Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ax Murders and Madness

Sadly I've only seen one Joan Crawford movie, and this is it. TCM affords me the opportunity to view a few more, but I really should because she clearly had talent as an actress. In fact, this is on display in Strait-Jacket (1964) which ends up being one of William Castle's best movies. The plot may be a little flimsy, and the material thin, yet Crawford carries the film quite well and pulls off the character of a woman endlessly trapped between sanity and insanity. As the film goes on to show, that line is a rather thin one, and its easy to cross over from one side to the other.

Oh yes there are ax murders, and they are well framed and rather brutal. Who is responsible remains a mystery throughout the movie, although I will admit I figured out the riddle earlier on, which is actually not a bad thing. Castle not only avoids an obvious gimmick in this one (he probably did something else to promote the movie) yet also takes time to dive into class warfare and how Lucy's poor daughter is trying to prevent her mother from being locked up again in addition to attempting to marry her boyfriend, who's parents come from money and look down on her.

Things do build up to an exciting climax, but before Castle takes time to (in this case) ape Hitchcock with a sequence that would be at home in one of the Master of Suspense's horror or thriller movies. Despite being made on a lower budget than many films of its era, and some weak aspects aside, Strait-Jacket is an example of what even a schlock director such as William Castle is capable of when coupled with a talented actress and a decent plot idea. 83

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