“You don’t crucify people! Not on Good Friday!”
I’m still in a thriller/gangster mood so tonight it’s the turn of The Long Good Friday (1979). A refreshingly detailed and thoughtful script, great characters and a memorable soundtrack combine to infuse this film with a freshness and vitality that endures to this day. It’s also got a great cast: Bob Hoskins (in his breakthrough role); Helen Mirren; Paul Freeman; Derek Thompson; Eddie Constantine; Pierce Brosnan (in his first film appearance) and a very young Dexter Fletcher (blink and you’ll miss him). It’s even got Jacko from Brushstokes!
Hoskins, unsurprisingly, makes the film his own. The final scene – a tight close-up of his face as his character runs the emotional gamut from anger, defiance, fear, all the way to a calm resignation to his fate – is a bravura performance. He was born to play Harold Shand.
Strangely, despite the films obvious credentials, the company who funded the production (Lew Grade’s ITC) had so little faith in the movie that they hacked out 30 minutes, the biggest victim being the abattoir scene (“I’ve treated you lot well even when you was out of order!”) which was cut in it’s entirety. And, in a decision that must rank as one of the most extraordinary in film history, ITC re-dubbed Hoskins voice with that of an actor from Wolverhampton. Thankfully for the film makers that decision breached Hoskins contract and he threatened libel action. Facing a very public and embarrassing legal battle – amongst others both Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud offered to testify in Hoskin’s defence – ITC washed their hands of the whole affair and sold the film lock, stock and barrel to George Harrison’s HandMade Films for a loss. HandMade reinstated the missing scenes and audio and released the film to great critical and commercial success.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what a black country Harry Shand would have sounded like…
The Long Good Friday at IMDB
The Long Good Friday Blu-ray on Amazon