Strait-Jacket
Strait-Jacket
Directors: William Castle
Writers: Robert Bloch
Producers: William Castle, Dona Holloway
Released: 2002
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
User Rating: 5.0000 out of 5 Stars! (4 Votes)

Poor Joan Crawford just can't get a break. She hacks her husband to pieces and is sent away to a mental hospital; then after she comes back and tries to adjust to a normal life, there's more ax-swinging and more noggins rolling. Her pretty sculptress daughter (Diane Baker) just wants Mom to return to society and a happy, well-adjusted life... or does she? The plot is a little trite and predictable, the direction a bit staid, but it's all Joan's show anyway. Obviously director William Castle told her to play up her character's insanity, and Crawford turns the knob on the acting meter up to 10, then breaks it off and throws it away. She spectacularly mugs her way through the whole film, abruptly changing from severe schoolmarm to trampy vamp and back again several times. The scene where Mom meets her daughter's fiancée for the first time is particularly memorable; Mom guzzles half an iced-tea glass full of bourbon, then crawls all over the boyfriend while the viewer squirms uncomfortably. Back in '64, lucky moviegoers were given little cardboard axes when this feature made its run in the theaters. Sadly, the cardboard axes are long gone, but this is still highly recommended for fans of Crawford, Castle, and high-powered thespianism in general. --Jerry Renshaw

Joan Crawford, Leif Erickson, Diane Baker. Returning home after spending 20 years in a mental institution for slaughtering her husband and his mistress, a woman becomes the suspect in a new series of grisly murders. 1964/b&w/89 min/NR/widescreen.
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JGC | 5 out of 5 Stars!
10/04/2008

"This is Joan Crawford, I urge you to see my new motion picture Strait-Jacket, from the beginning."

...Lucy Harbin took an axe
She gave her husband 40 whacks
And when she saw what he had done
She gave his girlfriend 41

This movie is so incredibly over-the-top. I love how, in the beginning they just have to say that Lucy is "7 years older than her husband."

"Strait-Jacket " was one of the very first movies that I ever saw with Joan so there's a special place in my heart for it. When I first saw this movie I knew very little about Joan and just assumed that it was one of her movies from her MGM days. And of course it didn't help that the picture on the DVD was one of Joan's Lucy Harbin dressed up with that "Mildred Pierce" looking wig. I also loved that bangle bracelet that Joan wore. Didn't she look like such a sexy mama? It totally reminded me of the way Joan looked as Sadie Thompson. Although, I don't think Lucy had any tricks up her sleeve!

I still love this movie though. Much like the ever-strong and powerful Joan, "Strait-Jacket" has totally withstood the test of time. Yes, it's a ludicrous story that would never have seen the light of day if Joan weren't in it but I can't get enough of it. The story is so dramatic and theatrical, not to mention over-the-top and incredibly foolish.

The tagline for this movie was: HER HUSBAND...HER ROOM... ......AND ANOTHER WOMAN. That really describes the beginning but it also leaves a lot to be desired because this is not a love story, at all. Joan plays Lucy Harbin, an axe murderer, who paid her dues and is now released in the care of her brother. Unfortunately once Lucy gets out murder still seems to follow her! This certainly isn't an Alfred Hitchcock type of suspense (maybe "Murder She Wrote?") But that doesn't matter because all of the performers give strong support to Joan.

Some of Joan's costars include:
Diane Baker (who was also in "Della" and "The Best of Everything" with Joan) played Carol (Lucy's daughter)
Leif Erickson played Bill Cutler (Lucy's brother)
Rochelle Hudson played Emily Cutler (Lucy's sister-in-law)

This black and white movie was released by Columbia on January 19, 1964 and is a total of 89 minutes long. It was actually filmed the prior year and Joan started promoting it from the following spring when she appeared on "I've Got A Secret" with Betsy Palmer (her costar from, "Queen Bee.") I enjoy this movie very much because it's a fine example of a 60's horror movie. There's no blood or violence but that didn't stop the producers from claiming that: Strait-Jacket vividly depicts axe murders! It certainly wasn't done vividly, it looked more like Barbie's head getting popped off.

Joan made "Strait-Jacket" right after her 1963 picture "The Caretakers." She also appeared in a slew of other fine suspense and horror projects throughout the 60s and into the 70s which are pretty good. Joan enjoyed acting in movies and later on television. But I think she also chose this particular genre because she always enjoyed science fiction and the supernatural. In 1972 during one of her final interviews Joan said, "it's interesting how many people have had experiences they're convinced are ESP." If you're interested in some more of Joan's later projects, I recommend both I Saw What You Did and "Dear Joan: We're Going To Scare you to Death."

I found Joan's performance in this movie (like all of her films) to be perfect. Incidentally, many years later, when asked about this movie Joan refused to comment. Only saying, "they were all terrible [referring to all of the movies she made after What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ], even the few that I thought might be good. I made them because I needed the money or because I was bored or both. I hope they have been exhibited and are never heard from again. If I weren't a Christian Scientist, and I saw Trog advertised on a marquee across the street, I think I'd contemplate suicide."

