaway, better known as Cee-Lo Green As the singing half of Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo Green has turned out some good tunes – Crazy and Fuck You, the latter often reworded to ‘Forget You’ for radio play. None of […]

Read the full article →

Week 36: Prat(s) – the SNP MPs (well, four of them)

September 7, 2014

This week’s Prats of the Week are the 4 SNP MPs who could not be arsed to return to Westminster to vote against the bedroom tax, despite campaign heavily against it in the ‘Yes’ campaign This weekend has seen the Scottish Nationalists (and those who wish them well) cock a hoop with joy as the […]

Read the full article →

Is David Cameron’s Legacy Going To Be A Conservative Party Break Up Over Europe?

September 6, 2014

In my teen years back in the 1980s the Tories under Thatcher seemed completely invincible. They were united, ideological driven and had a vociferous right wing press in lock step with them. It was no surprise that they were the most successful political party in the western world (as we were constantly told). Those years […]

Read the full article →

What The Scottish Independence Referendum Says About Westminster

September 2, 2014

One issue that has split us on these pages, is the issue of Scottish Independence. The much missed, and in fairness, Scottish, Charlie East-West is a firm advocate of Scottish Independence, believing that his countrymen have a unique and wonderful opportunity to rid themselves of the Tory hegemony that is at odds with the way […]

Read the full article →

Cine-East Film Club Presents #51: 1959, Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais)

September 2, 2014

Lui: ‘You saw nothing in Hiroshima’ It’s time for the Cine-East Film Club to bring you a film from the French New Wave and to commemorate the passing earlier this year of Alain Resnais, leaving only Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda still with us from that extraordinary group of cinephile directors who emerged in France […]

Read the full article →

#927: 2008, Ulrich Schnauss, Wherever We Are

September 1, 2014

In their infinite wisdom, the CPS have sent me a ‘serious and complicated fraud.’ Clearly, they don’t appreciate that I find anything to do with detailed factual analysis of people’s financial doings -incredibly boring, to the extent that I find it almost impossible to sit and read the facts. Over the years I’ve found that […]

Read the full article →

Why The Removal Of Citizenship Is A Dumb Idea

September 1, 2014

Ok, we’re all troubled by the idea that British Subjects/citizens can go off to join the forces of the Islamic State with the intention of waging a jihad that will lead to the imposition of a regime that is brutal and oppressive. But, what is definitely not needed are the type of half-baked, knee-jerk reactions […]

Read the full article →

Cine-East Film Club: The First 50 Presentations

August 31, 2014

With the presentation of Terry Gilliam’s fantastical comedy, The Fisher King dedicated to Robin Williams, the Cine-East Film Club reached its  half century.  When I started the feature a couple of years back (yes, my intention of weekly posts has for one reason or another not lived up to reality) was to provide a regular […]

Read the full article →

Week 35: Hero – MK Dons

August 31, 2014

This week’s heroes are the MK Dons. No one particularly likes the MK Dons, even the fans of the MK Dons are a bit embarrassed to support a team that really only exist because the former owners of Wimbledon FC, fucked over the history and culture of that club and relocated to Milton Keynes. But, […]

Read the full article →

Week 35: Prat – David Cameron

August 31, 2014

This week, our glorious Prime Minister has earned our panel’s Prat of the Week Award According to our Prime Minister, Islamic State are ‘a greater and deeper threat to security than we have ever known’. As George East remarked earlier this week, this is a ridiculously hyperbolic statement that does not bear much examination. My […]

Read the full article →

Week 35: Villain – Shaun Wright

August 31, 2014

This Week’s Villain of the Week is the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, Shaun Williams The sheer scale of sexual abuse of children in care in Rotherham is truly horrifying involving over a thousand of the most vulnerable children as victims and spanning a period of 16 years, from 1997 until as recently […]

Read the full article →

#926: 1967, The Kinks, Autumn Almanac

August 29, 2014

The leaves are already beginning to turn, the days are noticeably shorter and there is a chill in the air. I’ve been lucky enough to be off work for pretty  much the whole ofAugust but will be back at my desk on Monday.   It is the first time in many many years that I am […]

Read the full article →

David Cameron Wags The Dog

August 29, 2014

David Cameron has had a very bad week.  It began with Boris Johnson confirming that he would seek the Conservative nomination for the safe London seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.   Boris would not be bothering to do so unless he thought there were good chance that the Tories will lose the election, so that […]

Read the full article →