France Guillotined Somebody the Same Year Star Wars Was Released
In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, the guillotine was transformed into a semi-independent character, who’s ever-present and ominous shadow dominated the tale. Today, mention of the guillotine usually brings to mind images of the French Revolution, its blade chopping through and thinning the ranks of the Ancien Regime’s aristocracy.
In its heyday during the 1790s, it would snip the necks of historic figures such as the ultimate royalists, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. An equal opportunity instrument of death, the guillotine would also chop off the heads of radical republicans who had executed the king and queen. Falling between those political extremes, tens of thousands lost their lives to the guillotine in its the busiest stretch of usage, during the Reign of Terror. So ubiquitous was the instrument during this period, that it became a quasi symbol of Revolutionary France.
So associated is the guillotine with the French Revolution, that it is easy to forget that its use in France continued long after the 1789 upheaval came to an end. Indeed, the instrument, sometimes referred to by the French as “The National Razor”, would continue doing its work well into the modern age. It serviced its last customer during the Age of Disco, and after Star Wars was released on May 25th, 1977. Later that year, on September 10th, Hamida Djandoubi won the distinction of becoming the correct answer to the question: “who was the last person executed by guillotine in France?”
Djandoubi was born in Tunis in 1949 and moved to Marseilles in 1968. There, after a series of menial jobs, including a stint as a landscaper that ended when a workplace accident resulted in the amputation of one of his legs, he settled on pimping as a career. He earned a date with “The National Razor” by kidnapping, torturing, and strangling to death a former girlfriend in 1974, after she filed a complaint accusing him of trying to force her into prostitution.
He was tried for torture, murder, rape, and assorted acts of violence, in February of 1974, and was duly convicted and sentenced to death. After exhausting his appeals, and failing to win a reprieve from the French president, Djandoubi went under the guillotine in a Marseilles prison at 4:40 AM, September 10th, 1977. France did not abolish the guillotine and capital punishment until 1981 – the same year MS-DOS 1.0 was released, and Indiana Jones premiered in the US.