So May has come and with it the bountifully warm days this wee lady has longed for since January. Also with it, of course, has also come my annual bout of “Spring Fever” to make me all wired and hyper and scattered most of the time too. Sorry Gentle Visitors… but that always makes it so hard for me to sit still and concentrate for long either, hence my absence here at the ol’ Litterbox of late. Not that I haven’t been watchin’ movies, of course, but having the focus to buckle down and write about them the last few weeks? That’s been the problem… 😉
However… my recent lack of “attention span” has led me to pay a wee bit more attention to TV than usual and it occurred to me that although I’ve shared my interests and tastes in film and movies, I’ve never really shared any of my favorite TV shows with all of you… What? Really? How have I somehow neglected to do that over the years?
Well that’s an easy thing to rectify… and all without putting a certain twitchy Catgirl on Ritalin… 😉
My most recent TV fav? Well… that would be the surprisingly fun Lifetime TV series “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles”… as if this wacky lady would ever pass up a chance to watch a delightful period piece series with an adorable sociopathic axe murderess as our main heroine. Oodles of fun… just let this goofy Catgirl tell you all about it.
Those of you regulars here at the Litterbox probably have a pretty good idea by now of the trashy exploitative movie goodies I like. My tastes in TV are pretty much the same as for films. Yep. While my dear wifey prefers her sitcoms and romantic dramas, this lady always finds herself drawn to “The Walking Dead” or “Orphan Black” or “Doctor Who”. So was it really any surprise that I’d find myself engrossed in a fictionalized account of the weekly adventures of Victorian America’s most notorious female murderer, Lizzie Borden? Not really… 🙂
This particular one kind of snuck up on me and I didn’t even know it existed until one particular Sunday evening when Carolyn and I were snuggled up on the couch trying to find some mutually agreeable TV fare to watch. As usual… I wanted something a bit… shall we say… edgy, while Carolyn was hoping for sometime somewhat tamer. Like maybe a nice romantic comedy. Hey… like something you might find of the woman’s TV network Lifetime. Mind you.. I was trying to be a good lil’ kitten when I said “Sure… let’s see what’s on Lifetime. It’s your turn to pick something anyway.”. Hahaha… my poor sweetie… she’ll never make that mistake again…
What we found instead was the premier episode of this new series. What luck… for me, anyways. 😉 Based on last year’s Lifetime movie “Lizzie Borden Took an Ax”, the series starts some 4 months after the sensational trial that acquitted Lizzie of the brutal ax murders of her parents. We hadn’t seen that movie… sometime I plan to rectify soon if I can… but you really don’t need to see it to enjoy this new series. I mean… you know the story already… at least if you grew up an American that is. Here the grisly tale of Lizzie Borden is as famous as Jack the Ripper is in his own native England. And just as bloody and sensational.
We all grew up with the infamous children’s rhyme… By modern standards, the infamous ax murders of Lizzie’s parents was pretty tame, but in 1892 they achieved a level of gore rarely seen in Victorian times… especially a crime supposedly committed by a woman against her own parents. The passage of time only served to lend itself to even more speculation as to the truth behind the notorious unsolved crime until by our time the crime itself is hard to distinguish from the rumors and legends that sprang up in it’s wake. And, as always, a good luridly bloody legend never seems to die…
As the series starts, the story gets right to things as well… Lizzie (played by the devilishly pretty Christina Ricci) and her older sister Emma (played by Clea DuVall) are free following the scandalous trial that acquitted young Lizzie of her parents grisly murders. It isn’t hard to see the dynamic of the relationship between the sisters…. and even though she is the younger sibling, Lizzie is the one firmly in charge, swearing that despite the open hostility of the good citizens of their hometown, Fall River, Massachusetts, they will make a life for themselves and prosper together despite the notorious scandal of their parents murders. Easier said than done. After the acquittal, Lizzie and Emma try to secure their inheritance, but their attempts are complicated by claims against their late father by his creditors, now hungry to seize those assets. The bulk of those claims are made by William Almy (played by John Heard), who immediately lays claim to all of their property, threatening the sisters with financial ruin. Yeah…. like our Lizzie’s gonna let that happen…. 😉
Right from the start you have to understand that the series definitely decides that Lizzie is indeed the killer. More importantly… she one of the most delightfully and fiendishly clever sociopaths you might ever want to meet. Christina Ricci is, in this wee Catgirl’s opinion, absolutely perfect for the role, with her talent for blending Lizzie’s facade of eerily disturbing sweetness and vulnerability to mask the cold blooded serial killer hiding inside just below her surface. Creepy… yet somehow so darn adorable. 😉
Another thing… if actual historical accuracy is important to you, this one might be harder for you to enjoy than it is for me. Why? Well… we’re 5 episodes in and quite a few key historical facts have already been suitably trampled into bloody bits in the name of narrative license. But hey…. that’s OK by me. I’d rather enjoy the story as one that’s free to chart it’s own path rather than knowing ahead of time how it’s gonna end. This makes the series more a “re-imagining” of events than a boring docudrama retread of them.
