Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (DVD)

Lizzie Borden Took an AxStarring Christina Ricci, Billy Campbell, Clea DuVall, Gregg Henry

Directed by Nick Gomez

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

When it comes to the perverse Lifetime Channel biopics, I like to gawk as much as anyone – I watched Coco Chanel, House of Versace, and of course The Anna Nicole Story. But I missed Lizzie Borden Took an Ax… until now. Thanks to the power of the DVD, I have seen the tabloid TV take on the legend of Lizzie Borden who, back in 1892, was acquitted of the brutal ax murders of her parents.

Although it’s been 39 years since The Legend of Lizzie Borden (which starred Elizabeth Montgomery) aired on American television and was subsequently nominated for several Emmy Awards, this version (starring Christina Ricci) is unlikely to remain for long in the memories of true crime and horror aficionados.

Too bad, because the players are pretty great – Ricci rocks the spoiled spinster vibe, an understated Stephen McHattie nails it as Lizzie’s creepy dad, and the always intense Clea DuVall is well cast as her loyal sister. Gregg Henry and Billy Campbell play the attorneys in the trial scenes (much of the film is a courtroom drama… although the hatchet killings are often shown in flashback, and they are quite gory) and they’re both very good.

Speaking of rocking the vibe, the filmmakers try – and fail – to be subversive with a hard-rocking soundtrack juxtaposed against their Victorian-era setting. Sometimes this avant garde approach works (I liked it in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette), but not this time. There’s no apparent reason for it… the rest of the film isn’t at all arty, so the unusual music choices seem inorganic and after-the-fact.

There are a few – though, not 40 – whacky moments in the movie that are fun and make it feel a bit salacious, but these are shorter-lived than Lizzie’s dad and mum. Most of the movie is mundane, ho-hum and just plain dumb (especially the let-down ending).

Someone must have taken an ax to the DVD extras because there are none.

Special Features

  • Zippo, nada, nil, zero

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Staci Layne Wilson

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