Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lizzie Borden on Lifetime

This photograph was taken of a portrait in the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast.

On Saturday, January 25, 2014, the Lifetime Channel aired their brand-spanking-new version of the Lizzie Borden story.

I didn't have great expectations for it before I even saw it because I thought the role of Lizzie was miscast. I love Christina Ricci, don't get me wrong. But Christina Ricci does NOT look like Lizzie Borden on her worst day. She STILL looks like a beautiful waif. However, she does have the creepy-eyed stare and pathological lying down pat.

Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden in the Lifetime Movie

Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden in the Lifetime Movie. She might be hiding a cookie in her pocket but I don't believe she's hiding her psychopathic actions.
Do you believe for one minute that she's swinging an ax in fury at her mean old step-mom and dear old lecherous dad? Maybe this is when she finds dad's body. I think she's singing an opera myself...

Okay. Let's take one last look at the lady of the hour and move on then, shall we?

We understand that Hollywood always casts gorgeous thin people for monstrous villains. How many times have they remade Carrie now and they still can't quite figure out that she's a chunky, pimply, dark-haired dork?

Kathy Bates, a few years ago, would have made the perfect Lizzie Borden. Too bad no one jumped on that one, or if they did, too bad it didn't happen.

Okay, enough about casting choices.

I do want to give props to Lifetime for at least alluding to the incestuous relationship Lizzie had with her father, Andrew and for the suggested liaison nod with real-life girlfriend, Nanc.

When I heard they didn't film at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, I was suprised, as every other show on earth has filmed there. I also knew then that they had plans for what their imagination wanted the Borden home to look like.

As I expected, they used a large mansion where it would be easy to imagine people sneaking around and chopping up their victims undetected.

However, what makes the real-life story so very chilling is the actual size of the real Borden home where the murders took place.

Once you've been to the house and have seen the layout, you can understand on one hand how the murderer could have "hid" for two hours (if you believe it wasn't Lizzie) and yet on the other, wonder how no one in the house could have heard chopping, screams, and thumping, puffing, blood spatter, and so on.

You can see under the bed where Abby was murdered as you walk up the stairs in the real home. The theory being, anyone could have seen her dead body if they had walked up the stairs and looked over.

The home is small and various doors lock different sections off.

There are theories that Lizzie committed the murders in the nude which is how there were no bloody clothes. They tried to suggest this in the movie but the continuity was so awful. Yes, I understand they want you to think that she murdered the step-mom while wearing a white nightie and then murdered dad while naked, hammering home the incest thing. However, where did the blood-soaked nightgown go? One throwaway flashback showed her stuffing it behind a couch or table or something but it's never mentioned again. They also show her in the movie removing clothes but keeping her long curly waist-lengthed hair swinging and not getting full of blood or in the way of the ax.

The movie shows her burning the blue dress in the backyard. I was told on the tours that she burned it in the stove in the kitchen.

The movie doesn't show all the other suspects and other people who lived in the house during the time of the murders.

No one sweats in the movie. My GOD, I've been there in July five times now, overnight, and murders happened on August 4th. The last four  times I stayed there was air-conditioning but in old small houses like that, it doesn't matter. That house is HOT. Summer in New England is one long damp hot steamy bug ridden dreary experience. No one sweated. No one had pit stains or patted their heads or swatted at bugs. I went to the church once before it became a cooking school. It was HOT. VERY HOT. Like the pits of hell.

No one in the movie was fanning themselves, or wiping their foreheads, or ripping off their clothes.
At the beginning of the movie, there's a scene of Lizzie in her bedroom looking in the mirror. She lowers her dress to show her naked back. I thought maybe we'd see whip marks from dad beating her or something. All we saw were Christina's scary skeletor ribs. Yet, in the hack-em-up naked ax-swinging scenes, the body double didn't have a bony back. Real-life Lizzie herself looked mighty well-fed. Lizzie's back likely looked like mine; a bit of fleshy rolls, a bit of spine, and a bit of muscle tone. And she would have kept her hair up in a bun from the oppressive heat and to avoid the blood and bits of goo.

