STRAIT-JACKET is the 1964 horror/thriller from famed B-movie director William Castle about a woman returning to society after being convicted of a double murder twenty years earlier and the strange behavior she begins to exhibit. The film stars legendary actress Joan Crawford (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Diane Baker (Marnie), Leif Erickson (On the Waterfront), and Rochelle Hudson (Imitation of Life).
After finding her husband in bed with another woman, Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) takes an ax to both of them, murdering them in pure rage, to then find herself committed to an asylum. Twenty years later, Lucy is released and has moved in with her brother, Bill (Leif Erickson), his wife, Emily (Rochelle Hudson) and Carol (Diane Baker), her daughter who witnessed the grisly murders twenty years earlier. Hoping to move on with her life with a fresh start, Lucy begins to acclimate herself to society; however, when a slew of ax murders occur in their neighborhood, Lucy becomes the prime suspect. Has Lucy reverted back to her old ways, or is there a more sinister explanation at large?
I’ll be the first to admit that I have not seen a lot of William Castle movies (but I’m remedying that!!) outside of The Tingler (which I got to experience in all its gimmicky glory at a special screening a few years ago). With that said, I was looking forward to finally experiencing more of his films that I had heard so much about it and I’m glad I started with STRAIT-JACKET. The film, which is shot beautifully in black and white, is rare in terms of slasher/horror films as it showcases a female killer, something that we rarely see in 2018, but certainly not as much in the 1960’s. Joan Crawford is absolutely brilliant and a total powerhouse of talent in her portrayal of Lucy, a woman who is on the brink of coming undone to the point where she is beginning to question her own sanity. It was incredibly entertaining to watch her moods flawlessly transition from someone who is not quite comfortable in their own skin to someone outlandish and, at times, provocative.
As for the rest of the cast, they don’t miss a beat, and their performances, though not as strong as Crawford’s, are just as memorable. Most notably would be Diane Baker who portrays Carol, Lucy’s daughter. She is the epitome of innocence and grace, going the distance to make sure her mother is comfortable and happy, even at the cost of her own romantic relationship. As a viewer, it’s hard not to want to reach out and tell her to stop, especially when her mother’s behavior begins to indicate that not all is well, but even then, Carol is nothing but supportive and assuring that her mother is fine.
However, what really makes this movie fantastic is how it ends. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give it away, but the ending to STRAIT-JACKET is one of those finales that stays with you long after the movie has ended. Though I guessed it right before the big reveal was shown, I was till shocked to see how it all played out. Even my boyfriend, who is rarely affected when it comes to horror films, was a bit shaken up. We laughed about it afterwards, but damn, if you’ve seen the movie you know exactly what scene I’m talking about and how unsettling it all is. I’m glad I had the chance to review STRAIT-JACKET and I’m super grateful that Scream Factory puts these films out because it gives me the chance to see movies such as this that have gone under my radar.
With all that said, I highly suggest picking up STRAIT-JACKET, especially if you are a fan of Joan Crawford and William Castle. As with most Scream Factory releases, this Blu-ray is chalk full of special features that include interviews with actress Anne Helm, Joan Crawford’s publicist Richard Kahn, as well as audio commentary with authors/film historians Steve Haberman and David Schow and film historian Constantine Nasr. With all that said, this is a definite must-have for film collectors and fans of the genre. STRAIT-JACKET is now available to own on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.