(ABC Monday Movie)
With Elizabeth Montgomery, Fionnuala Flanagan, Ed Flanders, Katherine Helmond, Fritz Weaver, Don Porter, Helen Craig, John Beal, Gall Robe, Robert Symonds, Bonnie Bartlett, Alan Hewitt, Hayden RorkeLizzie with ax
Supplier: George LeMaire Prods, & Paramount TV
Producer: LeMaire
Director: Paul Wendkos
Writer: William Bast
120 Min., Mon. (10),9 p.m.

This modern-day look at the famous 1892 "crime of the century" was a peculiar mixture of period costume courtroom drama with an overlay of contemporary armchair psychology (and debatable scripter hindsight) that neither completely failed nor completely succeeded in melding its ingredients into a cohesive whole.

The basic ingredients of the Fall River, Mass., double murders of her parents, for which spinster Borden was tried and acquitted, were at least vaguely known by most viewers, so writer William Bast took it upon himself to tell the story two ways -- one by the actual testimony in court (most if it pretty static), the other by flashbacks of events as they were really seen by the participants, primarily Lizzie herself (Elizabeth Montgomery).

The value of this method was that it permitted Bast the opportunity to show Montgomery actually committing the crime by means of his own choosing -- the case has never been solved -- and by so doing, splattering the last 20 minutes of the feature with equal amounts of explicit gore and peepshow titillation. Paradoxically, the final dollop of violence and nudity was the only sign of action in the generally stolid two hours.

Montgomery, in a casting away from her usual mold, managed to build a portrait of the title role that clearly reflected the deliberate nature of the character, quite capable of performing the bloodbath Bast had decided she'd done.

Surrounded by a strong cast headed by maid Fionnuala Flanagan, sister Katherine Helmond, parents Fritz Weaver and Helen Craig, and lawyers Ed Flanders and Don Porter, the period piece aspects of the feature were rather effectively filmed to give the work a sense of depth as it unfolded. The final slaughter scene dissipated most of the impact of this carefully built sense of quality, being a little more than a cheap shot horror-flesh dosage, both too explicit for TV.

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Last Update - November 2010

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