Strait-Jacket (1964) movie poster

(1964) dir. William Castle
viewed: 12/07/06

Written by the author of Psycho, Robert Bloch, and directed by the inimitable William Castle, and starring Joan Crawford in a late-career renaissance in an uber-cult role as a reformed killer, who is trying to stabilize her life after 20 years in an asylum, this movie is packed with fun and qualities.  They just don’t make movies like this anymore.

Crawford gives what is referred to in the “Making of…” documentary as “an A-List performance in a B-Movie role”, and that is not far from the truth.  While there are some excellent moments of camp, Crawford also really gives this great sense of vulnerability and uncertainty.  It’s quite a moving performance to be honest.

But it’s also about axe-wielding and beheadings.  The poster shows a deranged Crawford in mid-swing and Castle fetishizes knives, axes, knitting needles, anything good for poking or cutting.  And it has a classic plot-twist, if not as clever as Psycho, at least it’s satisfying.

The opening sequence is the most visually entertaining, zooming close-ups, stills, quick cuts, of myriad images, while a voice tells the beginnings of the story.  It’s wild and fun and cool and poppy.  And then the title sequence which follows uses some really interesting paintings upon which to lay-out the credits.

It’s not in the top tier of my cult favorites, but the film does have a lot to offer.  Chop, Chop.

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