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  • Pierrepoint

    Just watched the movie Pierrepoint, I think it's called the last hangman in the US.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0462477/
    For anyone who has not seen it it's an excellent movie about the most famous hangman in Britain; Albert Pierrepoint. He hung 608 prisoners in the twenty years he served as executioner. A lot of his work was carried out after the war crime trials in Germany.
    The film stars Timothy Spall and is one of his best roles.
    I know it's not related to Ripper and the time is set around and after WWII but it still makes a fascinating film. Highly recommended.
    A wee word of warning the kiddies won't enjoy it.

  • #2
    I have a copy of "The Hangmans Tale" which was written by Pierrepoints right hand man. He lived locally.

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    • #3
      Syd Dernley was convicted of publishing obscene material and was removed from the HO list of executioners for cracking a childish joke about a condemned man being 'well hung.' He's not exactly an honourable man.
      That Pierrepoint film was garbage- a total distortion- plays around with the chronology and Pierrepoint's motivation. It totally misrepresents his relationship with Anne, and his acquaintance with Tish. In fact I'd go so far as to say it's a piece of retrospective interpretation from a modern, and by default, anachronistic point of view- but that's just the sort of garbage I expect from a film that was financed courtesy of the National Lottery.

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      • #4
        I've got a letter signed by Pierrepoint and one of his Home Office notifications to attend an execution in Nottingham in 1934, including the envelope.

        Syd Dearnley is now, thankfully, dead. He was an odious, nasty old man who was just a sadist. He actually kept a model gallows in the cellar of his house long after he was rejected.

        There are two major flaws in PIERREPOINT, both at the same moment. It shows two female warders attending the execution of Dorothea Waddingham whilst air raid sirens are going off. Well, Waddingham was executed years before WW2 and no female warders were ever present at an execution.

        Pierrepoint never discussed what he did with anyone and never expressed any thoughts on his work to his family. On that count, the film fails.

        However, it could be a great deal worse than it is. As far as biopics go it is, for all its faults, a great deal closer to the truth than most biopics are (not that that has to mean much).

        PHILIP
        Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd

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        • #5
          I caught most of it, and Ive read a biography of him. He seemed kind of an ambiuous figure - a bit pompous, self important, in the end even indiscrete; but he also did a job that most people were incapable of, and he had to get blood on his hands for the sake of other people keeping their hands clean.

          I dont think he was a sadist, or would have been a killer at all in any other circumstance, but it must take a special type of person to do what he did, and maybe not the kind of person you'd want as a friend.

          From what I saw I think the film captured the view I have of his personality - efficient, a strong sense of duty, and a strong sense of coldness.

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          • #6
            You mean only a Civil Servant could do what he did...

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            • #7
              That's gruesome - being hanged in triplicate.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                That's gruesome - being hanged in triplicate.
                ...not to mention all that stuff leaking out.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Adam_Douglas View Post
                  I caught most of it, and Ive read a biography of him. He seemed kind of an ambiuous figure - a bit pompous, self important, in the end even indiscrete; but he also did a job that most people were incapable of, and he had to get blood on his hands for the sake of other people keeping their hands clean.

                  I dont think he was a sadist, or would have been a killer at all in any other circumstance, but it must take a special type of person to do what he did, and maybe not the kind of person you'd want as a friend.

                  From what I saw I think the film captured the view I have of his personality - efficient, a strong sense of duty, and a strong sense of coldness.
                  Hi Adam. Like a lot of executioners, Pierrepoint was driven by a feeling that he could do the job best and if such a job had to be done, he believed he could be the most humane. William Marwood and John Ellis were also driven by the same ideals (maybe not James Berry, who was a bit of a rum character and was suspected of threatening the condemned with a painful death if they didn't confess on the scaffold).

                  Given the pressure put on Pierrepoint in his later years, I think he was remarkably reticent when it came to discussing his job. After all, by the time he WAS discussing it - albeit guardedly - the Death Sentence had been abolished some years previously.

                  The man was certainly a contradiction but then many executioners have recanted their belief in State sanctioned killing only to change their minds for the rest of their lives.

                  PHILIP
                  Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd

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                  • #10
                    Phil, it's not as simple as discussing it after the death penalty was abolished. He tried to sell his story to the papers for a six figure sum, in today's value, shortly after his resignation, but was threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act- he waited to publish his memoirs until after abolition because he had to. Apart from his appalingly written memoir, the only other occasion he publicly discussed his state service, that I am aware of, was in an interview on I think the BBCs Look North programme sometime in the 80s- can't remember when exactly.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Stephen Leece View Post
                      Phil, it's not as simple as discussing it after the death penalty was abolished. He tried to sell his story to the papers for a six figure sum, in today's value, shortly after his resignation, but was threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act- he waited to publish his memoirs until after abolition because he had to. Apart from his appalingly written memoir, the only other occasion he publicly discussed his state service, that I am aware of, was in an interview on I think the BBCs Look North programme sometime in the 80s- can't remember when exactly.
                      Hi Stephen.

                      I have private video interviews with him which appeared on the video HANGMEN'S TALES and I've also got a B&W TV one somewhere on THE EXECUTIONERS TV series. There is also a mid-70s radio interview with him available on the BBC website (stream only).

                      PHILIP
                      Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd

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                      • #12
                        Really? Jeez! Not as private a man as I thought...

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                        • #13
                          The BBC Radio one is well worth searching out. If you go onto the Radio Four website and put PIERREPOINT into its search engine, you'll probably find it. It's about 20 minutes long.

                          Just rememered I have a CD interview with him as well, made by the same people who released the HANGMEN'S TALES video - they came into ownership of a lot of Pierrepoint's personal effects, and it's through them I got the Home Office Notification letter.
                          Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd

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                          • #14
                            I was passing one of the many cheap book shops in East Hull earlier and noticed a small stash of "True Crime" books, mostly the Krays, which I already have, but there was the 1977 Coronet Edition of "Executioner: Pierrepoint", for just 75p!

                            I snapped it up and will read during the week.

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                            • #15
                              A bargain, Mike. That's the edition I've got and it usually goes for about a tenner.

                              Reminds me of a very similar event for myself a few weeks back. I was in a bookshop in The Isle Of Wight and found the biography of John Ellis the executioner. It's a nasty, cheap-looking thing but is very scarce. The last time I saw a copy on eBay it sold for over £30 and I picked it up for £3.

                              The Pierrepoint book is a very good and fascinating read, but do bear in mind the comments on this thread. He might have meant what he wrote at the time but I think he changed his views a few more times before he died.

                              PHILIP
                              Tour guides do it loudly in front of a crowd

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