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The Last Hangman (2005) Online

The Last Hangman (2005) Online
Original Title :
The Last Hangman
Genre :
Movie / Biography / Crime / Drama / History
Year :
Directror :
Adrian Shergold
Cast :
Timothy Spall,Juliet Stevenson,Eddie Marsan
Writer :
Bob Mills,Jeff Pope
Type :
Time :
1h 30min
Rating :

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

The Last Hangman (2005) Online

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.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Ann Bell Ann Bell - Violet Van Der Elst
Simon Armstrong Simon Armstrong - Minister
Nicholas Blane Nicholas Blane - Governor of Strangeways
Clive Brunt Clive Brunt - Warder at Strangeways
Cavan Clerkin Cavan Clerkin - George Cooper
James Corden James Corden - Kirky
Marie Critchley Marie Critchley - Woman in Pub
Neil Fitzmaurice Neil Fitzmaurice - Cliff the Scouser
Keiran Flynn Keiran Flynn - Neville
Clive Francis Clive Francis - Field Marshall Montgomery
Christopher Fulford Christopher Fulford - Sykes
Frances Shergold Frances Shergold - Alice
Lizzie Hopley Lizzie Hopley - Dorothea Waddingham (as Elizabeth Hopley)
Peter Jonfield Peter Jonfield - Mr. Andrews
Bernard Kay Bernard Kay - Uncle Tom

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.

As per the promo material, and the DVD insert, this film is "based on a true story," however, it might be more appropriate to describe the film as "based on true events," since the story is rather liberal with the actual facts of Pierrepont's, and other character's lives and circumstances. Big picture, true, small picture, not terribly accurate or precise.

User reviews



I saw this film at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. Between 1933 and 1955, Albert Pierrepoint was Britain's Chief Executioner, responsible for more than 600 hangings. Timothy Spall gives a devastating performance as a decent man engaged in the loneliest of professions. The title is somewhat misleading. Hangings were carried out until 1964, but Pierrepoint was the last man to hold the official office of Chief Executioner.

As the film begins, Pierrepoint is proud to be offered a job as a hangman, following in his father's and uncle's footsteps. Since he's only needed every few months, he maintains his job as a grocer's deliveryman and keeps his moonlighting a secret from his friends and even his wife (Juliet Stevenson). He is very good at his new profession, and is determined to complete each job as quickly and humanely as possible. It's a bit odd seeing him trying to shave seconds off the time required for each execution, much like a professional athlete trying for a world record. That is, until you realize that his desire is for the prisoner to have as little time as possible to be afraid. After each execution, it falls to Pierrepoint to cut down the body and prepare it for burial, and it's touching to see the tenderness he displays. After the execution of one woman, he tells his assistant, "She's paid the price, now she's innocent."

Pierrepoint's reputation grows and after the war, he's flown to Germany by the British Army and placed in charge of executing scores of Nazi war criminals. As a result, his secret is leaked to the press, who now broadcast his identity as the finest hangman in the land. With his earnings from these jobs, he and his wife decide to open a pub(!), which does a booming business, thanks in part to his notoriety.

But the job begins to take a terrible toll. Even after he tells his wife about his second profession, she doesn't want to hear about it. Nobody really wants to hear about it. When protesters start demonstrating against capital punishment, Pierrepoint finds himself the target of their ire. Doubts begin to creep in to destroy his previously unshakable faith in what he does. By the mid-1950s, Albert Pierrepoint resigns his position (ostensibly over unpaid fees) and completely reverses his own position on capital punishment, though he initially keeps his opinions to himself. In his 1974 autobiography, however, he finally confesses that the whole experience had left a bitter aftertaste for him and that he felt that capital punishment had "achieved nothing but revenge."

Though this is a fairly standard biopic and "issue film," the performances of Juliet Stevenson and especially Timothy Spall are remarkable. Pierrepoint's determination to remain detached takes a terrible toll on his life and is bound to fail eventually. The obvious conclusion is that killing corrodes our humanity, whether the killer is a murderer or an executioner on the state's payroll.


