Horror Review: Strait-Jacket (1964)

After a twenty-year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behaviour.

Sure, everyone knows the film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, even people who have never watched it know about it. What is less known is that it launched its own sub-genre of films.

Known as the ‘Hagsploitation’ era, or my favourite, the ‘Psycho-biddy’ films. Here we have a feature that is in my opinion one of the best and sadly often overlooked films of that time, though I really don’t understand why as it truly is a highly entertaining black & white film.

The teaming of William Castle and Joan Crawford is a great combination, Talking of Crawford, she shows us here why she’s considered to be one of the greatest actresses of her time and that she really was a true star of the screen. She plays her character with such conviction.

Fans of director William Castle will see his fingerprints all over this, it’s campy, it’s fun and it’s full of frights and suspense. What more could you ask for? It’s a true William Castle flick. I can only imagine the amount of fun he had promoting this feature with his trademark gimmicks.

Another fact that seems to have been forgotten is that Robert Bloch was the writer of the film, the same Robert Bloch who wrote a certain book called “Psycho”. Once you know this you can really tell that it’s his style of writing and that’s not a bad thing at all for us viewers.

“Strait-Jacket” is pure 60’s B-movie fun, a true William Castle classic. If you haven’t watched this film then I recommend you rectify that.

If you want to see the “Strait-Jacket” trailer then just click on the video below:

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

Film debut of Lee Majors, who got the small role of playing Lucy Harbin’s (Joan Crawford’s) husband in the flashback scene after his good friend Rock Hudson asked William Castle to please find a part for the twenty-three-year-old actor.

In the kitchen scenes at the beginning of the movie, a carton of Pepsi-Cola is prominently displayed on the counter. Joan Crawford was the widow of Alfred Steele, who had been CEO of the Pepsi-Cola Company, and at the time of filming Crawford, still on the Board of Directors, demanded that product placement shots be included in all of her films of this era.

Mitchell Cox (Dr. Anderson) was not an actor, but was the Vice President of the Pepsi-Cola Company. Joan Crawford had made this arrangement without consulting with Producer William Castle.

Joan Crawford required the script be completely re-written to her specifications before she agreed to sign on to the film.

When Diane Baker was offered the role of Carol, replacing another actress, she had to begin shooting her scenes the next day.

Joan Blondell was originally set to play the title role, but because of an accident, she was replaced with Joan Crawford.

When Christina Crawford’s memoir Mommie Dearest caused an uproar about Joan Crawford’s lack of parental skills, sarcastic t-shirts were manufactured featuring the image of Crawford wielding an axe from this film above the words: “Joan Crawford Daycare Center.”

Joan Crawford had script and cast approval.

The sculpture of Joan Crawford used in the film was real, created by Yucca Salamunich, a Yugoslav artist. The sculpture was originally presented to Crawford in 1941 on the set of A Woman’s Face (1941).

The original version of the script (initially slated to star Joan Blondell) reportedly involved a murderer who disguised herself by committing crimes while wearing an inflatable “fat” suit, an idea abandoned somewhere in pre-production before Joan Crawford replaced Blondell.

The children’s rhyme chanted in the movie, “Lucy Harbin took an ax, gave her husband forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave his girlfriend forty-one”, is based on the famous rhyme about Lizzie Andrew Borden: “Lizzie Borden took an ax, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one.”

Director William Castle claimed to have watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) over seventeen times.

The sound effect for the heads being chopped off was the prop man wielding an ax and cutting a watermelon in half.

The second of two consecutive films, the first being Della (1965), in which Joan Crawford and Diane Baker played mother and daughter. Both projects were filmed only a few months apart.

Cast boasts two Oscar winners: Joan Crawford and George Kennedy.

Leslie Parrish and Anne Helm were signed to play Carol before Diane Baker finally got the part.

This film is listed among The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson’s book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE┬« MOVIE GUIDE.

Edith Atwater (Mrs. Fields) had a small role in the Joan Crawford film The Gorgeous Hussy (1936).

After nearly ninety films over forty years, this proved to be yet another hit film for the durable Joan Crawford.

Lee Majors adopted his stage name when he found that Joan Crawford had difficulty pronouncing his real name (Harvey Lee Yeary) during the making of this film.4

Director William Castle had met Joan Crawford at a party.

Around 45 minutes into the film, Joan Crawford works into the story one of her favorite hobbies: knitting. She was famous for knitting during down times on the set, and her knitting was featured in “women’s” magazines of the day.3

At the end of the movie, the Columbia Pictures “lady” is missing her head.

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