The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)

Article 3791 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2011
Posting Date: 12-31-2011
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Featuring Elizabeth Montgomery, Fionnula Flanagan, Ed Flanders
Country: USA
What it is: True crime speculation

In the late nineteenth century, the daughter of a well-to-do family finds herself accused of the axe murders of her mother and father. Will she be convicted of the crime? And is she, in fact, guilty?

I’m not intimately familiar with the details of the Lizzie Borden case, but I’m assuming at this point that this movie is more or less accurate on the details that are a part of public record, but that the revelations as to what actually happened are speculation on the part of the screenwriter. One of the problems I often have with TV-Movies is that the nature of the medium often requires the ‘blanding out’ of certain plot elements, but there’s a flip side to this; it could also require that the creative teams on these movies to use subtlety and suggestion to get their points across, and this can sometimes result in a richer experience. It’s the second approach that is taken here, and the movie is very effective in telling its story of gruesome murders and the queasy dysfunction of a family that led to them. It’s all augmented by a strong performance by Elizabeth Montgomery; her Lizzie Borden is not mentally stable, but she’s also not a fool, and there’s a frightening coldness to her that makes you believe that she could indeed be guilty. The performance by Fritz Weaver as her father (in flashbacks) is also very good. Whether or not the speculation is true, the movie does an effective job of selling it, and the movie is highly engaging.


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