Albert Pierrepoint was Britain's most prolific executioner, overseeing the hanging of more than 600 condemned men and women including Derek Bentley, Ruth Ellis and Lord Haw Haw. Adrian Shergold's film starring Timothy Spall in the title role is a dark period piece exploring the stark relationship between compassion and work ethic.

Pierrepoint approaches his grisly duties with pride, professionalism and a stoical detachment – a third generation hangman, he is well accustomed to checking his personal life at the prison gate while he gets on with the job at hand.

But duty and morality are constantly battling in the back of his mind - a struggle neatly illustrated when he is seconded to Germany after the War and tasked with dispatching Nazi war criminals. His clinical work here is deliberately and uncomfortably linked to the crimes of the Nazis who gassed their Holocaust victims with the same brutal precision.

Back in England, as liberalism begins to take hold and high-profile executions enrage a population bubbling with discontent, Pierrepoint's reputation in the eyes of the public slides swiftly and irretrievably from British war hero to callous murderer – a bewildering descent perfectly captured by Spall's mesmerising performance. Juliet Stevenson is not bad either as Pierrepoint's loyal wife gradually embittered by years of turning the other cheek at her husband's double life.

The film celebrates dignity and humanity but is laced with a uniquely British attitude evocative of Vera Drake and The Remains of the Day. Like these earlier social dramas, Pierrepoint culminates memorably in a momentary quivering of its previously resolute stiff upper lip.


I booked this independent little British film to show at Coalville's Century Theatre, on the Non-Theatrical circuit. Titled "Pierrepoint" here in the UK, this is a case of another quality British film being routinely ignored by the multiplexes in favour of the usual fodder presented for the masses. I was confident my regular audience would be interested by this true story of mass executioner Albert Pierrepont who really was 'a household name' in the 50s and 60s. In actual fact, Mr Pierrepoint was NOT 'the last hangman' in the UK. It really is a remarkably entertaining picture considering the obviously dour storyline, much aided by the portrayal of charismatic star Timothy Spall, who can be relied upon to always give an interesting and engrossing performance. Mr Spall is no matinée idol lead but not many would argue he is one of the most popular actors in Britain today. The film explains how Albert followed in the same 'career' of his father and Uncle Tom (who is briefly portrayed in the film), and interestingly reveals the technical side of his skillful and efficient methods for a successful result! Along the way, Albert is seen with Field Marshal Montgomery, who personally recommended Pierrepoint to carry out the Nuremburg executions, as well as other familiar people such as Timothy Evans, Derek Bentley and Ruth Ellis, all of whose cases fed the argument for the abolition of capital punishment. In the film, much dramatic use is made of Pierrepoint's execution of his friend, 'Tish', who often sang duets with Albert in the latter's pub. This really is true, very much a case of stranger than fiction. This film is strangely entertaining, never dull, although I noted some of the female members of my audience were regularly looking downwards whenever a hanging was shown. However, afterwards, there many favourable comments about this film and we were still talking about it at the post show drink in the pub afterwards! Obviously achieved on a very restricted budget, but a film to be recommended.


The Last Hangman Review

Mike Reynolds

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.


Pierrepoint is one of those films you go to see having no idea what to expect, which makes the film's masterful performances and brilliantly dark style all the more intriguing to watch. The performances of Spall and Stevenson are undoubtedly the best part of this film. Spall's portrayal of his character's struggle to remain detached from his work after losing his anonymity is definitely his strongest performance to date and Stevenson conveys the dynamics of their marriage beautifully. These performances make the film entirely believable throughout, particularly in the grizzly execution scenes. These scenes are shot in a brutally uncompromising way, a style which seems to reflect the nature of capital punishment itself.

The film manages to convey its anti capital punishment message effectively and in a rather more restrained way than other recent "issue films". Where films such as Crash and Brokeback Mountain are inclined to blare out their loud and rather unsubtle themes, Pierrepoint takes a quieter, more objective viewpoint, leaving the audience to make up their own minds. I have consequently heard this film criticised for not taking a strong enough stand against capital punishment. However, this objective and uncoloured account of the executions seems to appropriately reflect the cold and indifferent mood that dominates the first half of the film.

