Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Film Review: STRAIT-JACKET (1964, William Castle)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 93 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Joan Crawford, George Kennedy.
Best one-liner(s): "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you! No I didn't mean that, I love you. I hate you!"

For camp lovers, 'hag horror' pictures from the early 60's are a treasure trove of pissed-off aging starlets delivering magnificent performances in B-pictures that teeter on the edge of mockery of said starlets. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis are obviously the giants of the genre, and while BABY JANE might have showcased Bette's lunacy moreso than Joan's, STRAIT-JACKET shows that Joan can pretty well hold her own. See 59-year-old Joan play a 29-year-old in flashbacks. See prominently displayed product placement for Pepsi, since Joan was married to the president (and see one of the Pepsi VPs as the Doctor in a particularly painfully-acted role). See Joan get wasted and come on to her daughter's boyfriend by interminably fingering his mouth. See Joan wear a wig, scary makeup, and Gypsy-esque jewelry in an attempt to recapture her glory days. This is about as good as it gets, ladies and gentlemen.

Combine this with a script by Robert Bloch (PSYCHO) and direction by gimmick-monger William Castle (THE TINGLER), and you've got the unholy fusion of A and B pictures, a wagonload of decapitations, plenty of screaming, and lots and lots of creepy Crawford eyebrow action. "YOU'RE RIGHT! It WASN'T a sanitarium! It was an ASYLUM!! But I'm all better now!!!"

Also of note: check out the whacky Columbia end credit.

And if you see it on DVD, you must watch the Joan Crawford costume and makeup tests, as they're more intense and frightening than the film itself.

-Sean Gill

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