“Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”
Although the skipping-rope rhyme may sound relatively playful when heard by children at play, its lyrics have a deep, dark origin that traces back to the 1800s.
Lizzie Borden isn’t just some fictitious character of old folklore being brought to life in a film adaptation. She was actually a real person who was accused of committing one of the most gruesome crimes in history.
The new Lifetime film Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, starring Sleepy Hollow actress Christina Ricci, chronicles the timeline of the heinous crime, delving deep into the historical accounts that led up to the infamous “forty whacks.” However, it will also reveal exactly what happened after that.
According to the New York Post, the film comes across as “part horror film/part court procedural” as Ricci’s portrayal of Borden is a cross between sociopathic and psychotic.
The film’s executive producer Judith Verno explained why Ricci’s role was delineated to depict a “thoroughly guilty” Borden. Verno shared that after extensive review of the original police documentation and court transcripts, one could see exactly how Borden should have been found guilty. So, the film will add a visual to some of the details that have never been revealed.
“We added a line which is right out of the real transcript: ‘It’s very hard to imagine that if you found your father dead, on the couch, that you would remain in the house.’ To me, the natural instinct would be to leave the house, because the killer’s probably there,” Verno says. “That she sat down and remained so calm was very telling.”(image)
Ricci also weighed in revealing one aspect in particular that piqued her interest with the portrayal of Borden. “What I thought was interesting about playing this part,” says Ricci, “was the question of, ‘How does a person behave once they’re accused of this in trying to convince everyone they’re innocent?’
She also shared some inside details about the ‘exhausting’ experience of whacking bodies for the film, reports Yahoo! News. “My arms got tired because the axe was heavy. You film scenes from a million different angles, and for every take I did 12 chops with the axe. My arms were ripped for about two days after. I didn’t like getting fake blood in my hair though.”
On August 4, 1892, Borden allegedly killed both her father and stepmother by bludgeoning them with an ax. Her father Andrew Borden was struck 10 or 11 times with what was described as a hatchet-like weapon. It has also been stated that her father’s face was completely mutilated. Her stepmother Abby Borden was fatally struck 19 times in the head, and was left with a crushed skull.
On June 20, 1893, after only an hour and a half of deliberation, Lizzie Borden was acquitted. Her acquittal went down in history, often compared to the high-profile trials of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and OJ Simpson.
The world premiere of Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is scheduled to air Saturday, Jan. 25 at 8/7C on Lifetime.