In short, Pierrepoint is a brilliantly performed, wonderfully dark film that is probably one of the best things to come out of British cinema in the last decade.


When documenting a true story, criticism is often levied at the film-makers for condensing and twisting true-life events to suit their needs. That may well be the case. Unless the viewer has read first hand accounts of such true-life stories, then the film versions of these events appear stilted and fanciful.

Albert Pierrepoint's story has been well documented in not only his autobiography but by numerous historians and writers. With key events in the film being followed as closely as possible, it must have been nigh on impossible to keep everyone happy. Casting for this film must have been quite an exciting process. With people like Timothy Spall in the lead role, he showed all the care and attention that Pierrepoint was famous for. His wife, played by Juliet Stephenson, was a highly touching character. Although Mrs Pierrepoint never stood out in the original autobiography, Stephenson brings us a strong yet gentile woman, the driving force behind The Hangman. Eddie Marsan's portrayal as 'Tish' was casting at it's best.

A supporting cast of physically interesting character actors blended with superb lighting and set design, make a highly enjoyable and thought provoking film about the rights and wrongs of capital punishment.

The fact that the makers of 'The Last Hangman' managed to cram a fascinating life-long career into 90 minutes must serve as a tribute to their skill and craftsmanship.


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.


I saw this DVD twice and read all the other user comments of this recent film before I considered I was ready to write my opinion on IMDb.com.

Capital punishment in the UK was abolished in 1965 and since then it has remained a controversial topic on which MPs have been given a free vote in the House (no whips office involved) and it has consistently been voted down by MPs ever since.The arguments for capital punishment range from "an eye for an eye"; why must the State keep killers alive at the public expense; as an example to other malefactors; to provide revenge for the bereaved families of the murder victim.I suppose the most controversial case cited for reimposing the death penalty stemmed from the Moors Murderers case from 1966, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley who died in custody.Even though they could not judicially be hanged, no Home Secretary since then has considered it politic to release or commute their sentence because of the expected public and media fury.Of course today in Britain killers are routinely sentenced "to life imprisonment" which depending on the circumstances, does not necessarily mean the killer's whole life.

Against this argument is the Christian doctrine of forgiveness and whether the State is executing an innocent man e.g.Timothy Evans (hanged by Pierrepont) instead of John Reginald Halliday Christie for the murder of Evans' baby daughter.

Albert Pierrepoint was certainly not "The Last Hangman" in the UK as I believe he resigned shortly after executing Ruth Ellis in 1955 after a continuous career as Chief hangman stretching from 1933 and as I said above. killers were hanged in the UK right up to 1964.In his 1974 auto- biography he turned against capital punishment with distaste as he considered it was merely the State exacting revenge and solved nothing.Considering he executed 608 murderers we must respect his opinions.I suspect those that advocate execution would not like to do the act personally as long as there is someone else to do it and bear the crushing guilt on their conscience.

Juliet Stevenson gives a marvellously understated performance as Anne Pierrepoint, Albert's wife and provides the home life and comfort to her husband.She is also the business brains in the marriage.We see the chilling, technical efficiency and speed which convinced the Allied powers in 1946 that a British hangman was the best for dispatching the many Nazi war criminals sentenced to death at Nuremburg.Albert was informed by the brigadier that the first batch to be hanged in a day was 13 with many more to come.Albert did not want to know what evil the condemned had done and tried to ensure he kept himself personally and professionally detached when performing his duties for the State.He even had a sense of compassion for the condemned by trying to complete the hanging in less time than his father's average of 13 seconds to reduce the fear and suffering in them.In one notable case he was done in 7 1/2 seconds.Likewise at Nuremburg he decided to hang the condemned female Belsen guards first with the youngest going first as she would be the most frightened.

To my knowledge this is the first film which accurately shows the technical method of hanging that was used in British prisons.It was ignorance by film producers of this that made their films unconvincing when showing a hanging scene as hangmen were advised to keep their methods entirely secret from the public.

All credit must go to Timothy Spall in the central pivotal role and the whole production team in evoking capital punishment in a Britain between 1932- 1955.


