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

Thursday, October 24, 2013


An intense Joan Crawford
BATTLE-AXE: THE MAKING OF "STRAIT-JACKET." (2002). Producer/director: Jeffrey Schwarz.

"We have to remember that we can't expect everyone to be perfect." -- Diane Baker.

This is an entertaining, if brief, look behind the scenes of the William Castle production of Strait-Jacket, starring the inimitable Joan Crawford. The title refers to the weapon of choice in the movie -- which "realistically depicts axe murders" -- and not to Crawford, who is basically handled sympathetically and whose performance in the black and white B shocker is deservedly praised. Joan Blondell was supposed to play the lead but she was injured in an accident. The part of Joan's daughter, played by Diane Baker, was originally essayed by a more voluptuous but apparently less talented and unnamed actress whom Crawford wanted replaced. There are interesting observations from film historian David Del Valle, as well as comments from Baker, who tells -- not unkindly -- that Crawford drank a bit and had the ending changed so that it would focus on her and not Baker [well, she was the star, after all]. Baker says at one point that the makers of horror films, such as William Castle, are actually "lovable," but apparently she didn't feel that way about Alfred Psycho Hitchcock, whom she doesn't exactly depict as lovable in Donald Spoto's book Spellbound by Beauty [Baker appeared in Hitchcock's Marnie]. 

Verdict: Interesting featurette on a minor horror classic. ***.

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