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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra 
On a scorching, hot summer day in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden (Christina Ricci) returns home to the house she shares with her father Andrew, stepmother Abby and Sister Emma (Clea DuVall).  But, unlike any normal day, Lizzie encounters the bloody scene of her parents violently murdered.  Police quickly question multiple suspects in town, but evidence keeps pointing back to the Borden’s youngest daughter, Lizzie, the seemingly wholesome Sunday school teacher, as the prime suspect. Lizzie’s Lawyer, Andrew Jennings (Billy Campbell), proclaims her innocence arguing that it is inconceivable a woman could commit the heinous crime of brutally murdering her family with an ax.  Or is it?  Lizzie is put on trial for the murders, both in the courtroom and in the press, sparking a widespread debate about her culpability.  As the case rages on, the courtroom proceedings fuel an enormous amount of sensationalized stories and headlines in newspapers throughout the country, forever leaving Lizzie Borden’s name in infamy.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
“Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41”… this morbid nursery rhyme has been recited for over 100 years.  What really happened to Lizzie Borden’s parents?

On a hot day in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden finds her father dead in the parlor of their home.  After the police arrive, the Borden’s maid, Bridgette, is sent upstairs and finds the body of Abby Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother.  Lizzie and her sister, Emma, are questioned and no initial evidence is found.  As the investigation continues, more evidence begins pointing in Lizzie’s direction – a burned dress, conflicting stories, statements from those close to her. 

Lizzie is arrested and charged with the murder of her parents.  The prosecutor brings up all the inconsistencies, questions and cross-examines the witnesses, while Andrew Jennings, Lizzie’s lawyer, counters each of the statements.  He does his best to make Lizzie likable and to place reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.  After one hour and 10 minutes, the jurors reach a not guilty verdict.  Lizzie is acquitted of the crime.  Lizzie and Emma move on with their lives, Lizzie trying to forget the past and Emma never moving past it.  When Lizzie died in 1927, questions still remained about who actually killed Andrew and Abby Borden on that day… and to this day, they remain unanswered.

This Lifetime Channel movie was better than I thought it would be.  Usually, Lifetime movies are cheesy and badly acted.  Christina Ricci, despite her giant bobble head and buggy eyes, did a pretty good job as Lizzie Borden.  No one knows if Lizzie actually killed her parents, and Ricci played the innocence off well.  I am normally a fan of Lifetime movies, no matter how cheesy they are.  I had wanted to watch this when it was on, but after hearing from friends that it was terrible, I deleted it from the DVR without watching it.  I’m sorry I did, because I enjoyed the movie.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
The wide-screen anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation was adequate.  It was nothing spectacular, though everything was crisp and clear. Colors were sharp and the red of the blood was natural and not overly ketchup-y.  Skin tones were natural and in the dark scenes, everything was still clear and viewable.  The movie takes place in 1892 and costumes, carriages and architecture seemed relevant to the time period.  Some houses had electricity, while others still used lanterns.  These differences played to the authenticity of the film and made viewing the film more enjoyable.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The English 5.1 Dolby Digital presentation of Lizzie Borden Took an Ax was pretty good.  I didn’t have to adjust the volume at all and every word was heard clearly.  I really enjoyed the way the film makers incorporated present background music into the movie, it made it more interesting.
Extras (0 out of 5 stars)
There are no special features for this TV movie.  Just some previews for other movies.
Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I enjoyed this made-for-TV Lifetime Channel movie. The Lizzie Borden murder mystery is interesting to me and I remember reciting the nursery rhyme on the playground while jumping rope.  I’m not sure what that says about my childhood, or about my interest in true crime.  The movie, while “Hollywoodized,” told the story and made the characters more than just photos, stories and ghosts.  I’d like to visit the house, which I’ve heard has been turned into a bed and breakfast, though, I don’t know if I could muster up the guts to spend the night there.  Who knows what ghosts are waiting to pounce!

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