I'd just been through a run of watching many poorly made, uninspiring and disappointing films in the last year, then luckily I saw this film Pierrepoint aka The Last Hangman which restored my faith in cinema.

Like all excellent films, it a simple story, expertly performed by a very strong cast. The other great element of a quality film is that it can be interpreted in many different ways by its viewers.

It shouldn't be explained as a portrayal of a man who hanged people although that is exactly what he did, what made him famous and what he will be remembered for.

For me Pierrepoint is more about working life. The job was always going to be a vocation as his father had been a hangman before him and he wanted to live up to a man he admired. We see the ends that he goes to, to be the best in his chosen field and I must admit I thought this was shown brilliantly; his care, his attention to the task, his desire to see the job done right. In the period of time that this story is set your job was something you took pride in not something you exploited to get better money and benefits while doing as little effort as possible.

It is impossible to be completely accurate when making a biographical film as you are condensing a persons lifetime into a couple of hours of screen time so therefore the director, writers, editor and producers need to shorten, edit and take a certain amount of artistic license.

Fortunately I knew nothing about Albert Pierrepoint before I watched this film so I didn't know what had been left in and left out of this account of his life, since then I talked to my father who knew many things about the man as he had lived and worked in London just after hanging was abolished and had seen Pierrepoint interviewed. He told me about a few things that weren't shown in the film, things that would have given my father an opinion about what type of person this famous hangman was. I've asked my father to see the film as I want to know how the celluloid depiction compares to his memories of the real man; even if he believes it to be inaccurate I'll still watch it again.

It is a dark, sad film which wouldn't be a great date movie but maybe a film you should watch the next time you have a bad day at work.


A wonderful, understated movie. Very British in style and with excellent acting.

Timothy Spall gives a wonderful serious performance as the thorough dedicated unquestioning professional whose value system is entirely interwoven with the mechanics of his arcane job. He never questions the rights and wrongs of his task: other people have decided whether his victims live or die-- he merely executes their verdicts with as much dignity and professionalism as he can.

There is no vengeance or remorse for his victims. He will not engage in debates or recriminations about either those whose guilt was famously in doubt, or those whose crimes were breathtaking in their depravity. All deserve a speedy painless death and a decent burial.

The highlight of the film is when he has to confront in the condemned cell a regular at his bar whom he knows only by nickname and does not realise his identity until he has to 'size him up' for the drop. This scene is beautifully and believably acted and is extremely convincing. The incident is very true and is portrayed almost exactly as Pierrepoint described it in his memoirs.

With capital punishment now discontinued in most civilised countries we are unlikely to see the likes of Pierrepoint again. He is portrayed as a man of his time. Loyal, obedient, trusting of his place in society and determined to uphold the status quo as he sees it. Which includes dispatching those who, rightly or wrongly, fell on the wrong side of it.

The moment of crisis in the film forces him to confront the fact that the line between guilt and innocents is sometimes a thin one indeed.


An excellent movie to watch but there could have been more true facts on the people that he hung. One in particular comes to mind and that is Dorothea Waddingham (nurse).Pierrepoint did not execute Waddingham,he was the assistant to his uncle for this particular execution.

Quite a lot of what they call artistic licence in the film but an excellent movie all the same. Also in the movie i noticed that the metal eyelet of the rope always finished at the back of the condemned persons neck ,where it should have finished at the front under the chin to be factually correct.

In the movie as well they made out that Pierrepoint was in fact very close friends with James Henry Corbitt (tish & tosh).This was not so as he was a regular in Pierrepoints pub and they would sing together nothing more.


Other writers have outlined what this film is about - Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's last hangman - so I shan't repeat a synopsis. The subject matter of the film is very dark, but what humanises it are the great performances from Juliet Stevenson and especially Tim Spall. The 8 is for the quality of the acting and the film is well worth seeking out for this alone.

I've not seen many reviews of the film so I hope you will forgive me if I post details of one:


You can also view a clip alongside the review

Hope this helps


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.


