Albert Pierrepont delivered groceries - and was a hangman. Following in his father's footsteps he quickly became known for his efficiency and compassion, rising to become 'the best in the land'. From early 1933, until the end of his career in 1955, he executed 608 people, including the 'Beasts of Belsen' (war criminals), for which he earned the gratitude of a nation. But by the time he hanged Ruth Ellis, the last women to be executed in Britain, public sentiments had changed....and so had Pierrepont. Written by
Despite the title Pierrepoint was not Britain's last hangman. He retired in the mid 1950s, shortly after executing Ruth Ellis - (see Dance with a Stranger). Britain never had a "last hangman", as the last two executions before suspension of capital punishment were carried out in different cities at the same time. As the last two people executed were both guilty of the murder of John West, it was decided to carry out sentence at the same time in Aug 1964. In Nov 1965, people were still being sentenced to death. See more »
Nowhere in Pierrepoint's autobiography does he mention 'Kirky' or George Cooper. Similarly in the film, there is no presence of Steve Wade, Syd Dernley, or Harry Allen, who were Albert's assistants on many occasions. See more »
I did a lot of jobs in Germany. More than were really good for me. Too many really. I get so bloody tired now...
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It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. The clock strikes nine and the hangman goes to work, getting rid of criminals the old fashioned way. At the end of the day he puts on his cap and heads home to his wife like any other man. But what goes on in the head of an ordinary person who's job it is to kill? This is the question asked by Adrian Shergold, the director of The Last Hangman.
The film follows the true story of the rise of Britain's most prolific executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, and his struggle to be a lead a normal life. Pierrepoint is played by Timothy Spall, most noted for his great supporting roles in Vanilla Sky and The Last Samurai. Spall shines in this film, becoming both a calculating, intense killer and a jolly pub mate. As the film progresses, he literally transforms as his burden becomes greater. Juliet Stevenson plays Annie, Albert's arguably supportive wife. She portrays the guilt and paranoia of an English housewife painfully well. Through her, we see the full story of the couple's social and moral difficulties.
Pierrepoint's only real drive is that of any honest, hard working man. He just wants to be good at what he does. This keeps the audience in a emotionally conflicting state. The viewer desperately wants Albert to resign from his chilling career, while cheering on his incredible success.
The film is very nice to look at. What a feat. One can only imagine the difficulty of shooting a period piece independently. It was very interesting seeing the gritty grey streets of a wartime London recorded on 16. It seemed to give it a charming modern context, though there were jarring out of focus shots here and there. One memorable scene is brilliantly spliced with actual footage of a capital punishment protest.
Aside from the physical shooting of the film, there were strong symbolic devices at use. In order to hang someone efficiently, Pierrepoint would calculate the prisoner's height and weight. To do this he would look through a small peephole in the heavy cell door. Whenever anyone is shown through a crack, or a hole, it's a hint of grizzly foreshadowing. The method of passing time was artfully portrayed as well. Pierrepoint kept a logbook of all the people who he killed, their names written in perfect script. The stack of logbooks got bigger and bigger as years went by.
Films like The Last Hangman are important because they challenge our choices. This story makes us think of what we're responsible for in our lives and careers. Is the success worth the death of your inner self? That decision is up to us. Because the saddest thing about Albert Pierrepoint is that he applied for the job.
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