A series of grisly events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, between 1890 and 1900 are dramatized.A series of grisly events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, between 1890 and 1900 are dramatized.A series of grisly events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, between 1890 and 1900 are dramatized.
It is narrated by Ian Holmes, the only recognizable name associated with the film, reading news excerpts from a small, northern Wisconsin town's newspaper from the late 1800s. The occurrences are sometimes funny, often tragic, and unsettlingly bizarre. You have to remember that there was a very small population in the area at that time (the area is still not heavily populated), so the number of odd goings-on is curious. These occurrences have even more impact because they are juxtaposed with the very wholesome image that Wisconsin has always possessed (it seems whenever a movie wants to present wholesomeness, they set it in Wisconsin) as well as the beautiful vocabulary and syntax used in written documentation at that time. The documentary is also British, which ads another element to it--somehow I think they find it even more fascinating and that comes through in the presentation.
So, Ian Holmes reads the articles and we are shown photos from the period (sometimes they are the real people being discussed, but not always) and re-enactments of the crimes (they are mostly crimes), mishaps, or misfortunes. Infrequently, current-day footage is used, which I have read as a criticism, but which I think is misguided (see below).
The strongest thing I came away with from this documentary is that human nature is consistent, no matter what the era. The crimes and occurrences committed in and around this small Wisconsin town in the late 1800s are the same crimes that are being committed everywhere today. There are classic obsession crimes (i.e., a man asked a woman to marry him, she said no, he went to her house and shot her and then himself), classic sociopathic crimes, classic abuse cases, etc. I think the modern-day footage helps to bring this message home. But, there are also some
REALLY kooky things too, which are a blast. Look for the teacher who likes to travel by train. . . .
See this film if you think the world is going to pot; you'll realise its always been there.
- Jan 20, 2002