I sometimes wonder why mostly older films are being hailed as the "best film ever made". Citizen Kane, the Godfather Trilogy, and so on. But why can't a fairly contemporary film be the best one ever made? I believe that a contemporary work can be just as good as the great classics - simply because the cinema industry must inevitably have evolved during the many decades since its inception. If you look at many older films that are considered to be very great, you can see that the quality of the work is not good enough to really engage modern viewers. For example the TV-film "The Bunker" features a miscast Anthony Hopkins as Adolf Hitler, some poor acting at places, unrealistic sets and shoddy craftsmanship through the entire thing. This is probably not due to any incompetence on the behalf of the film makers or the actors, but rather a result of time and money issues. Yet this TV film has only a 0.1 lesser rating on IMDb than "The Last Hangman." It seems to me that contemporary films that are actually not that good are often over rated because of massive budgets, distribution networks and incredibly skilled marketing. One example is the film "Avatar", which suffers from a horrible script that simply doesn't make sense. It truly does deserve the epithet "Dances With Smurfs" and will probably be destined for future oblivion. According to me, Avatar is the epithet of a brain dead popcorn movie that simply doesn't summon up any meaningful emotions. A good example of this is "La guerre du feu" of 1981 - a (probably) horribly over-budgeted and over-marketed disaster that features some very strange and poor acting. This film has the exact same rating on IMDb as "The Last Hangman". But who remembers it today? I dare you to watch this film without starting to laugh at the Neanderthal people. And I don't really think that is the effect that the director was after...

In contrast, "The Last Hangman" is a superbly directed and acted film that simply knocks out all of its competition. It features Timothy Spall, who stands out as one of the greatest actors of his generation. I should warn you that this may not be an easy movie to watch. The scene where the character Pierrepoint tells his wife about hanging his friend Tish left me completely devastated. But I believe that this film is a very strong argument against the death penalty. Perhaps Pierrepoint realizes, at the end, that you can kill people - but you can't un-kill them.


What a striking film. Realistic with every sentiment being portrayed by this fabulous cast. Personally I can watch this type film again and again. Not the brutality of capital punishment but " to the bone " British drama that no other film industry country can touch. A chilling round of applause goes to Timothy Spall. What a versatile actor from ultimate comedy to this role as Albert Pierrepoint. The intense portrayal of Pierrepoints wife played by Juliet Stevenson was played so classically. There was a great moment in this film when Pierrepiont hanged his friend "Tish" played by Eddie marsan. The strong powerful bond between these to guys came bouncing through the screen. I really enjoyed this film and I only discovered it by chance in the weekly section of the video library. I love British Drama.


This is a grim yet utterly riveting film about the infamous executioner and hangman, Albert Pierrepoint. Timothy Spall delivers a compelling and outstanding performance and a surprisingly complex executioner, in surely his finest ever performance. The delightful and enchanting Juliet Stevenson is perfect as Pierrepoint's wife, Annie.

Like his earlier Danielle Cable: Eyewitness (2003), the Granada TV director Adrian Shergold has surpassed himself in his favourite genre of crime. This offering was filmed at Ealing Studios, of all places.

Pierrepoint is a fruit and veg delivery man in the humble, northern English streets of Rochdale, normally, except when he gets the call to go and hang someone, usually in London or HMP Strangeways in Manchester. He is unsurpassed as a technician of death, perfectly estimating the length of rope, etc., depending on the height and build of the person to be executed. You could call him the L S Lowry of killers, an ordinary man with a certain skill when it comes to looking at and handling other people.

He begins as a sort of trainee - who would be the instructor is this line of work? - yet sees each of his peers fade once confronted with the absolute horror of their new job, leaving him the consummate professional, always on hand when the Home Office needs a job done. For Pierrepoint, it is a vocation.

Pierrepoint always takes a deep professional pride in his work, seeing the condemned person as deserving of dignity and respect in death, no matter what their deeds in life. This creates a strange paradox, as he is forced to be clinical and brutal in helping that person to their end. However, given his professional expertise, that end is much quicker and more comfortable than other executioners and methods.

