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‘IIf this guy was walking down the street, you wouldn’t want to talk to him,” says Selina Scott, looking at footage of herself in the heyday of the 80s presentation interviewing Jimmy Savile in her flirtatious fashion. Young Selina masks her discomfort with professional charm and a veneer of bonhomie (“The camera lies,” she now notes) as Savile skates closer and closer to the line between what was then an acceptable joke of a celebrity in the company of a hot blond – an area already generously allocated – and downright scary. He is, as Netflix’s two-part documentary Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story repeatedly shows, the very definition of a predator who lurks in plain sight.

A decade after his death and the investigation – which sadly succeeded rather than preceded the death – into what turned out to be crimes spanning half a century and more than 50 children’s homes, schools and hospitals in across Britain, the story is no less shocking. or confusing. In a way, the meticulous assembly of the Savile phenomenon by documentarians only makes it more so.

The nearly three-hour span is a measured, relentless march of contemporary footage, current interviews with people who worked with or knew him, the investigative reporters who finally uncovered the evidence behind the rumors – the years and the years of rumors – and one of its victims – years and years of victims. He moves chronologically through his career, from early days as a DJ to the crown jewel of the BBC as presenter of Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, and on to a pleasant no -retirement as a national treasure in permanent demand. for television appearances. All of this bolstered, of course, by his constant work to raise millions for charity, including Stoke Mandeville Hospital and other similar institutions. The latter gave him entry into the establishment and friendships with everyone from then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who admired his dynamic spirit, to Prince Charles, who saw him as a conduit to the worker and spent years in correspondence with him. seek advice on public relations and how best to use the influence of royalty for the good of under-recognized services. This, indeed, made him invincible.

Rumors of his true predilections abounded, but there was never any proof. Reporter Meirion Jones eventually found victims willing to testify, despite their continued vulnerability, but his Newsnight investigation into the then-deceased Savile’s rape and abuse of countless children and adults was notoriously withdrawn at the last minute, apparently to save the BBC embarrassment.

Savile himself seemed almost unable to believe his luck and couldn’t help pushing her. Or maybe it was the Catholic in him who couldn’t resist the urge to go to confession. He frequently “joked” about the dark forces that secretly drove him, or the sins he hoped his fundraiser would undo at the Pearly Gates, or how “my case is coming next Thursday!” How Parkinson, Bragg, Bough and countless other interviewers laughed. In an extraordinary moment, a reporter who spends a week with him as he travels the country for charity asks if running is a way to punish himself. “No,” Savile replies, devoid of his usual tics and catchphrases. “The only time you need to punish yourself is when you’re around young girls…because you’re so mean and you’re not nice to them and you hug them and make them say ‘Ouch!’ and things like that.” He stuns the viewer some 30 years later, just like his companion.

A British Horror Story passes relatively lightly on the possible causes of Savile’s depravity. In a way that’s fair enough – that would still be speculative – but it doesn’t dwell on his deeply close and odd relationship with his mother (although it does show Andrew Neil asking him why he sat with his body for five days after his death), which, while not explanatory, is surely revealing to some extent.

It also omits any mention of claims regarding his necrophilia: perhaps for legal reasons, perhaps to make the program more palatable to Netflix’s international audience, perhaps so as not to strain viewers’ credulity as to to our own credulity towards the man who, in the words of the police investigator, “cured a nation”.

It does, however, give space, dignity and the last word to one of his victims: Sam Brown, whom he repeatedly abused at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It provides a wealth of horrifying details that the creators have carefully incorporated without sensationalism but which bring home the absolute and unfathomable human misery that it has spread, without control.

Savile believed in hell and often spoke – without naming his debits – of his hope that his charity work would balance the books. Never. Hope hell exists.

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