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Lizzie Borden Took an Ax DVD Review

DVD Review- Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Street Date: April 8th 2014

Technical Specifications: 480P Video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio

Runtime: 87 Minutes

Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (Sony Pictures)

The Film:

Lizzie Borden took an ax

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When he saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.”

Everyone knows the old rhyme, whether you learned it skipping rope, or as a ghastly poem from a friend on the playground, it seems ingrained into our collective memories. Premiering on January 25th 2014 on the Lifetime network (!), Lizzie Borden Took an Ax stars Christina Ricci as the titular character. Bored with her tedious life in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie seeks to rebel against the strict rules and expectations that her Father (Stephen McHattie) has of her and her sister (Clea Duvall). She steals money from her step-mothers purse, sneaks out for a few drinks on the town, and disobeys her Father’s seemingly demanding nature. After all, she is thirty-two years old, right? A grown woman should be able to make her own choices in life, but not if her parents have anything to do with it.

If you’ve heard the old rhyme, or know of the trial that followed and made national headlines, you know that Lizzie Borden’s Step-Mother and Father were found hacked to death in their home. Did Lizzie do it? She was an admitted liar and sneak, constantly rebelling against her parent’s expectations. Or was it one of her father’s many enemies around town? The man had a reputation for being abrasive in his daily interactions, and stingy with his money. The subsequent murder trial made national headlines and divided the town and country on its verdict, which I will not reveal here.

Those that are familiar with the case and it’s resolution may be slightly unnerved by this Lifetime film’s choice to assume what happened. With a Keyser Soze-type reveal at the end, the screenwriters have obviously made up their mind. I preferred the first ninety percent of the movie that, while corny and over-the-top at moments, played out like a police procedural rather than a straight-up horror film.

On that topic, don’t be fooled by the cover art for this DVD release, as this is not your traditional horror movie. Though I will admit, for a Lifetime network made-for-tv movie, there is quite a few moments of blood and gore. The filmmakers have fashioned this tale as more of a murder mystery and period soap opera than anything in the “slasher” vein. There are elements of Lizzie Borden Took an Axe that work (costume design, procedural mystery unfolding), but they are outweighed by far too many components that simply don’t. The acting ranges from good to cheesy, and unfortunately the script is extremely uneven. It seemed in some scenes that even the actors didn’t quite know how to deliver their lines. It’s not a terrible way to waste a Saturday night, but most of this film is painfully tedious.

Video Quality:

Presented on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the 480P picture quality looks very good indeed. When reviewing a DVD in place of a Blu-Ray edition, I am usually able to notice the inherent softness and pixels that get in the way of clarity, unlike High Definition sources. But Sony has some fine mastering facilities at their command, and they have produced a very nice looking DVD here. Colors are intentionally muted and the film has a rather grey/blue tone to it throughout. Definition is also remarkably clear here. There were no anomalies such as edge enhancement or Digital Noise reduction to speak of. This is a very fine looking DVD release.

Audio Quality:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works surprisingly well on this DVD edition. As was the case in reviewing the picture quality, when you’re used to High Definition lossless audio, it’s always slightly hard to penalize an inferior format for not being able to produce the same result. I’m more lenient on this title because a Blu-Ray edition is not available, so we’re left with the DVD for home viewing purposes. At the end of the day, this is a well-balanced track that easily fluctuates between dialogue, instrumentals, and background effects. The music from Tree Adams is rather jarring for a period piece, and sounds like it could have been used for a modern day southern drama. Mixing some light rock and modern folk music, it’s a little inappropriate for the tone of the movie at times. With that being said, it does sound great on this audio track.

Special Features:

While Sony Pictures produced a very fine video and audio presentation for this release, they definitely dropped the ball on including any extras. The only bonus material here is a preview reel with trailers for Squatters, Cold Comes the Night, Insidious: Chapter 2, Pompeii, and Bonnie & Clyde: The Miniseries. Despite my reservations about the film, I would have enjoyed the opportunity to peruse a making of featurette or a commentary from the filmmakers. It would have been interesting to hear about their creative process that went into making Lizzie Borden Took an Axe.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD features some creepy artwork of Christina Ricci’s Lizzie Borden heading up the stairs with a blood-stained dress, ax in hand. The back of the case features some production photos and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the plain disc itself, but no artwork or inserts are included.

Lizzie Borden DVD Back

Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (reverse)

Lizzie Borden DVD Disc

Lizzie Borden Took An Ax (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is a remarkably uneven and mostly tedious piece of lifetime fluff, with some style and suspense thrown in to keep it from being a total disaster. The good news is that the DVD release from Sony Pictures features good picture and sound quality, with the bad news being a lack of any bonus material. For Christina Ricci fans and history buffs only, everyone else might want to skip this one.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

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