Monday, October 06, 2008

5 Off My Head - FGFC's Strait-Jacket

(NOTE: Of course I'm having trouble grabbing images from my DVD right now - there's always something trying to keep me from doing a Final Girl Film Club entry, I swear! - so I had to take these pics from the movie via YouTube - the whole thing is on YouTube! Anyway, they're shittier screen-caps than I'd usually post, but I just want to have this post actually make it online today so it counts for once, dammit! I will not be silenced!)

Holla, it's that time of the month! No, not that time of the month. Although we are talking about hormonally imbalanced women's problems and the generous spurting of blood... damn, should I feel ashamed for comparing a late-career Joan Crawford picture with menstruation? Somehow it just fits though, no? Perhaps I should go and write a very long academic piece in how Crawford's lopping off of men's heads in Strait-Jacket is linked to menopause. Indeed. I smell a Pulitzer!

ANYWAY. It's the Final Girl's Film Club time of the month! This month's pick is 1964's William Castle camp-classic Strait-Jacket, if that preceding nonsense-spiel didn't clue you in already. I watched it last night for the very first time. Here are five things that I have to say about it. Spoilers galore!

1 - I hate it when somebody is all, "I figured out this movie's surprise super-early because I am so super-intelligent and super-wise, give me a damn cookie," but did anyone else have any trouble seeing where this movie was headed from the very first scene? I'm not exaggerating that I knew the daughter would turn out to be the killer the second we dissolved from her young-eyes to twenty-years-later eyes.

I don't see this as so much of an accomplishment on my part as much as it is a comment on the fact that this sort of story-telling has become so familiar to us now, in the present, after seeing these things a billion times over, so I figure everybody saw this coming, right? Plus, the daughter was just such a bitch all the time.

2 - Is it weird that I actually thought Joan Crawford gave a terrific performance in this movie? Cuz I did. I thought she was great.

It reminded me of how I believe that Faye Dunaway gives a truly great performance in Mommie Dearest actually, and how the admitted camp value of said bonkers performances overshadows the actual skill on display.

3 - Speaking of camp value:

There really is nothing better than a shrieking Joan Crawford in bed with two bloodied dummy heads, no? It's the reason cinema was invented.

4 - That's apparently a very young Lee Majors (The Fall Guy!) in his very first role looking pretty adorable while getting his block knocked off in the opening scene.

Speaking of adorable, I found myself transfixed by the daughter's fiancé's suits and hairstyle. I literally couldn't pay attention to anything else on-screen whenever the part in his hair was in the shot. It was like some sort of follicle-vertigo that sucked me in entranced. Apparently it worked on Crawford's character as well, since she attempted to seduce him in one of the greatest scenes EVER by sticking her finger in his mouth IN FRONT OF HER DAUGHTER. Sheesh!

5 - Did somebody tell writer Robert Bloch that the protracted ending of his Psycho script - in which the psychiatrist deflates all the alluring mystery of Norman Bates' mommy issues with a flat, psycho-babbled explanation - was a good thing and should be carried in spirit over to this movie? And was that someone named Director William Castle? On the DVD's extras there was a doc on the making of the film and it seems pretty clear that Castle was dying to make an "A" picture with Strait-Jacket - poor deluded soul - and so he hired Bloch specifically because he wrote Psycho. It seems logical that he'd ape the ending too, no? Castle wasn't exactly the most subtle of filmmakers, after all.*

*understatement of the month


Dame James Henry said...

You're not alone in thinking that Joan Crawford gives a great performance here. I happen to think that it's one of Joan's three or four greatest performances of her career. Just as she did throughout most of her career, she doesn't treat the material like the silly, horror exploitation film that it is; she goes with the flow and has as much fun on-screen as she ever did.

On another note, I must admit that I couldn't guess the trick ending. But, then again, I can only guess the endings of rom-coms and inspirational teacher dramas.

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Yeah, the ending was pretty obvious, but it was still awesome.

Joe Reid said...

"Lee Majors (The Fall Guy!)"

Even if you didn't intend it, I'll just sit here and pretend you wrote that with Mary Cherry's voice on the brain.


i'm so glad you mentioned the finger in mouth thing because... HAWT.

I mean, hawt when the mouth in question is that one!

but it was really idiosyncratic all the same. geez louise i love JOAN. Ive convinced myself that that business was her invention.

Pax Romano said...

This is one of the greatest movies of all time!

I once watched with my parents, and they both mentioned that the jazzy song used through out the film is called, "There Goes That Song Again".

Of course, watching Joan dance around to that number with the wig, and jangly bracelets is beyond wonderful ... I love when she light's the match on the record. Brilliant.

Ivan said...

The grown-up daughter was Diane Baker, who later was the senator from Silence of the Lambs.

Nice tribute to a good flick!