Joan was a perfectionist who was always a constant professional that never gave anyone anything less than all of herself. Joan must have had a natural ability to act because she is one of the most compelling actresses of the twentieth century, however she received no formal training or education in this field. Joan always knew how to make lemonade out of lemons. There are 2 qualities about her that I really respect. First, she always played such versatile roles, running the gambit of high society to street walker. From westerns to comedy to silents to musicals and horror. But what I also appreciate about Joan is that she knew how to bring an otherwise dead script to life. Let's see Bette Davis do that! Sure, Bette Davis and Greta Garbo are much more respected. But they always got the best scripts and best directors and best of everything else. Poor Joan had to make due with what she had. And I think she did pretty well.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, what are you waiting for? Go out and get the DVD or wait for it to come on TCM. Remember, don't reveal the surprise shock ending. Don't reveal the surprise shock ending. Don't reveal the surprise shock ending...
Mark Norvell | 5 out of 5 Stars!
15/09/2002

I gave this movie 5 stars for two reasons: William Castle and Joan Crawford. What a combo! And the movie's pretty good too. 20 years ago, Lucy Harbin caught her husband with another woman and chopped them up with an axe. She gets committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. Now, she's released in her daughter's (Diane Baker) care on a farm with other relatives and wouldn't you just know it---someone's at it again, chopping up the extra characters. Poor Joan tries to please her daughter in every way to make up for lost time---but daughter dearest still wants her to look like she did 20 yrs ago---like Sadie Thompson! Well things just get downright messy and there's more murders and screaming and then it all blows open. Someone's crazy alright but it's not our Joan. The extras on this DVD are great. There's a telling interview with Diane Baker and a costume test for Crawford that's hysterical. But wait till you see the "axe test"!..."Strait-Jacket" is a must have for fans. Joan (as Lucy) gets all dolled up like an aging hooker, jangling her bracelets and vamping it up while she wonders if she's going off her rocker again. Her portrayal is strong and she seems to be having a good time. Highly recommended for Crawford fans and William Castle afficianados. Get it and enjoy it.
tmp | 5 out of 5 Stars!
23/03/2001

This is a stunner. From the opening when we see Joan's Lucy "all woman, and very much aware of the fact" Hardin hacks up her two-timing hubby (Lee Majors!) and his girlfriend, to the very end where we find out who is committing all of those pesky axe murders after Joan gets sprung from the institution, this is a Crawford tour-de-force. She looks as if she crancked her own personal acting switch up to 11, and let 'er rip. She also alternates between wearing a grey wig and a frumpy muu-muu to a tight dress, black wig and about forty pounds of bangle bracelets (How could she have snuck up on anyone who was not in a coma making all that noise?), all of which succeeds in making her look twenty years older than she looks as an old woman!Wildly inappropriate line readings were a hallmark of Joan's performances in later years- but these are the best. The scene where she tells her prospective son-in-law's parents about her incarceration is a corker- she alternates between mewling terror and screaming demented harpy from moment to moment. And though other reviewers have mentioned it, the scene where she comes on to said son-in-law is jaw dropping; she starts out downing about a milk jug full of bourbon, drags the poor boy over to the sofa and sits him down by shoving him with her hips- while having him in a death-grip- drawling "I wouldn't want my daughter to think I was moving in on her fella" then proceeds to stand across the room from him and give him a pick-up look more appropriate to the leather bar scenes in "Cruising" than to an early 60's B movie. The rest of the cast just sit there, visibly aghast at the spectacle. So will you. I demand that this movie be released on DVD right this second!
Michael Wilk | 5 out of 5 Stars!
12/01/2001

Joan Crawford plays Lucy Harbin, a woman who has been institutionalized for 20 years, after having hacked her unfaithful husband and his girlfriend to pieces with an axe. She is reunited with her estranged daughter, Carol (played by Diane Baker, who specialized in playing devious females at the time). Carol encourages her mother to dress like she did 20 years earlier,i.e. flower-printed dresses, jingly charm bracelets, and a black, 40s-style wig. Lucy does, and watch out! In what is my favorite scene in the film, Joan, looking like the world's oldest hooker, comes on to her daughter's handsome YOUNG fiance. It is almost obscene to watch this, but try and take your eyes off the screen! Mysterious axe-murders begin to take place. Joan's psychiatrist, (played by Mitchell Cox, Vice-President of Pepsi!)sleazy farmhand Leonard Kraus, played by George Kennedy, and then Carol's future father-in-law, played by Howard St. John. Naturally, we assume it's Joan, right? Wrong! I won't tell who the real murderer is, but I DID drop a clue earlier on. William Castle directed this Robert "Psycho" Bloch- scripted opus, and it is just what you'd expect from Castle-low-budget, full of cheap shocks, and just plain FUN. Miss Crawford is a hoot to watch, especially in her later films, such as this one. The film also has an entertaining cast, which includes Rochelle Hudson, Leif Ericson, and Edith Atwater, as Carol's bitchy future mother-in-law.
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