Tuesday, October 07, 2008

FGFC: Strait-Jacket

Well kids its time to once again open up the vaults and dive headfirst into another Final Girl Film Club flick. I'm not even going to beat around the bush this time, I freaking Loved Stacie's pick this month, which was "Strait-Jacket." An awesome movie from 1964 from director William Castle, or as I call him "Oh he of 'House on haunted Hill' fame" because I fell in love with that movie when I saw it too. So the man has chops. Not only that but the movie stars Joan Crawford, who I had just seen in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" So clearly going in I was psyched.

Preamble crap:

This month a return to the shorthand form that I started with. Partly to try and reclaim the fun, partly because I'm ass deep in boxes full of my belongings trying to get ready for a move. You'll roll with me on this one right?

The Cast:

Lucy Harbin – Joan Crawford
Carol Harbin – Diane Baker
Bill Cutler – Leif Erickson
Emily Cutler – Rochelle Hudson
Michael Fields – John Anthony Hayes
Doctor Anderson – Mitchell Cox
Leo Krause - George Kennedy
Raymond Fields – Howard St. John
Mrs. Fields – Edith Atwater
Frank Harbin – Lee Majors

Whats the basics?

Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) comes home early from a trip to find her younger husband, Frank (Lee Majors) aslseep in bed with his lover. Distraught, Lucy lashes out at the lovers with the first thing she finds, an axe! Unfortunately he 3 year old daughter bears witness to the horrific acts (both the murders and the extramarital shenanigans)

20 years later and a lot has changed, Lucy has spent her time in an asylum after being judged insane and is now being released to live with the now adult Carol, and Carols uncle, Lucy's brother Bill and his wife Emily.

Adjusting to life on the outside is difficult for Lucy, she is nervous around strangers, including Carol's "almost fiancée" Michael, she is uncomfortable with the way she has aged, she is hearing things and even having nightmares (severed heads on a pillow, not so good for the sleepy time),

Lucy seems to have ups and downs, Carol treats her to a makeover, which leaves lucy looking (and occasionally acting as if she were) 20 years younger. Of course all of the progress hits a bit of a snag when Dr. Anderson from the asylum stops by for a visit. Lucy once again becomes very nervous and agitated, and people start getting killed.

But is Lucy the culprit?

What works for me?

As we know I'm a sucker for well shot black and white, and there were times here when director William Castle (Oh he of "House on Haunted Hill" fame) just blew me away. There were literally a few stills that I would love to have blown up as art on my wall. But I don't know, maybe that just makes me a geek?

Aside from that the acting was pretty damned good as well, I mean Joan Crawford! You know you love her don't deny it. Then there is Diane Baker, I found her performance to be very good on the first viewing but on the second viewing once I knew that she was in fact the killer I found the subtlety that she put in there to be pretty near to brilliant. Her face during that first uncomfortable hug, he body language during her conversation with Dr. Anderson, the little digs she put in when "pushing" Joan Crawford's Lucy into doing things she wasn't comfortable with. Really I just loved it, beautifully disturbed!

Say what you will but I say that rhyme was awesome, so aweome I'm sharing it right now, just you try and stop me! "Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend 41." That just plain rocks, if I have kids I may teach that to them. Hey, don't judge me, you probably taught/will teach your kids that horrible rhyme about the black plague.

Since I brought up the ending where Carol turned out to be impersonating/framing her mother for the killings in an attempt to get Michael's parents out of the way. If you look at the story as a whole, give the movie an extra viewing or two you will see that actually it is laid out very well so you are lead to believe that it is probably Lucy, but Castle was very careful to shoot it in a way so Carol's ultimate reveal could make sense. Had the movie been made today, odds are there would have been unexplainable stuff thrown in there to put you off the trail. Laid out quite well indeed.

In addition to the main killer story there is also the intertwined secondary story with Lucy's sanity. Clearly she was better when released (or as much "better" as she could be) as is evidence by the ending where she is quite clear about what has happened and what needs to be done, she was just being driven back into madness as part of Carol's plan.

A young Lee Majors losing his head. I don't need to say anything other than that, Fun!

The other side of the coin:

With all the good there was a bit I found to be, well not great, but still not really bad. Mainly there wasn't a whole lot of feelings of danger for most people. Michael, Lucy, Carol, Bill and Emily never seemed as if they were possible victims of the killing, so that is just a bit over half of the main cast feeling safe and sound right there (ok so one of them was being driven crazy, but that wasn't revealed really until the end). Also Leo Krause the creepy jerk farm hand really seemed like the only reason he was there was so someone could be killed between Dr. Anderson and Mr. Fields, nobody even noticed poor Krause had eaten it.

Dr. Anderson, why did he feel the need to lie to Bill but felt it was ok to suddenly speak the truth to Carol? And for that matter, assuming that Lucy was actually released on probation clearly they would have had to let Bill and Emily in on that since it was their property she was staying at yes?

Also disappointing to me was that Lee Majors did not pop back up in the last half of the movie with a new bionic head....Ok so this one wasn't ever even a consideration, but come on that would have been badass!

Rhetorical questions:

Who was watching 3 year old Carol while Frank was out getting his groove on?

Why was Lucy the only person to get off of the train at that stop?

Did you notice the Columbia statue at the end is headless?

Did you laugh in delight when you noticed it like I did?

Are you judging me right now?

Obligitory ass kissing moment:

Once again I have to mention how much I enjoyed this flick, and dammit I just have to say Thank you Stacie, I doubt I would have found this one on my own.

Boomer Sooner


Stacie Ponder said...

Woo hoo! I'm so happy you loved this. It's so cool.

And you're right...I never stopped to think about who was watching Carol while Lee Majors was out boozing with his floozy!

No WONDER she turned out the way she did. They're lucky they got a few good years out of her!

FatalPierce said...

This was definitely a great find, the damn movie was way more fun than I ever could have expected.

Ya know I don't think that could have been the first time old Frank had left young Carol home alone. She seemed to have the whole faking asleep thing down a little too well.

I wonder if Carol's art became more valuable after the wig hit the fan...