I wasnt quite sure what to expect from this film when I began to view it. Having read both Pierrepoint's and his assistant Syd Dearnley's autobiographies some years ago (Syd is known as George in this film), I thought it might be sensationlised for the sake of the viewer. However, this is not the case. What we have here is a very moving human drama about a simple storeman who eventually became a publican who was acknowledged as the best hangman of his time. Pierrepoint developed an efficiency much admired by his peers in despatching the condemned to a swift and humane death. However, as time went on, and the controversys around Capital Punishment began to grow, particularly after the Derek Bentley case (which isnt mentioned in the film, although the controversy over Timothy Evans is) during the early 1950s, the stress on Pierrepoint began to gnaw at his conscience. The scene depicting the execution of Ruth Ellis is one of the most profoundly moving scenes ever seen on the screen, filmed in slow motion, it was probably this act which may have led to Pierrepoint finally relinquishing the hangmans role.
It is not an entertaining film, it isnt meant to be. But it is wonderfully filmed and acted. The director Adrian Shergold has achieved a remarkable success in bringing this difficult human story to the screen. Both Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson portray their respectives roles with so much professionalism and dignity. Both deserve to be nominated.
Needs to be seen by a wider audience since it got a limited release on the cinema circuit. Good sound, although much of the picture is dark enhancing the era of the 1940s and the 1950s.