The Last Man Hanged: Political hanging

The Last Man Hanged: Political hanging
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Father John Brosnan, priest to hanged man Ronald Ryan, compares the Ryan hanging to that of Ned Kelly in that both were political. The judge, Sir John Starke, says that the then Victorian premier, Sir Henry Bolte, insisted that the sentence be carried out.

Summary by Damien Parer

Interviews with the judge, Sir Justice John Starke, and the priest, Father John Brosnan clearly nominate politics as the reason for the hanging. It is unusual for these people to make such a stark claim. The still photographs used to depict Henry Bolte are also carefully selected to show him looking overjoyed.


Last Man Hanged synopsis

The dramatised documentary traces the events leading up to the hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967. Ryan escaped from Pentridge prison and a warder was shot dead in the break-out. Ryan was found guilty of the warder’s death and was sentenced to be hanged, as prescribed by Victorian Law. Ryan was the last man hanged in Australia, amidst much public outcry.

The documentary features some of Australia’s best-known actors playing the roles of the principals involved, interwoven with interviews with the real-life people involved. Still photographs from the time are also shown.


Curator's notes

The dramatised story is effectively intercut with documentary interviews with the real life people involved. The writer and director Lewis Fitz-Gerald provides the narration and plays Keith Willey, a newspaper reporter. His acting career has included roles in Out There, Blue Heelers, Farscape, Pitch Black And Stingers.

Notes by Damien Parer

Production company:
Bill Bennett
Director and writer:
Lewis Fitz-Gerald