Notorious but lovable schockmeister William Castle teams up with a fading Joan Crawford in this dumb, crude but quite entertaining melodrama. Lucy Harbin (Crawford) finds her husband in bed with a another woman. Grabbing an axe, she dispatches them both in a grisly fashion, without realizing that her young daughter Carol (Diane Baker) has witnessed the whole nightmarish scene.
Twenty years later, Carol is an up-and-coming sculptor and is about to be married. She seems to have put her awful childhood behind her, but then she gets word that Lucy is about to be released from the mental hospital. Once Lucy arrives at the home of her brother Bill (Leif Erickson) her eccentric behavior makes it clear that she’s quite far from all right — and when people start getting chopped up with axes, the list of suspects is pretty short!
This is one of the horror films that Crawford made after her late-career success with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962). While it isn’t the best film of her career, it isn’t the worst (as is often asserted); in fact, she is quite delightful in spite of being asked to play a 25-year-old in a flashback sequence (she was 56 at the time). In any event, Crawford’s career low (1970’s unintentionally hilarious Trog) still lay in the future. –Michael Popham
Strait-Jacket screens Friday and Saturday, January 2 and 3 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, January 4 at 5:00 and 7:00, at the Trylon. We ask any patrons bringing axes to the screening to kindly check them at the box office. Advance tickets are on sale here.