Newcomer Richardson is Ruth Ellis, peroxided 'hostess' in a Soho drinking club and the last woman to be hanged in Britain for the murder of her upper middle class lover. Not so much star-crossed as class-crossed, the affair has all the charm of fingernails on a blackboard, and it's filmed with a merciless eye for the sort of bad behaviour that Fassbinder made his own. But what the movie captures perfectly is the seedy mood of repression, so characteristic of austerity Britain in the '50s. Richardson gives full rein to the two things that British cinema has hardly ever had the guts to face: sexual obsession and bad manners. And, since this is England, it's the latter that finally sends her to the scaffold. It's shot, designed and acted with an imaginative grasp that puts it straight into the international class. CPea.