I just watched Pierrepont – The Last Hangman. It is an unflinching look at capital punishment.
Albert Pierrepont was the most prolific hangman in British history. His father and uncle were hangmen before him. Over a career which spanned more than two decades he executed 485 people. The film gives a higher number that is probably inaccurate. One third of the people he hanged were Nazi war criminals from Belsen concentration camp.
This is not an easy film to watch, but I do think it is very worthwhile. It is superbly written and acted. While it is clear that the makers of this film are against the death penalty, they provide a fair and balanced look at it. In this film you see capital punishment at its best, quick – a hanging was over in a matter of seconds, and painless – the measured drop insured immediate unconsciousness by breaking the neck. Pierrepont carried out his work with pride and professionalism and treated the condemned with respect and decency. Still, as you experience hanging after hanging through the eyes of Pierrepont, and see how he tries to protect himself from what he is doing by being clinical and detached, decent and respectful, you have to ask yourself as Pierrepont inevitably does, whether any amount of decency can make killing all those people right.
This was a fim that made me think and which I won’t soon forget. It would be excellent to view with a group and then discuss. Check it out!