Among my many, varied interests, is a liking for true crime stories, and tonight, while battling my usual sleep issues, I caught an interesting film from ITV about a British serial killer from the 1940’s.
John George Haigh
(24 July 1909 – 10 August 1949), commonly known as the Acid Bath Murderer, was an English serial killer in the 1940s. He was convicted for the murder of six people, although he claimed to have killed nine. He used acid to dispose of the bodies after battering them to death or shooting them because he believed it was an undetectable method of destroying their remains. Haigh dissolved corpses in concentrated sulphuric acid before forging papers to be able to sell the victims’ possessions and collect substantial sums of money.
During the investigation, it became apparent that Haigh was using the acid to destroy victims’ bodies because he misunderstood the meaning of the term corpus delicti, and mistakenly believed that, if the bodies could not be found, a murder conviction would not be possible. Despite the absence of his victims’ bodies, there was sufficient forensic evidence for him to be convicted for the murders and subsequently executed.
(source – wikipedia)
A is for Acid
This is a TV movie of better quality than is the average, thanks in large part to a wonderfully subtle performance from Martin Clunes, who plays serial killer John George Haigh with a mixture of polite gentility and almost savage violence that makes it easy to understand how he was able to lure people to their deaths and get away with it for a time.
Having seen Clunes in a number of things over the years I was already aware that he is a good actor, but this is perhaps one of his best performances; he plays Haigh as a softly spoken and polite figure who outwardly gives no sign of the violence that lurks within him.
The writing is decent, as is the period setting, though I can’t speak to the accuracy – my research indicates that few liberties have been taken with events, the problem is mostly that the film is perhaps a little too superficial in some areas, at least for my tastes. I would have liked a bit more time to be taken over the development of the relationships between Haigh and his victims prior to their being killed; these were not sudden murders of brutal violence, but killings that were planned and executed for gain, financial or otherwise.
The cast, like the writing, is good enough for a TV movie, with a nice performance from Keeley Hawes as Haigh’s girlfriend, but it’s Clunes that lifts this and makes it something more than average.
If you like true crime stories, this is one to watch, it’s not fantastic but it is enjoyable.