Did we like it?
This C4 dramatisation was everything that was good about television. An interesting but controversial subject, sensitively handled, with superb performances from the four principal actors and excellent back-up from the supporting cast. It shed new light on Lord Longford, the anti porn-campaigner and high-profile prison visitor, and gave some depth to the dotty old buffoon portrayed in the tabloids. Obviously, the film focused mainly on his work with Myra Hindley. Motivated solely by his Catholic beliefs and a desire to see the good in everyone, you had to admire his well-meaning principles, if despair at his frequent naivety.
What was good about it?
• As Longford, Jim Broadbent was superb. In a tribute to both his and the make-up artists performances, he was a dead ringer for the real-life peer. Vocal inflections, movement and general demeanour were all wonderfully captured. A Bafta nomination awaits.
• There was excellent use made of the new familiar device of reports (David Frost) and interviews (Mary Anne Downey’s mother) from the time, combined with Broadbent’s performance, giving some parts of the film an almost documentary feel.
• As Longford sat in the Holloway waiting room while the prisoners’ names were called and their visitors escorted through, the general hubbub was reduced to silence as everyone in the room looked expectantly to see who on earth could be visiting Hindley.
• As in ITV’s Moors Murders film, See No Evil, the difficult roles of Hindley and Ian Brady were superbly performed by Samantha Morton and Andy Serkis. Morton was excellent, going from the initially contrite new prisoner to cold-hearted manipulator of Longford as Brady revealed more details when he suspected she might get parole. And despite having only half a dozen minutes of screen time, Serkis chilled the blood as the intelligent, sadistic Brady, taunting Longford about being ‘Myra’s lackey’. The use of full-face shots while he was talking meant you could not look away from his soulless eyes.
• Lindsay Duncan was also excellent as Lady Longford – initially disapproving but eventually supportive campaigner.
• Lady Longford’s first visit to see Hindley in Durham’s mixed prison. From her look of faint disgust at being searched, to her horror of seeing the effects of the ‘liquid cosh’ on the clearly drugged up Myra.
• The crushed look of betrayal on Lord Longford’s face when Hindley admits she lied to him about her part in the murders, and when she coolly tells him that his support has hindered rather than helped her campaign and she no longer wants him to visit her.
• The look of revulsion as Longford finally listens to the anonymous tape sent to him which contains the recording of Brady and Hindley torturing their victims.
What was bad about it?