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Strait-Jacket (1964)

     So begins part two of the “Joan Crawford: Old and Crazy” reviews, and although I have given Strait-Jacket the same rating as Berserk, the former is a better flick by comparison. Filmed three years earlier than her circus-murder movie, Crawford actually behaves her age for at least half of this movie. Brought to us by director/producer William Castle, who would film I Saw What You Did with another age-confused Crawford a year later, the picture is your typical campy horror flick, complete with axe beheadings. One does not have to wait long for the action to begin as the film starts with Crawford’s chopping of her husband and his lover, which lands her in an asylum for 20 years. The plot of the film commences upon her release and reunion with her daughter.

     Although she models gray hair and dull clothing when behaving her character’s proper self in Strait-Jacket, Crawford quickly forgets her age when a combination of wig, dress and drink leads her to caress her daughter’s fiance’s mouth and press herself against him. Perhaps it was Crawford’s Hollywood mold as a stong, sexy looker that landed her in the position that resulted in her accepting roles in these crappy, campy movies. Perhaps Hollywood found no place for her once she had out-aged those parts. Nevertheless Crawford or her later directors could not resist injecting some of that misplaced sex appeal into the plots in these disappointments.

     The screenplay was written by Robert Bloch, who is possibly best known as the author of the “Psycho” novel. The twist in Strait-Jacket has shades of that story and even the later Berserk, but I’ll not give away the ending. If one can make it past the lousy acting of the other participants and over-the-top performance by Crawford, he will find a story written for laughs, at least by today’s standards.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

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