Watched a very good DVD last night – Pierrepoint – about Albert Pierrepoint (1905-1992), a fellow Bradfordian, who was reputedly the best hangman in the UK during the 20th century. Pierrepoint hanged William Joyce (Lord Hawhaw), Ruth Ellis, and 200 convicted Nazi war criminals during his tenure.
Never one to enjoy his job, Pierrepoint took great pride in making executions as humane and as quick as possible. His belief was that once a convicted person had been hanged, they had atoned for all their wrongs and he insisted that all those he executed should be treated with the utmost dignity – even the worst of the Nazis, who had done despicable things to men, women, and children.
Timothy Spall plays Pierrepoint very well and much use is made of the expression on the actors’ faces throughout the film. His struggle on the one hand to cope with what he was doing and his pride on the other in his reputation as the best hangman are conveyed very well, as is his utter distaste for contemporary media interest in his job.
The film ends with a quote Pierrepoint made later on in life, where he said that he was convinced that the death sentence only served one purpose – that of revenge.
Based on what I’ve read and if Timothy Spall’s portrayal is in any way accurate, I am sure that if I had ever been one to stand on the scaffold, I would have wanted Pierrepoint to do the job.
You can view the trailer at http://www.pierrepointmovie.com/.