Strait-Jacket (1964) starring Joan Crawford, directed by William Castle, written by Robert Bloch
Synopsis of Strait-Jacket
In Strait-Jacket, movie queen Joan Crawford gives a chilling performance in this rousing shocker about a jealous wife with a hasty hatchet.
I’ve heard the term “psycho-biddy” described as “featuring a formerly-glamorous older woman who has become mentally unbalanced and terrorizes those around her”. That’s Strait-Jacket. Joan Crawford’s character finds her husband cheating on her … So, she decapitates the adulterous pair, unaware that their young daughter’s watching. She’s put in an insane asylum for the next twenty years. On her release, someone‘s committing more axe murders.
It can’t be Joan’s character! She’s too stunning, beautiful, and leading lady at the age of 60! Yes, that’s sarcasm. Yes, she’s too old for this part. And yes, she’s totally innocent. The film plays as an ode to the beauty of Joan Crawford. Which is too bad, since she’s actually a fine actress. This could have been a much more enjoyable movie.
Cast of characters
- Joan Crawford (Dancing Lady, Possessed) as Lucy Harbin, the hatchet murderess. After her release, she has blackouts and auditory hallucinations. But she can’t be the killer…
- Diane Baker (Journey to the Center of the Earth) as Carol Cutler, Lucy’s daughter. She’s engaged to the wealthy Michael, and tries to bond with her mother.
- Leif Erickson (Night Monster) as Bill Cutler, Lucy’s brother. He’s been raising Carol as his own child. Lucy comes to live with his family once released.
- John Anthony Hayes as Michael Fields, Carol’s fiancee. Whom Lucy flirts with, within minutes of meeting him. Her daughter’s fiancee.
- Howard St. John (Don’t Drink the Water) as Raymond Fields. Carol’s future father-in-law, who’s decapitated by the mystery murderer.
- Edith Atwater as Mrs. Allison Fields, Lucy’s future mother-in-law. Except that she thinks Lucy is too low-class for her wealthy son.
- Mitchell Cox as Dr. Anderson. Lucy’s doctor from the asylum. He visits Lucy to check on her progress, and he’s disturbed. So, off with his head.
- George Kennedy (Charade, The Dirty Dozen) as Leo Krause. The Cutler’s handyman. After Dr. Anderson’s disappearance, Carol hides his car on the farm, since Lucy fears she may have killed him during one of her blackouts. Leo makes the mistake of blackmailing Carol for the car. He’s decapitated soon after.
Editorial review of Strait-Jacket courtesy of Amazon.com
Movie queen Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce) gives a terrific performance in this chiller from pioneer horror movie producer William Castle (House on Haunted Hill). Crawford plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who goes berserk when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. With her three-year-old daughter accidentally witnessing the grisly act, Lucy axes the couple to death then spends twenty years in a mental institution for the double murder.
After she is released, she moves in with her brother (Leif Erickson, On the Waterfront), his wife and her own daughter (Diane Baker, The Silence of the Lambs), now twenty-three. Her nightmare is over…or is it? When a series of ax murders suddenly starts occurring in the neighborhood, police think Lucy has reverted to her old ways. The truth is finally revealed in a rousing, blood-chilling finale.
- Film debut of Lee Majors, who got the small role of playing Lucy’s adulterous husband in the flashback scene.
- Joan Crawford, still on the Board of Directors of Pepsi, demanded that product placement shots be included in all of her films.
- 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.