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Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman (2005)
"The Last Hangman" (original title)

 -  Biography | Crime | Drama  -  7 April 2006 (UK)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 3,660 users   Metascore: 68/100
Reviews: 42 user | 45 critic | 15 from Metacritic.com

The life and times of Albert Pierrepoint - Britain's most prolific hangman.

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Cavan Clerkin ...
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Woman in Pub
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Keiran Flynn ...
Clive Francis ...
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Frances Shergold ...
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Dorothea Waddingham (as Elizabeth Hopley)
Peter Jonfield ...
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Storyline

Albert Pierrepoint 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 woman to be executed in Britain, public sentiments had changed... and so had Pierrepoint. Written by johnno.r[at]xtra.co.nz

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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1940's England. When the world needed a hero, he gave them what they wanted. But history can be cruel. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for disturbing images, nudity and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

7 April 2006 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,028 (USA) (1 June 2007)

Gross:

$21,766 (USA) (22 June 2007)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 (1985)). 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 »

Goofs

The Hamelin war criminal hangings took place in an execution chamber at the end of a cell corridor within the old prison itself, not in an aircraft hangar. Pierrepoint described this very clearly in his memoirs. See more »

Quotes

Albert Pierrepoint: It's not been easy. I've got things in here too
[points at head]
Albert Pierrepoint: that I'd rather they weren't there. Oh, aye. I can keep them at bay, yeah. But they're waiting for me. Waiting for me to let my guard down. Waiting all the bloody time they are.
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Voices of Spring
Written by Johann Strauß
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User Reviews

 
Spall is mesmerising as Pierrepoint...
8 February 2008 | by (Cyprus) – See all my reviews

Capital punishment in Great Britain was abolished in 1964. Prior to that date there were many Home Office appointed Hangmen, none more prolific than Albert Pierrepoint, who served from 1932 to 1956, during which time he hanged an estimated 433 men and 17 women.

Following his father Henry and uncle, Thomas, into the family 'trade', Pierrepoint became the number one hangman in Britain and his career brought him into contact with many notorious criminals including "Lord Haw-Haw" ("Germany Calling"), real name William Joyce; John George Haigh, the famous "acid bath murderer"; Derek Bentley, still a controversial case and the subject of the 1991 film LET HIM HAVE IT; Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and again the subject of a movie, DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985); gangster, Antonio "Babe" Mancini; Theodore Schurch, the last person to be executed for treason in Britain. Perhaps the most controversial case in Pierrepoint's career was that of Timothy Evans, whose wife and baby daughter had been found murdered at their home at 10 Rillington Place, also the home of one John Reginald Christie. Evans was executed in 1950. Christie was later charged with the murders of seven women and hanged in 1953. Evans was eventually granted a posthumous pardon in 1966. Evans was played harrowingly by John Hurt in the 1971 movie 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, with Richard Attenborough as a chilling Christie (according to John Hurt on the DVD commentary for 10 RILLINGTON PLACE, Pierrepoint himself actually offered his services, under an assumed name, as technical adviser for the hanging scene in that film as the actual method was covered by the Official Secrets Act and, ever the professional, Pierrepoint wanted it re-creating accurately, and nor would he have wished his work to be misrepresented).

Pierrepoint's body of work (if you'll forgive the expression) was greatly affected by World War II, and he worked all over Europe including Germany, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Austria. It is believed that in 1945 he hanged 190 men and 10 women war criminals at Hameln prison in the British controlled sector of Germany, including Irma Greese, Elizabeth Volkenrath, Juana Boreman and the "Beast of Belsen", Josef Kramer. During the war itself he had assisted his uncle Thomas in the execution of 16 American soldiers, condemned by Court Martial for murder and rape, at a military prison in Somerset. The movie carefully portrays Pierrepoint the man, not Pierrepoint the executioner. When he does his work he leaves Albert Pierrepoint outside. He is totally professional: he doesn't care who they are or what they've done, all that matters to him is that they are human beings who have to die and he will achieve that as quickly and humanely as possible. All that matters to him is height, weight and physical condition. He is also portrayed as compassionate. When organising the order of the hanging of the German war criminals he selects a girl, who has just accused him of doing the Jews work for them, to be hanged first. His army assigned assistant agrees as she's an 'arrogant bitch'. 'No,' says Pierrepoint, 'she's the youngest. She'll be the most frightened.' And after the deed he insists that the remains be treated with due reverence: 'They've paid the price. They're innocent now. D'y'see?' The publicity surrounding the Nazi war criminals disturbs Pierrepoint, as people applaud him in the street and buy him drinks in the newly acquired pub owned by himself and his wife. This isn't right to him. What he does, his job, is private, he does not even discuss it with his wife. All this attention isn't right. Also there is now an ever growing movement opposed to capital punishment. To some he is a national hero, to an increasing number of others he is a murderer. He starts to question his role. Timothy Spall, known as a dry, comedic actor on British TV (AUF WIEDERSEHEN, PET) and usually the slimy, slightly dopey, comic villain in movies like HARRY POTTER and LEMONY SNICKETT, is mesmerising as Pierrepoint. He portrays a quiet, gentle man, and one who regards his profession with honour and pride. He is appointed by the Government; he is the best in the land. His is not to question the law or the decisions of the lawmakers; his is to do his duty to the best of his ability. And he does. Only when his own notoriety, the hanging of his friend and the changing mood of the country toward capital punishment creep into the melting pot, does his resolve start to falter, and only when the various prison authorities start haggling over payments for his services, something he sees as an insult to his position as Chief Executioner, does he consider resigning, which of course he finally does. There are a few historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies (such as the main fact that he was not the last executioner. Capital Punishment continued for another eight years after Pierrepoint's resignation) but this is the norm for this kind of movie, and on the whole the film is as accurate as any film covering over 20 years in 90 minutes. The acting is excellent in all quarters, particularly Juliet Stevenson, though Spall leads by a length. The period is very well captured and is a close cousin to VERA DRAKE in this respect. The main thing about this movie is that it lingers with you and makes you want to think and learn more about its subject. With Pierrepoint's 'clients' having played such a large part in cinema history, it's time we had a movie about the man himself. And this is it. Recommended.


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