Wisconsin Death Trip

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime, Drama, Historical

A veritable parade of murder, mayhem and madness, this handsome adaptation of Michael Lesy's classic book peers deep into the haunted heart of turn-of-the-century Midwestern life. In 1973, Lesy performed a remarkable bit of necromancy: Digging deep into Wisconsin state archives, he carefully culled 140 images of rural life during the final decade of the...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

A veritable parade of murder, mayhem and madness, this handsome adaptation of Michael Lesy's classic book peers deep into the haunted heart of turn-of-the-century Midwestern life. In 1973, Lesy performed a remarkable bit of necromancy: Digging deep into

Wisconsin state archives, he carefully culled 140 images of rural life during the final decade of the 19th century, and augmented them with newspaper clippings, bits of gossip and local history. The world that sprang to life within the pages of Wisconsin Death Trip came as a shock:

Insanity, arson, murder, suicide, disease, starvation, financial ruin, infant death, premature burial, incest and much, much more were the order of the day. Lesy's gothic photo album gave the lie to the cozy myth of American pastoralism. Translating the book's singular vision to film, English

documentarian James Marsh wisely sticks to Lesy's format, with a few inspired alterations. Under Ian Holm's nuanced reading of the newspaper accounts, Lesy's still photographs of wide-eyed Norwegian and German immigrants in their Sunday best and the chilling momento mori of their deceased children

become spooky tableaux vivants in which barns burn, tiny coffins float downstream, bodies swing from trees, an old man takes a child bride and a search party, aided by a rooster, search for the bodies of children drowned by their mother. Focusing primarily on the goings-on around Black River

Falls, WI, Marsh develops a few dramatic arcs through Holm's reportage, including the story of Mary Sweeney (Jo Vukelich), a cocaine-snorting ex-school-teacher with an uncontrollable mania for smashing windows, and the sad fate of Pauline L'Allemande (Marilyn White) a wayward opera singer who

winds up remanded to the Mendota State Hospital for the Insane. American history was never quite like this. Crisply photographed in black and white by cinematographer Eigil Bryld and extremely violent, it's the hellish flip-side to Little House on the Prairie.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A veritable parade of murder, mayhem and madness, this handsome adaptation of Michael Lesy's classic book peers deep into the haunted heart of turn-of-the-century Midwestern life. In 1973, Lesy performed a remarkable bit of necromancy: Digging deep into W… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »