Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Movie Reviews Strait-Jacket (1964): ‘A’ Star in ‘B’ Horror Cult Classic

Strait-Jacket (1964): ‘A’ Star in ‘B’ Horror Cult Classic

Strait-Jacket movie Joan CrawfordStrait-Jacket movie with Joan Crawford. Instead of costarring opposite Bette Davis in Robert Aldrich’s “A” hit Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, the Best Actress Oscar winner found herself as the sole star in William Castle’s B horror thriller.
  • Strait-Jacket (1964) movie review: Psycho-ish horror cult classic works as a larger-than-life Joan Crawford showcase – as long as you just go along for the ride and refrain from asking any questions about plot and character.

Strait-Jacket movie review: Who would have guessed that Joan Crawford would one day become an (ex-?) axe-murdering sexpot?

“From the director of Homicidal, the author of [the 1959 novel] Psycho, and the co-star of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” reads the byline for producer-director William Castle’s 1964 horror thriller Strait-Jacket, written by Robert Bloch and starring Best Actress Academy Award winner Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce, 1945).

Although I’ve seen Strait-Jacket dozens of times, I still go back to it whenever I want a “post-Baby Jane” Joan Crawford fix. In that regard, Castle’s thriller and Jim O’Connolly’s British-made Berserk (1967), the latter also centered on the former MGM and Warner Bros. star, are the only two that I appreciate.

Stellar allure

For Strait-Jacket, the gimmick-savvy Castle had jumped at the chance to lure a real movie icon into one of his exploitation flicks.

As everyone knows (or should know), Crawford plays Lucy Harbin, an axe-murderess released from an “insane asylum” after 20 years. Once again, the actress is saddled down with a rotten daughter – see, for one, Ann Blyth in Mildred Pierce – here played by Diane Baker (Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Silence of the Lambs).

Without giving the plot away, I’ll just say that Strait-Jacket is kind of like the story of Lizzie Borden with a twist.

From dowdy frump to jewel-clad sexpot

At first, Joan Crawford incarnates the dowdy, gray-haired Lucy with plenty of pathos and sincerity.

But once she gets all dolled-up in sundresses and a black wig, in addition to some cheap jewelry dangling and rattling loud enough to wake the dead, Crawford goes way over the top, mugging like crazy – flirting, seducing, striking a match on a record playing on a phonograph – while displaying Pepsi-Cola cartons everywhere.

Unfortunately, I’ve never understood her character’s motivation for suddenly turning from a shy, reclusive old woman into a seductive sexpot. But then everything in Strait-Jacket feels contrived.

In other words, it’s best not to take it all that seriously. If you just go with it, you’ll enjoy the crazy ride.

Strait-Jacket (1964)

Director: William Castle.

Screenplay: Robert Bloch.

Cast: Joan Crawford. Diane Baker. Leif Erickson. Howard St. John. John Anthony Hayes. Rochelle Hudson. George Kennedy. Edith Atwater. Mitchell Cox. Lee Majors.

Strait-Jacket (1964): ‘A’ Star in ‘B’ Horror Cult Classic” review text © Danny Fortune; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.


Strait-Jacket (1964) Movie Review” endnotes

Producer-director William Castle and novelist-turned-screenwriter Robert Bloch would join forces once again on another 1964 thriller, The Night Walker, notable for having reunited ex-spouses Robert Taylor and, in her final big-screen role, Barbara Stanwyck (in place of original choice Joan Crawford).

Joan Crawford Strait-Jacket movie image: Columbia Pictures.

Strait-Jacket (1964): ‘A’ Star in ‘B’ Horror Cult Classic” last updated in October 2021.

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More