Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

STRAIT-JACKET


STRAIT-JACKET (1964). Director: William Castle.

Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) was sent to an asylum for twenty years after taking the axe to her husband and his pretty bed mate when she arrived home a day too soon. Now she's moving in with her brother Bill (Lief Ericson), her sister-in-law Emily (Rochelle Hudson) and her grown daughter Carol (Diane Baker) -- who witnessed the murders -- -- at Bill's farm. First Lucy's psychiatrist disappears, then a sleazy worker (a vivid George Kennedy) gets beheaded (in a suspenseful, well-handled sequence), and Carol is getting more and more worried about Mommy. And what will her handsome boyfriend (John Anthony Hayes) and his rather stuffy parents think? [Howard St. John and Edith Atwater are swell as the parents.] The script with its clever twists and dubious -- if fascinating -- psychology is by Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel "Psycho." Crawford is quite good in the movie, which -- like her -- is quite arresting and entertaining. Diane Baker is simply terrific. Atwater later played Aunt Gertrude in a television version of The Hardy Boys. Like many Castle films it's absurd, simplistic, and yet also a lot of gruesome fun. Some may think the best thing about the film is the gag with the Columbia Pictures logo at the very end of the movie.

Verdict: Christina Crawford's favorite movie. ***.

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