The SanitOrium-SanitArium-SanitOrium……Leading to ASYLUM…. scene in Joan Crawford‘s Strait-Jacket is an all-time favorite among the camp-loving moving crowd that frequent’s Clearview Chelsea’s Classic Cinema night with comments by drag superstar Hedda Lettuce! I’ve seen Strait-Jacket about 5 times now. It’s always been with a small or large crowd and always to laugh at the ridiculous over-the-top camp of Ms. Crawford that started as early as 1949 and ended in 1970 with Trog before her death in 1977.
Strait-Jacket, where Joan plays the axe-murdering Lucy Harbin, certainly shows off some of her talent to chew scenery, over emote, and be the camptastic treasure we’ve grown to adore. The film starts with Lucy Harbin chopping the head off her husband (played by Lee Majors!) as she catches him sleeping with another woman. Her young daughter Carol is in the room next door and witnesses the murder that sends her mother away to an “institution” for 20 years. The daughter goes to live with her aunt and uncle on a farm somewhere in California’s Central Valley.
Fast forward 20 years and Lucy is released from the SanitArium SanitOrium SanitArium. She goes to live with her brother Bill and his wife and is reunited with her daughter Carol. When “scary” things start to happen around the farmhouse, we wonder hmmmm…. whether Joan oh, I mean, Lucy, should have ever been released in the first place.
She’s reluctant to meet her daughter’s boyfriend’s parents who are well-to-do Fresnonian rural-types. They had known she was “sick” but were not aware just exactly what type of sickness our Joanie had. And when Joan spills the beans, it ain’t purdy.