Friday, September 7, 2007


PIERREPOINT is an excellent film based on the true story of one of the last hangmen in the U.K. Timothy Spall plays Albert Pierrepoint, a delivery man turned hangman, following in the family business. We get to see what happens before, during, and after a hanging and the way Pierrepoint does it is efficient and respectful. He takes pride in his work and his reputation becomes such that Monty asks him to hang the Nazis convicted of war crimes after WWII.

Napoloeon called Britain a nation of shopkeepers and Pierrepoint invests his earnings in a pub at the urging of his wife, the business-like Annie (Juliet Stevenson). She bets there's plenty who'd like to have a drink with the man who executed the Nazis and she's right. I'm giving away too much plot so let me just say that the film is artfully done with clever camera work to show time passing, internal strife, and horror. Is he Jekyll and Hyde or the same man in and out of the execution chamber? His friend Tish (Eddie Marsan) helps him sort this out, as does the anti-execution movement of the mid-1950s.

I enjoyed the portrayal in the first scenes of middle-aged courtship and love and it stands in contrast to the bloodlessness of the execution room. They get married and like a good Mafia wife, she doesn't know where he goes on his business trips. Eventually she figures it out. It made me think of Mrs. Lovett's reaction to learning Sweeney's bloody hobby. "Seems an awful waste," she sings. All those dead bodies and her needing meat for her meat pies. Spall, by the way, will play Beadle Bamford in SWEENEY TODD (Chrsitmas 2007 release) the most highly anticipated project for me since the time I saw Rodney Dangerfield at Radio City.

Timothy Spall is one of those fine actors I knew I'd seen before but couldn't place the movies. I jogged my memory online and remembered him from WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART, TOPSY TURVY, and HAMLET (1996). I was also delighted to find his appearance on RED DWARF.

Go see this thoughtful look at an era that's over in Britain but not in the U.S. It's one more reason for them to feel superior to us, but hey, I don't think we were ever hanging people as they did for stealing a buttered scone or passing bad paper.

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