Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman
I think this will fit just nicely … now that’s gallows humor.

Golden Mug

Actor (Timothy Spall)

Theatrical Release Date: 04/07/2006 (UK), 06/01/2007 (USA)
Director: Adrian Shergold
Cast: Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Eddie Marsan

You often hear about how a person follows the footsteps of their family and becomes a doctor, a lawyer or a police officer.

Rarely do you hear about the great family tradition of being an executioner.

However, that’s exactly how Albert Pierrepoint came to choose his profession. In “Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman”, director Adrian Shergold tells his story from the beginning of his work to the end.

It’s a fascinating true story, though how much is completely accurate I have no real idea.

What is certain though is that Albert Pierrepoint was so well regarded at his job that he was the man tapped to execute the Nazi war criminals found guilty at Nuremberg. All I’ve ever been recognized for is my sharp wit and the ability to drive for 36 hours straight (which I don’t recommend).

Timothy Spall, who plays Pierrepoint, is simply marvelous. The character required a great amount of subtext to be conveyed, as he was a reserved man who always tried to keep work separate from the rest of his life and those around him.

Seeing Pierrepoint coolly and calmly go about his business was chilling – matched only by the film’s depiction of him as a man of very strong moral fiber. He took great care to treat the executed individuals with respect and dignity, having felt they paid for their crimes and were now innocent in the eyes of God.

Equally as impressive in her role is Juliet Stevenson. As the wife of a man who kills people for a living, so to speak, her own burden was quite heavy and she bears it with that famous stiff upper lip the British are equated with.

Perhaps my only problem with the film isn’t so much a problem with the film but with the people depicted as being opposed to capital punishment. They yell and throw things at Pierrepoint after executions and accuse him of being a murderer.

While he may have thrown the final lever, he had nothing to do with placing the person on death row. I feel it is too simplistic to blame him.

The argument that if everyone refused to do it, people wouldn’t be executed doesn’t wash too well either, as there will always be someone in the human race capable of pulling a lever – even knowing that a person’s life will be extinguished as a result.

Getting into a debate on capital punishment is the last thing I want to do right now, having just watched “After Innocence“, so I’ll just leave it at that.

This film is expertly made and tells a story we don’t often get to hear. Usually, you get either the victim’s or perpetrator’s side of the story – Hell, even “The Green Mile” told the story of the death row guards. The hangman is rarely given their fair shake in the whole process.

I’m glad to see someone rectify that and I’m giving “Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman” a 4 out of 5. There are some truly chilling moments and Spall’s performance is up there with the very best of the year.