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 »
When Annie Pierrepoint is sitting in bed checking the 'accounts', she refers to a "job at Strangeways" for which Albert was not paid. He recalls that the prisoner received a very late reprieve, and Annie indignantly talks of him "going all that way down there for nothing". Strangeways is not "all that way down there". It is in Manchester, the city where the Pierrepoints lived. See more »
This film details the life and career of Albert Pierrepoint, the Lancashire hangman and owner of the pub 'Help the Poor Struggler' from the 1930s through to the 1960s. His profession is in the blood - following in his father's footsteps - but until the war he stayed anonymous, not even discussing matters with his wife.
Timothy Spall does well in the lead, although the historical accuracy is questionable in places. As a character study it works well, but ultimately it is a fairly depressing watch. The quotation at the end makes clear that Pierrepoint did become disillusioned with his quick and dispassionate job, moving from pride in the speed of his work to the feeling that something is inherently wrong with one person causing another's life to end with deliberate calculation.
Pierrepoint is a film which raises a lot of questions, but ultimately treats them in a superficial way. Historical cases well documented such as Evans and Ellis pass by without much note, which depersonalises them and makes their inclusion something of a lost opportunity.
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