Nope. This story is a bloody “Grand Guignol” style of Victorian penny dreadful brought to life each week. Seriously. Each episode so far has featured at least one… and often two… grisly killings by our Lizzie. Despite the cunning and clever way she covers her tracks, had the real Miss Borden ever been quite so homicidal I doubt she would have avoided the gallows to reach the ripe old age of 66 as she actually did.
Mr. Almay becomes her first new victim… first paralyzed by a wickedly big hatpin to the base of his skull and then beaten into a pulp with a pair of leather gloves… stuffed with horseshoes. Ouch!! Luckily… she’s able to solve another of the sister’s recent problems… the sudden return of black sheep half brother William (played by Andrew Howard) … by pinning this murder on him and then staging his suicide by drunken hanging. Two birds with one stone… how handy!
So then, does this mean that nobody stands in our tiny little killers path as she murders her way to her dream of wealth and social redemption? Ah ha… in any story like this, there’s always somebody to do that, silly. Lizzie’s main nemesis takes the form of famous cowboy Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo (played by Cole Hauser), based on the actual notorious historical figure of renown…. although again, in real history, the two never ever met. He’s here looking into the murders of the Bordens at the bequest of a mysterious client and soon becomes convinced Lizzie may be the most dangerous and cunning psychopath he’s ever encountered. He’s probably correct. Our little Lizzie certainly is one rabid little hellion when you get in her way…
The relationship between them is deliciously macabre… as they dance around each other, each trying to find a way to deal with the other. Siringo is a blunt man, used to dealing with killers by simply shooting them dead… but Lizzie’s far more subtle than he and probably smarter as Siringo soon learns once they actually start their duel of wills. The two play well off of each other, but I’ve a real feeling one of them won’t survive the first season if things continue as they have so far. Remember… the series is named after her, so my bet is on Lizzie to come out on top. Poor cowboy… I’ve really got a feeling things are going to end very, very, badly for him. Lizzie is soooo gonna mess him up.
My sweet Carolyn finds my weekly amusement at Lizzie’s homicidal antics surprising… “Miyuki!! Why are you rooting for her? She’s evil!!” Oh yes…. my goodness, she is. But somehow that’s OK. For some inexplicable reason, you just sort of want Lizzie to win. Part of the reason is that most of her victims are actually deserving of their fates. Greedy Mr. Almay…. grasping and contemptuous of the two sisters and the ruin he plans for their lives. Worthless thieving half-brother William… who even resorts to the foulest blackmail to seize a chunk of the family fortune. Spencer Cavanaugh (played by Frank Chiesurin) drug addicted playwright and conman who thinks he can scam money from Lizzie with impunity. Mr. Flowers (played by Jonathan Banks) … local mob boss and pimp who dismisses Lizzie as any kind of threat and thinks her ripe for blackmail himself. Nasty neighbor lady Mrs. Kenney (played by Martha Irving) who beats her adorable little dog for no good reason… Yep. People like that you want to see get theirs…. in as messy a way possible. Our girl Lizzie? Only happy to take them out and simplify her life.
Now… not all is good of course when a sociopath decides to simplify things in her life. Some innocents will suffer too along the way. Like poor maimed streetwalker Adele (played by Kimberly-Sue Murray), befriended by Lizzie on a whim only to later be buried alive and then cruelly killed to throw off suspicion from Lizzie regarding the death of brutal Mr. Flowers. Or another “friend”, stage actress Nance O’Keefe (played by Jessy Schram) who figures out that Lizzie killed her brother Spencer and tries stupidly to handle our lil’ psycho all on her own. Turns out being Lizzie’s enemy leads to a nasty quick end… but being her friend doesn’t exactly guarantee your health and well being either.
If the whole story sounds like an almost continuous murder spree of nearly apocalyptic levels, you’d be pretty darn close. For me at least, that’s half the fun… trying to figure out just how many people are likely to meet their fate before the hour slips by. Realistic? Nawwww… but certainly fun. In fact, that’s my general feeling about this one. It’s silly… it’s overblown… generally unbelievable and improbable… but boy is it a hoot. Christina Ricci makes it all look so much ridiculously fun. All done with an sense of style and panache that keeps me tuning in for more of it’s guilty pleasures week after week. That’s all this lil’ lady need for some mindless TV fun… If you can, give it a peek, and maybe it’ll tickle you as well.
You’d like a Trailer? Hey… no problem!! 😉