Strait-Jacket is one of William Castles Psycho/Baby Jane ripoffs. The influence of both films is clear in the names of some of the people that Castle corrals star Joan Crawford from Baby Jane, playing another demented old dame role, as well as Robert Bloch who wrote the original novel that became the basis of Psycho on script. Strait-Jacket is somewhat better than most of William Castles films. Robert Blochs script maintains psychology that is at least credible and offers a denouement that is not too implausibly fantastical in its contrivances, although the eventual twist ending is pedestrian. William Castle was at best a journeyman director of passable competence but little style. Some of the shock tactics the prologue murder, the dispatch of George Kennedy in full view, or the sinister image of the girls dancing work well. Elsewhere, Castles crude shocks cuts to axes and knives and various hackings and stabbings are tacky.
Joan Crawford, well into the dregs of her career, makes a fascinating spectacle, flirting with younger men and trying to appear youthful. She plays reasonably well, especially in the scenes trying to seduce John Anthony Hayes and acting disturbed, although her petulant and confused acts fail to come across terribly convincingly. Worth watching out for are performances from Diane Baker, who engenders both likeability and seriousness, and George Kennedy who has an interesting role as a surly handyman.
William Castles other films of genre note as producer-director are: as director of Crime Doctors Manhunt (1945), the sixth in a series of Columbia crime thrillers, of which Castle directed several, featuring a forensicologist against a split-personalitied killer; the psycho-thriller Macabre (1958); House on Haunted Hill (1959); the classic The Tingler (1959), probably Castles best film; the haunted house film 13 Ghosts (1960); the psycho-thriller Homicidal (1961); Mr. Sardonicus (1961) about a man with his face caught in a grotesque frozen smile; the juvenile comedy Zotz! (1962) about a magical coin; the remake of The Old Dark House (1963) for Hammer; The Night Walker (1965), a psycho-thriller about a dream lover; the prank phonecall psycho-thriller I Saw What You Did (1965); the psycho-thriller Lets Kill Uncle (1965); the ghost comedy The Spirit is Willing (1967); the reality-bending sf film Project X (1968); as producer of the classic occult film Rosemarys Baby (1968) for Roman Polanski; as producer of the anthology series Ghost Story (1972-3); Shanks (1974) with Marcel Marceau as a puppeteer who can resurrect the dead; and as producer of the firestarting insect film Bug! (1975).
Robert Bloch was most famous for writing the novel that became the basis of Psycho (1960). His other genre scripts are:- The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), The Night Walker (1965), The Skull (1965), The Psychopath (1966), The Deadly Bees (1967), Torture Garden (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Asylum (1972), the tv movie The Cat Creature (1973), the tv movie The Dead Dont Die (1974), Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) and The Amazing Captain Nemo (1977).
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