Blu-ray Review: Strait-Jacket Shout Factory / 1964 / 93 min / Not rated / Aug 21, 2018

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By the 1960’s, Joan Crawford’s (Mildred Pierce) career was in serious decline. Her days as a Hollywood glamour girl were long past, and despite a brief resurgence in 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? good leading roles for middle-aged actresses were few and far between. Crawford felt most of the roles she was being offered were beneath her talent. Now pushing sixty, she insisted on playing women half her age. Enter showman and horror director/producer William Castle. Eager to work with a bonafide Hollywood star, he offered Crawford the lead in his latest film, Strait-Jacket.

Written by Psycho source novel author Robert Bloch, Strait-Jacket begins with a flashback. Lucy Harbin (Crawford), comes home early to find her much younger husband (an uncredited Lee Majors, The Six Million Dollar Man) in with another woman. Lucy goes bananas, hacking the couple to death while her young daughter Carol looks on in horror. A jolt of an opening act, it sets the tone for the rest of the film. Jumping ahead twenty years, Lucy, released from an asylum, comes to stay with a now grown-up Carol (Diane Baker, The Silence of the Lambs), her brother Bill (Leif Erickson, Twilight’s Last Gleaming), and her sister-in-law, Emily (Rochelle Hudson) at their farm in the country. Despite some misgivings, and the interruptions to her own happy plans to marry her beau Michael Fields (John Anthony Hayes), Carol wants to help her mom get settled and find happiness again. However, it’s not long before Lucy starts hearing voices, and seeing decapitated heads on her pillow. Is she losing her mind again? When people start turning up dead, is she responsible?

While most will figure out the ending long before the crazy climax, the reason to watch Strait-Jacket is in the telling. Completely over-the-top, Joan Crawford certainly gives it her all, swinging an ax with authority! Measured by 1964 standards, the head chopping is brutal. Obviously, the nods to Psycho are unmistakable and an argument can be made that movies like Strait-Jacket were a precursor to the modern slasher. While the film drags at times, it had moments of real energy (due to Crawford’s obvious commitment to her character), and A few mild jump scares. Look for a dark-haired, almost unrecognizable George Kennedy (Airport) as a farmhand, and pay attention to the torch holding “Columbia Lady” at the end!

On Blu-ray for the first time from Shout Factory via their Scream Factory label, Strait-Jacket is framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p, black and white transfer sports a rather clean image throughout, with strong clarity and contrast. Black levels are deep and inky, while the grayscale compliments the level of detail. The only issues are some minor softness in a few shots and a bit of mosquito noise in a few daytime shots.

The DTS-HD Mono Master Audio sounds accurate to the source and provides clear and fill sound throughout the film. Dialogue, music, and effects are mixed well to create an enjoyable listening experience. Optional English subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Authors Steve Haberman and David J. Schow
  • Joan Had Me Fired (HD, 6:47) An Interview with Anne Helm, the actress originally hired to play Carol.
  • On the Road with Joan Crawford (HD, 6:35) An interview with publicist Richard Kahn.
  • Battle-Ax: The Making of Strait-jacket (HD,14:40) Interviews with Diane Baker and film Historian David Del Valle.
  • Joan Crawford Costume and Makeup Tests (HD, 3:29)
  • Ax-Swinging Screen Test (HD, 0:38)
  • Trailer / TV Spot (HD, 2:38)
  • Still Gallery (HD, 2:17)

Movie title: Strait-Jacket (1964)

Director(s): William Castle

Actor(s): Joan Crawford , Diane Baker , Leif Erickson , George Kennedy , Lee Majors, Howard St. John

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Drama

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3.3