So, after 13 years in the job - merely half way through his career, which saw him hang an incredible 608 people (including the innocent Timothy Evans, and also Ruth Ellis, amongst others) - Pierrepoint is called upon to be the official British hangman at the Nuremberg Tribunals in the aftermath of World War Two. This is where he has to dispatch truly monstrous and evil people; extermination camp guards and the like. This is also where, for me, the film steps up a level.

In Nuremberg, Pierrepoint has to dispatch up to ten war criminals a day. It is a massive job on a scale for which he did not go prepared.

The British army have constructed a scaffold above ground – unlike the usual discreet prison cell and trap-door gallows – and the guilty are to go by the couple, side-by-side. And this is all to take place in one enormous, cavernous – and very apt, if you excuse the pun – aircraft hanger. The British have created a vast cathedral of hanging, the scaffold as its pulpit and Pierrepoint as its archbishop of retribution.

Nevertheless, Pierrepoint performs his dreadful task with professional brilliance, at great pains to insist on the dignity of the guilty once dead; he is horrified when some are expected to be disposed of without even a wooden coffin: 'No, that's not right', exclaims Spall, the epitome of northern disdain.

For me, the shot of the film – the true emblematic, classy shot that shows the difference between Pierrepoint and everyone else, not least his assistant (a military attaché) sitting beside him as they relax with a cigarette after yet another execution – takes place in this hanger, the cathedral of execution, the height of Pierrepoint's career.

In a close shot, Pierrepoint and his military assistant sit at either end of a table, enjoying a smoke. The military man attempts a philosophical discussion of the magnitude of what they've done. Pierrepoint has no comprehension at all, separated as he is from his assistant by the contents of the rest of the screen – the scaffold in the background, deserted after a day's work.

Pierrepoint was a lonely man yet had a typically northern showman's instinct; with his friend Tish, they perform a Flanagan and Allen style musical medley in the pub. Tish is his only friend in the world, probably more so than his wife.

The most touching scene of the film is at the end when Pierrepoint has to execute James 'Tish' Corbitt (he never knew his true name until then).


2005 Toronto Film Report Off I head to the Varsity for the first time this festival. Movie: "The Last Hangman".

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

Always feel comfortable picking films from the United Kingdom. If it has made it to the film festival, and it is UK produced, it will be good. At least that is what I have found over the years at the festival.

Now this project was originally a made for Granada TV in the UK. Not 100% sure if it has aired yet on television over in the UK. This is a very well made, well acted movie. The Director and actor "Timothy Spall" was there for the interesting Q/A session. Basically the story follows the Hangman 'Pierrepoint' (following in this father's foot prints) over his career as Britain's 'Best" executioner. How does this job affect him, and even more interesting how it affects everyone around him.

The most unlikely plot twist was to my amazement completely true. The filmmakers try to be as accurate as possible; there was no need to make anything up, the true story itself in interesting enough. The trip 'Pierrepoint' took to Germany after the war was particularly well done.

The Q/A raised the obvious questions on the Death Penalty, and the producers' feelings on that subject. There is a brief scene of 'Pierrepoint' cleaning up a 'lady' afterwords, it included some full frontal nudity. A lady in the audience asked why that was shown, and not a guy in the same position. In the attempt to be accurate as possible the director stated that when a woman is hanged there are "biological" differences that need special attention. He did not want to go into specifics, which was just fine with this blogger.

Great Film, but the subject material is dark, 'Pierrepoint' is shown at work for most of the film, which will put some people off.

I knew before watch the movie that it was originally made for TV. There is a lot of quality material that hits the airwaves. Watching a movie on to the Big Screen certainly adds to the experience of any movie. Now what if you watched some of the best "The Sopranos" episodes on the big screen? What about "Six Feet Under" or what ever your favorite drama program is. This is good, but do you need to throw your $10 down to see it in the theater? If the idea of seeing quality TV on the big screen is appealing to you, then the answer is most certainly yes.

My Rating = B


PIERREPOINT: THE LAST HANGMAN is one of those films that emerges from the cracks in the theater 'failures' only to find its poignant message when released on DVD. Granted, the idea of a story based on England's most famous executioner doesn't immediately catch the interest of the general audience, but for those fortunate enough to either rent or buy this DVD, the rewards are plentiful. It is a little masterpiece of writing, acting, directing and production values.

