Category Archives: Joan Crawford

Blu-Ray Review: Strait-Jacket (1964).

Produced and Directed by William Castle
Written by Robert Bloch
Cinematography: Arthur E. Arling
Film Editor: Edwin Bryant
Music by Van Alexander

Cast: Joan Crawford (Lucy Harbin), Diane Baker (Carol), Leif Erickson (Bill Cutler), Howard St. John (Raymond Fields), Rochelle Hudson (Emily Cutler), George Kennedy (Leo Krause), Edith Atwater (Mrs. Fields), Lee Majors (Frank Harbin)

__________

WARNING: STRAIT-JACKET VIVIDLY DEPICTS AX MURDERS! That, my friends, is the genius of William Castle. With a tagline like that, how could Strait-Jacket (1964) not have played to theaters packed with kids?

Another sign of his genius is that his gimmick for this picture didn’t require a special viewer or wired seats. It was simply its casting. The axe murderer is none other than the great Joan Crawford. You see, Joan  chopped off the heads of her cheating husband (Lee Majors) and his floozie. And oddly enough, as soon as she’s released from the nuthouse 20 years later, people start getting chopped up.

Naturally, everyone suspects Joan, even Joan herself. But being that Castle’s producing and directing from a script by Robert Bloch, we can expect some sorta twist — even if by the second reel, we have a pretty good idea what that twist’s gonna be.

I love Strait-Jacket. You can feel Castle’s ghoulish glee in every swing of the axe, every lopped-off head, every cryptic line of dialogue. He had a way of making movies fun, which has to be the main reason his pictures are still so popular.

Even the Columbia lady’s head gets chopped off.

Of course, Crawford’s terrific — even though it’s ludicrous having her play her younger self in the early scenes. We feel for her, even though we really just wanna see another head roll. The rest of the cast is functional, which is all they’re called upon to do. George Kennedy snarls his way through the whole thing, and we can’t wait for his appointment with the axe. It’s wonderful.

Mill Creek has brought Strait-Jacket to Blu-Ray in a bargain-priced double bill with Berserk!, a Herman Cohen picture from 1967. In that one, Joan’s the owner of a British circus where people keep winding up dead.

Both films look terrific here — Columbia’s HD masters of their old films are almost always gorgeous. Strait-Jacket really shows off Arthur E. Arling’s crisp B&W photography, giving it an edge over Berserk!‘s color. There are no extras, but with high definition at such a low price, who’s gonna complain?

It’s very easy to recommend this set. I wish the rest of the home video world would take a good look at what Mill Creek is doing with these Blu-Ray pairing of pictures from Crawford, Castle, Hammer and others.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joan Crawford, Mill Creek, Robert Bloch, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #167: An Evening With Joan Crawford.

Mill Creek Entertainment has announced an upcoming twin-bill Blu-Ray of two Joan Crawford horror pictures, Strait-Jacket (1964) from William Castle and Berserk (1967), produced by Herman Cohen.

Strait-Jacket
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson

William Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up.

Berserk!
Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Starring Joan Crawford, Ty Hardin, Michael Gough, Diana Dors, Judy Geeson

This time, Miss Crawford runs a circus where people keep winding up dead — in the most grisly ways. Berserk‘s in Technicolor, shot by Desmond Dickinson. Herman Cohen, Michael Gough and Dickinson had already enriched our lives with Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959).

Mill Creek’s double features like this are terrific — they’ve already treated us to a number of Castle and Hammer films. All are a great deal and come highly recommended.

Strait-Jacket is also on its way as a stand-alone Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, which will come with some supplemental stuff. All of a sudden, there’s more Joan Crawford than you can shake an axe handle at.

4 Comments

Filed under 1964, 1967, Columbia, Desmond Dickinson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Herman Cohen, Joan Crawford, Mill Creek, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #163: The Tingler (1959).

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn,  Philip Coolidge, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln

There’s about to be an open slot on my Blu-Ray Want List — The Tingler (1959) is coming from Scream Factory in August.

It’s maybe William Castle’s most whacked-out and outrageous movie of all. And that’s sayin’ something. A slug-like creature lives in our spines and grows when we’re scared; only screaming will keep it from killing us. And when one of these things (removed from a dead lady’s back by researcher Vincent Price) gets loose in a movie theater, the real audience got buzzed by little whirring motors attached to their seats. That, my friends, is why William Castle is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

tumblr_o17g7k6IYI1spnykgo1_1280

Castle with some of his Tingler cast.

Scream Factory has done a masterful job with all the old horror pictures they’ve put out, and I’m sure this one will be a real beauty — with all sorts of cool extras. God, I can’t wait!

9476ab990af59d34c4733c05a56f009c

William Castle and Joan Crawford plugging Strait-Jacket.

Strait-Jacket
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson

And if that’s not enough, Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up. Scream Factory’s bringing the Psycho-inspired Castle masterpiece out at the same time as The Tingler.

2 Comments

Filed under 1959, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Vincent Price, William Castle

Blu-ray Review: I Saw What You Did (1965).

I saw NP

Produced and Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by William McGivern
Based on the novel Out Of The Dark by Ursula Curtiss
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Music: Van Alexander
Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant

Cast: Joan Crawford (Amy Nelson), John Ireland (Steve Marak), Leif Erickson (Dave Mannering), Sarah Lane (Kit Austin), Andi Garrett (Libby Mannering), Sharyl Locke (Tess Mannering), Patricia Breslin (Ellie Mannering), John Archer (John Austin)

__________

After the big-time box office of Strait-Jacket (1964), William Castle re-teamed with its star, Joan Crawford, for I Saw What You Did (1965). It’s the story of a couple of high school girls making prank calls, who just happen to say “I saw what you did and I know who you are” to a guy who just killed his wife (John Ireland). This tactical error spurs the thrills and mayhem that make up the rest of the movie.

(In the film’s ads, Castle got a lot of mileage out of the scientific term Uxoricide, which means simply “the act of killing your wife.”)

I saw what you did

William Castle’s at his pseudo-Hitchcockian best here, dialing back the gimmicks and doing a very good job at creating tension. While we often overlook his skills as a director to focus on his genius as a showman, the man knew how to make a movie. Castle’s been one of my favorite filmmakers since I saw House On Haunted Hill (1959) on TV at the age of nine — even without the floating skeletons, I was awestruck.

ISAWWHAT

But back to I Saw What You Did. Joan Crawford only worked four days on it. And though she was a consummate professional, the effects of her ever-present flask can be seen in some scenes — probably the ones shot each afternoon. The aging star intimidated the two teenage players, Andi Garrett and Sara Lane, who are quite good.

Scream Factory has done a great job with I Saw What You Did, mainly by presenting Joseph Biroc’s cinematography well (it’s nice and crisp, with a pleasing amount of wear and tear) and by including trailers and other material to highlight how Castle promoted his film — which he seemed to consider every bit as important as the film itself. This isn’t Castle’s best work, and it’s a long way from Crawford’s, but this Blu-ray is highly recommended. (Scream Factory, I’d like to put in a request for another Castle Universal picture, 1964’s The Night Walker.)

Leave a comment

Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-ray News #50: I Saw What You Did (1965).

q4deogarrb0lzbpdoxxp

Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Leif Erickson, Andi Garrett, Sara Lane

You don’t have to spend much time on my blogs to figure out that I’m a huge William Castle fan. So, around here, Shout Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray release of I Saw What You Did (1965) is a big deal indeed. Watch for it in May.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joan Crawford, John Ireland, Shout/Scream Factory, William Castle