Thursday, December 22, 2016


Strait-Jacket ~ Like Santa Claus, this is one of those films that a fellow manager at my old video store used to run all the time, sometimes as punishment, sometimes for his own amusement. Just as Mommy Dearest was a video store favorite, and we knew all the lines (and some callbacks) just as well as some of us knew The Rocky Horror Picture Show, we also knew the real Joan Crawford films as well, and when I say 'real,' I mean real bad. And bad ranges from the unwatchable Trog to the height of mad horror What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, which is nearly as fun as the aforementioned Rocky.

Here in 1964's Strait-Jacket, directed by William Castle, Joan is just home from the asylum after serving twenty years time for taking an axe to her cheating husband. Now living with her daughter, played by Diane Baker, who introduced the film on the TCM Classic Cruise, when bodies start to pile up, guess who gets the blame? Crawford demanded that Baker play her daughter after the time they had together on The Best of Everything in 1959.

William Castle tackles this tight Robert Bloch story with apt terror and camp, with Joan Crawford dressing up like Mildred Pierce and trying to be a half-her-age seductress. It's fun and scary, with a wonderful plot that fits perfectly and shocks first time viewers. One can see Crawford's control freak hands on many parts of this film. In particular, I loved the big Pepsi advertisement on the table in one scene, a company she owned at the time.

Diane Baker is marvelous, a young George Kennedy is good too, and an even younger Lee Majors as Crawford's cheating husband disavows that he was ever in this movie, which just makes it even more priceless. I loved this, no longer a punishment, but a joy. As always, it is so fun to see these films, even these camp classics, up on the big screen, especially in a palatial theater like on board the Disney Fantasy.

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