Mar 11, 2016

Lizzie Borden Chronicles: Beefcake and Splatter

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is an 8 episode miniseries that aired on Lifetime in 2015 and is now on Netflix.  It chronicles the adventures of the famous Lizzie Borden (1860-1924), after she was acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother.

Many books and movies have delved into the question of what happened on that hot August morning in 1892, but the Chronicles leave no doubt: Lizzie (Christina Ricci) did it.  She gleefully kills her parents and anyone else considers she considers a threat.

 She has some noble instincts: she is protective of animals, children, and abused women.  But her go-to solution to any problem, even the most trivial, is murder.

It is a handsome production, with beautifully designed sets and street scenes full of life and color.  The costumes are perfect.  The customs and language of the late 19th century are expertly reproduced.  You're not looking into the dead past, but into a "now."

But Lizzie's numerous murders of neutral and positive characters, including her girlfriend/ kept girl Adele and her sister's fiancee, become difficult to watch.  And the production seems rushed.  The most interesting story is of Lizzie's sister Emma (Clea DuVall), who transforms from a spinsterish recluse to a murderer in her own right, and becomes involved with the Trotwood crime family of Boston.  But her story is told quickly, over a couple of episodes.

Since this is Boomer Beefcake and Bonding, you're probably wondering -- well, is there any beefcake and bonding?

There's a lot of lesbian interest.  Lizzie seduces Adele and lives with her.  Nance O'Neil, who briefly befriends Lizzie before finding out her secrets, is presented as ambisexual; in real life she was probably lesbian, and Lizzie's lover.  We see lesbian intimacies occuring at a party, and a photographer shoots a scene of "sapphic" erotica.

There don't appear to be any gay men in this world.  Every male character of any importance is shown kissing, having sex with, or propositioning women.

But there's ample beefcake.

1. Cole Hauser  (left) as Charles Siringo, the Pinkerton agent assigned to investigate the murders.  Emma kills him.

2. Dylan Taylor as Officer Trotwood, who protects the sisters and proposes to Emma.  Lizzie has him killed.

3. Bradley Stryker (top photo) as Skipjack, a low-life who occasionally works for Lizzie. She kills him.

4. Rhys Coiro (left)  as Chester Phipps, a seedy photographer who Lizzie kills.

5. Chris Bauer and Matthew LeNevez as Tom Horn and Bat Masterson, real-life cowboys who come looking for Siringo.  Lizzie kills them.

6. Frank Chiesurin as Spencer Cavanaugh, a playwright who raises Lizzie's ire by assaulting Adele.  She kills him.

7. Cody Ray Thompson and Will Rothhaar as the Trotwood boys, one of whom Lizzie kills.  The other she just shoots.

The spectacular beefcake almost makes up for the splatter.