Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Pierrepoint (the Last Hangman)

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Pierrepoint (the Last Hangman)

Article excerpt

PIERREPOINT (THE LAST HANGMAN) Directed by Adrian Shergold (IFC First Take, 2007)

Dead Man Walking and other classic films about the death penalty tend to focus on the persons being executed. But Adrian Shergold's historical account of England's last hangman lifts the executioner's veil of

anonymity and takes a long, unblinking look at the middle-class public servant reported to have put to death more than 600 people in just over two decades.

Albert Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall) approaches his grisly task with the professional detachment (and pride) of a veterinarian putting pets to sleep and records the details of each assignment with the exactness of a bookkeeper. But Pierrepoint is not a soulless automaton, cleaning and tending to the executed bodies with the delicate care of a skilled mortician.

When Pierrepoint is summoned to postwar Germany to execute Nazi war criminals, however, Shergold's film begins to raise uncomfortable questions about the similarities between England's hangman and the legions of efficient and meticulous German civil servants who exterminated millions. …

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