Albert Pierrepoint was the third man in his family to 'ascend' to the list of executioners (capital punishment in England at the time was by hanging), and when he is accepted to the list in 1932 he begins what became the longest and most prolific career of British executioners. He took enormous pride in his work, assuring his peers as well as his 'victims' that every aspect of his job was done with obsessive professionalism: his timing of his duties was the shortest on record, meaning that from the moment he opened the door to the condemned prisoner's room through the hooding and noose placement and tripping of the platform and subsequent death of the 'criminal', he spared suffering as much as was feasible. He was supported by a wife who kept the secret of her husband's anonymous role and it was only when the Pierrepoint's pride in his job became known that downfall of their lives is threatened. At times adored by the public for his assignment to hand the Nazi criminals and the famous murderers and eventually the target of the anti capital punishment activists, Pierrepoint's professionalism sustained him until a final tragic assignment changed his view of his job.

Timothy Spall is splendid as Pierrepoint, capturing all of the nuances of the simple, honest man's pride as well as his Achilles' heel. Juliet Stevenson turns in yet another understated and completely realized role as Pierrepoint's wife. Director Adrian Shergold, using a script written by Bob Mills and Jeff Pope, paces the film sensitively, drawing on the atrocious duties involved in the job of executioner (they actually had to prepare the bodies of the dead victims for the morticians!) along with the moments of pub frivolity to allow the audience to understand the true person Timothy Spall absorbs in his portrayal of Pierrepoint. The sets and lighting and cinematography could not be better. This is a film to view and absorb and appreciate the superior quality of acting of Spall and Stevenson. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp


The film suggests that Albert Pierrepoint (AP) was offered an execution shortly after he completed training, but was disappointed that he was only offered the position of assistant.

In fact, AP served 9 years as an assistant before being offered a position as No 1 (Autobiography, "Executioner Pierrepoint") Although, in his autobiography, AP mentions "Sid Collins" nervousness, it is clear that Collins carried out the execution himself, giving AP half of the executioners fee in return for calculating the length of drop, contrary to the impression given in the film that Collins "flunked it", handing over responsibility for the entire hanging to AP.

Although it may be irrelevant, all contemporary references to the hanged poisoner Dorothea Waddingham refer to her extreme ugliness, in contrast to the benign characterisation made of her in the film.


I too queried the showing of a full frontal naked female in this film, and wondered why the same could not have been shown as a bare chested male, after all it was supposed to be showing the cleaning and preparing of the corpse for the post Mortem and subsequent burial.

Later I have become to believe that it was a deliberate decision by the film makers, not for lascivious reasons, but to shock the audience that a fit and healthy woman of childbearing age would be executed too - executing a woman is somehow more shocking than the execution of a male.

This is a brilliant if disturbing film, one that I couldn't get out of my head for quite a while after seeing it (both times) and as someone else has said, very succinctly, a feel good film? - No but a film that certainly makes you feel.

All credit to Timothy Spall for a marvellous portrayal and splendid acting performance.


In tracing the career of Britain's most prolific executioner of the modern-era director Adrian Shergold has adopted a most restrained approach to his subject. This, to some extent, works to the film's advantage, as it reflects Albert Pierrepoint's controlled detachment – the separation of his public and professional lives. It also allows Tim Spall - a very subtle and capable actor, often wasted on comedy roles – to reveal, inch by inch, the hangman's gradual disenchantment with the role he served. A curious character, Pierrepoint followed his father into this particular line of work, and competed with other executioners to break records of swift and efficient despatch – yet insisted, irrespective of the crimes committed, that those sentenced to die at his hand be killed with the minimum of pain and anxiety, and treated respectfully after death. Spall captures this contradictory personality excellently. The downside of this directorial restraint, however, is that the first half of the film drags a little, and Spall's ultimate expression of confusion and regret at executing a former friend – thus making the job personal, and crossing the public/private divide he'd set himself – jars a little. Juliet Stevenson, as the hangman's wife, gives good support, as does Eddie Marsan as Pierrepoint's pathetic love-lorn friend, Tish.

