This vintage William Castle shocker draws inspiration from Psycho, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and old Joan Crawford melodramas like Mildred Pierce in equal measure. The result is too derivative to be considered a classic, but its blend of campy thrills and surreal shocks make it a lot of fun. The script, penned by Psycho author Robert Bloch, hinges upon a "surprise" ending that modern viewers won't find too difficult to guess, but his story line offers enough plot contortions and juicy dialogue to keep things entertaining. The key attraction of Strait-Jacket is Joan Crawford, who tears into her role with all the vigor her camp devotees would expect. Crawford doesn't just chew the scenery, she outright devours it. Highlights include a scene where a delusional Crawford flirts outrageously with her daughter's fiancé, Michael, and the tantrum she throws when confronted with her asylum-inmate past by Michael's snooty mother. It's Crawford's show all the way, but Diane Baker provides solid support as her much put-upon daughter and George Kennedy manages to steal a few scenes as a slovenly hired hand whose attempt at blackmail goes fatally awry. Strait-Jacket also benefits from vigorous direction by William Castle, who stages the film's murder scenes with gruesome élan and works in some sly moments of humor to keep the melodramatic plot from becoming overripe. In short, Strait-Jacket is likely to disappoint anyone in search of a serious shocker, but will delight anyone who can appreciate chills of the campiest variety.
by Donald Guarisco review