‘I did a lot of jobs in Germany. More than were really good for me. Too many really…’
The life of Albert Pierrepoint, one of Britain’s most prolific hangmen, is an incredible story. Both his father and his uncle were hangmen before him, he was responsible for the hanging of a number of German war criminals and he ran a pub alongside his time at the gallows. Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman attempts to do justice to an incredible story and only occasionally succeeds…
Following Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall) from his first execution in December 1932 right through to his final hanging in January 1956, Adrian Shergold’s biopic boasts an excellent performance at its core but it also feels a little slight. At 95 minutes, there is a nagging feeling that there is more story to be told here. We don’t glimpse the psychological effect of hanging so many other human beings until the film’s, admittedly very effective, conclusion. It’s a shame because Spall is excellent and given an extra half an hour and a little more plot to work with he could have delivered something really special. As it is, The Last Hangman is merely good rather than great.
While I would recommend at least reading Pierrepoint’s Wikipedia page (he really did lead a fascinating life), Shergold’s film remains a competent and enjoyable run-through of a life that many would find unimaginable.