Dad was a very stingy man. We sort of got the sense of it in the movie but not really. In real life, the Bordens could have afforded indoor bathrooms, good food, a house as big as the one in the movie, and more, but Andrew was frugal and nasty. They could have shown him making his rounds, collecting his money and all the side jobs he and his daughters performed such as funerals, and lady laundry.

Since they didn't film in the real murder house, they could have covered all of his stinginess without fear of retribution. If you're in the bed and breakfast, you don't want to speak ill of Andrew. Just trust me on that one.

The father had all kinds of rules and weirdness that could have been really explored. His bathroom weirdness, the pear obsessions, hatred of the birds, the cats, the lack of modern conveniences that other wealthy people were getting, the key, the late night visits, and more.

In the movie, there were a couple of quick flashes of a soldier-type dude lurking in the wind-blown laundry. In one quickie glimpse, Lizzie kisses him. Who is he? We never learn. And since even Lifetime alluded to Lizzie's affair with Nanc, why is Lizzie kissing a man? For what gain?

As for the trial, I've not studied it. I've gone to the house five times and done the tour and gone to the graveyard, Maplecroft, the church but I've not read the trial transcripts. So I have no idea what is true or not in the movie. I don't know if the high school ring idea is true. I only know that Lizzie was found innocent, mostly because she was a woman. At least it was one time sexism worked in a woman's favour.

The movie could have done without such a long long trial. We all know the outcome so we didn't need all that ridiculous back and forth courtroom stuff and the flashbacks that made less sense every time they happened.

It would have been far more interesting to see more of her life before the murders, and how her life changed after the murders for longer than seven minutes. Again, they also missed another interesting opportunity about how Lizzie died from pnuemonia after a gall bladder operation and her sister died nine days later of chronic nephritis in a nursing home. It's always weird when related people die close together, don't you think?

They also didn't discuss the insanity in the family, how the cousin who lived next door had drowned her children in the well when she had post-partum depression.

Oh, well. Can't have everything.

So, my thoughts on the Lifetime movie are that they missed a lot of great opportunites and wasted a lot of time with silly flashbacks.

I've written several blogs about my experiences at the Lizzie Borden house.

Live from the Lizzie Borden House Part Two

Live from Lizzie Borden House Part Three


  1. I haven't studied the LB case at all, but I've certainly read my share of stories about it, and I agree with you, the size of the house is really an issue that has to be presented. I also read some of the trial transcript and sexism did (for once) work in her favour. They did not believe that a woman--an unmarried woman, that seemed to be at issue also--could have done such a thing. There was also (rarely mentioned) the part about her having bought rat poison from the pharmacy at one point, and it was suspected that she originally intended to poison the family. She said she bought it to take out a stain in her dress. That was from the trial transcripts. I didn't watch the movie, although I probably will, but I find it hard to believe that a woman of the time would get naked for anything, let alone in a public part of the house, with the servant not far from view, not twenty feet from the front entrance of the house. That's the part I was never able to reconcile with the story. I don't think she did this naked, it seems impossible.

    Also, I had heard the rumours of Borden abusing his daughters, but it was so underplayed all these years that I never did consider it. It makes more sense to me now, and adds food for thought. I do believe that Lizzie did it. I also believe that there was ultimately little harm done. Andrew and his wife seem to have had it coming, and LIzzie's life after the murders was blameless. Such terrible lives lived, it's all just sort of human and sad.

  2. Susie, they did mention the rat poison in the movie but it was again, presented in such an odd way that the viewer wasn't sure what was going on since it was mentioned by a cop and not really brought up again. They never "showed" her buying it or using it, it was another throwaway.

    As for the naked thing, you may be right, Susie. In seeing the house and knowing how hot it would have been, I thought it was a possibility but then, she wouldn't have had to burn her dress in the oven! And Bridgett was doing the windows, and there were others staying at the house too so yeah, running around naked likely wasn't a possibility.

    When you tour the house, you see the door from Andrew's bedroom that leads into Lizzie's bedroom and you can imagine the incestuous nature that has been alluded to over the years.

    Thanks for your comments and observations! No one will ever know what really happened but it's fun to guess!