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Strait Jacket

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Drama, Horror, Thriller

Music director
Van Alexander

Robert Bloch



William Castle

Initial DVD release
March 12, 2002


United States

Joan Crawford in Strait-Jacket (1964)

Release date
January 19, 1964 (1964-01-19)

Joan Crawford
(Lucy Harbin),
Diane Baker
(Carol Harbin),
Leif Erickson
(Bill Cutler),
George Kennedy
(Leo Krause),
Howard St John
(Raymond Fields)

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Related William Castle movies

Strait jacket movie trailer 1964

Strait-Jacket is a 1964 American horror thriller film starring Joan Crawford and Diane Baker in a macabre mother and daughter tale about a series of axe-murders. Released by Columbia Pictures, the film was directed and produced by William Castle, and co-produced by Dona Holloway. The screenplay was the first of two written for Castle by Robert Bloch, the second being The Night Walker (1964). Strait-Jacket marks the first big-screen appearance of Lee Majors in the uncredited role of Crawford's husband. The film's plot makes use of the psychological abuse method known as gaslighting.


Strait jacket 1964 trailer


Lucy Harbin has spent 20 years in a psychiatric hospital for the decapitation axe-murder of her husband (Lee Majors) and his mistress, after catching him cheating on her. After she is released, she takes up residence at the farm of her brother Bill Cutler and sister-in-law Emily.

Lucy's adult daughter Carol, an artist and sculptor who was adopted by the Cutlers, also lives on the farm. She is seemingly unaffected by the grisly murders she had witnessed as a three-year-old child. Carol encourages her mother to dress and act the way she did in the past. Lucy begins playing the vamp and makes passes at her daughter's fiance Michael Fields. She then shocks his parents with a sudden tantrum when they consider their son's marriage to Carol out of the question.

A series of brutal axe-murders then begins, with Lucy's doctor, who is found in the freezer, the first victim, followed by the shady hired man Leo. All signs point to Lucy as the murderer and some believe she is still insane, and should be returned to the hospital. The climax of the film reveals that the murders have actually been committed by Carol.

She has gone to great lengths to make her mother appear to have returned to being a murderer by doing things to stoke Lucy's anxieties. When Carol kills, she disguises herself as her mother, even wearing a mask she created to duplicate her mother's head and face. All this has been done in the hopes that somehow, with Michael's parents out of the way, she could marry the handsome, wealthy young man.

As the film ends, Lucy calmly accepts her responsibility for her daughter's illness and hatred and announces that she is going to visit Carol in the hospital where she is now confined.


  • Joan Crawford as Lucy Harbin née Cutler
  • Diane Baker as Carol Cutler
  • Leif Erickson as Bill Cutler
  • George Kennedy as Leo
  • Lee Majors as Frank Harbin
  • Howard St. John as Raymond Fields
  • Edith Atwater as Mrs. Fields
  • John Anthony Hayes as Michael Fields
  • Rochelle Hudson as Emily Cutler
  • Reception

    Critics disliked the film but praised Crawford's performance, the general critical consensus being that she was better than the material. Variety noted, "Miss Crawford does well by her role, delivering an animated performance." Judith Crist commented in the New York Herald Tribune that "it's time to get Joan Crawford out of those housedress horror B movies and back into haute couture ... this madness-and-murder tale ... might have been a thriller, given Class A treatment." Elaine Rothschild in Films in Review wrote, "I am full of admiration for Joan Crawford, for even in drek like this she gives a performance."

    Bosley Crowther, however, wrote a scathing review of both the film and Crawford's performance in The New York Times, declaring, "Joan Crawford has picked some lemons, some very sour lemons, in her day, but nigh the worst of the lot is "Strait-Jacket". He goes on to call the film a "disgusting piece of claptrap."

    The film has reasonably high reviews on the Internet Movie Database, with a score of 6.8 out of 10, based on 2,123 votes (February 2013). The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made. The film also maintains an 80% rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 5 reviews.

    Assisted by Castle's promotion gimmicks, including in-person appearances by Crawford, the film was a big hit.

    DVD release

    Strait-Jacket was released on Region 1 DVD on March 12, 2002. On February 4, 2014, it was re-released on Region 1 DVD as part of Sony Pictures Choice Collection online program.


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