Jeff Pope's script is spare, but effective, and a vast improvement on his work on TV's 'Northern Lights' and the atrocious 'Essex Boys' (2000)


I found this film to be just fascinating. A family of executioners. How did he do it? The people who loved them. How it affected them. How professional he was and how respectful he was. How he did it as quickly as possible out of compassion for the convicted. He felt that he was providing a service for those who were convicted. He felt that as soon as the convicted had died, that they had then paid for their sins and were then sinless. His respect for the deceased and convicted. I loved it. It is all set in England in the 1930s. Albert is actually the son of a professional executioner and then decided that it was also his calling. A true story. I loved it.


Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter), Eddie Marsan, and Juliet Stevenson star in a film about a man (Spall) who follows in his father's footsteps to become the best hangman in England.

What strikes you first is the detachment with which he does his job. He does not become personally involved, just do it quick and professional.

Outside the job, he is a grocer, and a character that would never be connected with being a hangman: he sings and dances, and enjoys comedies.

After he was chosen to execute 47 German prisoners of war, he changed. His identity became known, and he became the target of those who wished to abolish the death penalty.

His calm composure starts to unravel little by little.

His last two shown were the tipping point.

Spall was outstanding in this film, and had great support from Marsan and Stevenson. It was an intelligent and captivating drama.


"Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman" is a very well-directed and produced film that tries to delve into the character / psyche of Britain's most famous (although definitely not the last) hangman of the 20th century, Albert Pierrepoint, one who carries on the family tradition with great aplomb ! The performance by Timothy Spall in the lead role was brilliant. Spall succeeds in portraying a very positive image of Pierrepoint, a man of high personal values who adheres to a high code of conduct. The movie is based on Albert Pierrepoint's biography and conveys him as the "quintessential professional", who has a (rather unpleasant)job to do and is hell-bent on doing it to the very best of his abilities. The performances by Juliet Stevenson (as Pierrepoint's supportive but troubled wife) and Marsden (as his pub mate, "Tish") are also noteworthy.

Throughout his more than two decades long "successful career",Pierrepont goes about his job with a high sense of professional detachment. He is not at all interested in knowing about or passing any judgements on the crimes of his condemned prisoners, whom he is required to despatch from this world. He is just focused on "their height, weight and physical condition" so that he can put an end to their lives in the quickest and most efficient manner; a thorough professional who takes immense pride in being the undoubted No. 1 in his vocation in the entire country.

But then one day something happens which shakes his soul and makes him seriously contemplates the correctness of capital punishment and his key role in its implementation.

It is indeed a very dark and gloomy film with several "trying" moments. A film that forces the viewer to think and stays with him / her long afterwards. What I really liked was the fact that the film does not take any overt position on capital punishment but yet forces one to think. The technical quality is of a high standard with the hanging scenes very authentically depicted.

Recommended watching for the thoughtful viewer (with a strong stomach)!


Timothy Spall is mesmerising in this tale set just before the curtain came down on Britain's use of capital punishment. Pierrepoint is the quintessential professional hangman; efficient, thorough, meticulous, and humane to boot. He starts out with no reservations about the task he is charged to carry out. Times change and the man changes with them; when he starts to question the system and his role in it, the moral weight of his actions prove, inevitably, too much to bear. Spall depicts this journey towards self-realisation and a kind of collapse as impeccably as Pierrpoint himself went about his business. Given the baubles handed out for impersonation in films such as Ray and Capote, it is surprising the Academy overlooked this captivating performance.

Here in Japan, hanging is still very much in vogue, carried out under a veil of secrecy in the name of a public who are by and large ignorant and apathetic as to what role capital punishment plays in their society. Is it possible to enjoy this film without taking sides on the debate about capital punishment? I can't imagine so. Like 10 Rillington Place, the film shows very clearly why capital punishment became untenable in British society, and subsequently why it is unlikely ever to make a return. Pierrpoint strikes the right balance between showing a society in change, and the effects of that change on one man and his family. This is an important film in social terms, and a triumph in film-making ones.