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Monday, September 10, 2012

STRAIT-JACKET (1964)

Bette Davis & Joan Crawford had such an unlikely success with Robert Aldrich’s WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE/’62, that a re-teaming looked inevitable. But Crawford’s health recused her from HUSH . . . HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE/’64. (Olivia de Havilland stepped in, very nicely, too.) Books have been written on ‘what really happened’ behind the scenes, but the reasons for Joan’s vanishing act grow a lot clearer once this trashy piece of shock schlock is taken into account: Crawford wanted Davis’s role. And damned if she doesn’t get just that in this fast-track release from the very same year. Now, Joan’s the reclusive axe-wielding nutcase in this laughable horror vehicle . . . or is she? And Crawford’s not the only one on this project out to get their due. There’s Robert Bloch, author of the book Hitchcock turned into PSYCHO/’60. He tosses in mother fixation, phantom voices, a murdered investigator, cheap wigs falling off at the climax, even a spic-n-span bathroom with a shower curtain waiting to be flung open. You can easily parody these William Castle productions and the campy intensity of Joan Crawford’s determination to remain a movie star, but what’s the point? (Be sure to check out Columbia's Lady-with-the-Torch logo at the end of this film. She’s lost her head!)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Producer/director William Castle was more marketer than filmmaker. Bloodied cardboard axes were the freebies of choice. But why not a real Carny Campaign?

  • SEE Joan Crawford in her black ‘fright-wig’ after a ‘youth’ make-over!
  • HEAR Joan confess to how she spends her days. ‘Knitting!’
  • WATCH Crawford molest a spinning 78 rpm shellac disc by striking a match on its innocent surface!
  • FEEL the terror as Joan puts the moves on debuting John Anthony Hayes, stopping his career before it ever got going!

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