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Mike's Strange Cinema Cavalcade - Psycho Biddy Double Feature: STRAIT-JACKET/BERSERK

joan crawford strait-jacket
Mill Creek's double bill of 'Psycho Biddy' thrillers.


Review by Michael Vaughn

mill creek psycho biddy bluray

I adore the films of Joan Crawford and I love outrageous schlock horror. In the 1960s the two worlds collided with the Psycho Biddy horror sub genre. For those unfamiliar, Psycho Biddy movies are those that take an aging star and put her in a B grade horror outing. This trend started with the hugely successful Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Crawford and Bette Davis. Davis was even nominated for an Oscar for her role as the haggy former star Baby Jane. Thus, the sub genre was born. Fittingly, Crawford made a few more Psycho Biddy films (all of which are now on blu). With this set, Mill Creek has presented not one but two for your viewing pleasure. It includes Strait-Jacket, thee best of the Crawford/Castle biddy flicks, and the not as good but still fun Berserk (making its Region A blu debut).

joan crawford strait-jacket

Kicking off the Mill Creek double feature is 1964's Strait-Jacket, directed by the legendary showman William Castle. The film opens 20 years in the past with a young fiery Lucy Harbin (Crawford) savagely beheading her cheating husband. For her troubles, she is thrown in an asylum, leaving behind her daughter. Flash forward to the present day - Lucy is released and her now grown daughter, Carol (Diane Baker), reunites with her. Carol works hard to give her mother a fresh start and wants her to meet her soon to be husband and in-laws. But it seems that her new normal life starts to unravel as she starts to see and hear things, slowly driving her over the edge.

Without a doubt the best of the Crawford/Castle team ups, Strait-Jacket has nice twists and turns, heaps of camp value and a wonderfully dark sense of humour. For all the gimmicks Castle had in his bag, he really did know how to craft a solid story and most importantly, tap into what his audience wanted - shock, thrills and a nice twist or two. Strait-Jacket may have rode on Hitchcock's coat-tails but it's arguably the best of the many Psycho rip offs (not to mention it was highly successful at the box office).

joan crawford berserk

In 1967's Berserk, Monica Rivers (Crawford) is a tough as nails businesswoman who owns a travelling circus. However, it seems that somebody is out to get her and is systemically picking off workers. While not as good as Strait-Jacket, Berserk has a certain charm that makes up for its sometimes-underwhelming plot. Crawford as always gives this C-grade material a lot of punch and it's always a treat to see her at her bitchy best. Even if it lacks Castle's trademark tongue in cheek quality, the film still manages to be entertaining with a nice solid whodunnit plot to keep it engaging. The film also benefits from its eye-popping colours, just as Strait-Jacket does in its moody black and white. Overall a fun but flawed outing that is sure to be right up the alley of lovers of camp cinema.

Picture:7/10

Both films look great and are transferred in 1080p. Strait-Jacket features sharp blacks and a nice upgrade from the previous release. Unlike Strait-Jacket, Berserk is in colour and I must say for the most part, the colours really pop. This is certainly a better job than the previous DVD release from 2011. On the down side, both are plagued with some grain in certain scenes. The picture has some issues but overall the films have never looked better and those wanting to upgrade will be happy; or if you never have, now is a good time to pull the trigger.

Sound: 6/10

Both films only feature a mono track. Dialogue is clear but tends to boom through speakers. Honestly though, it's pretty much what you'd expect and it's unlikely these films will ever get a better remastered soundtrack.

Features: 0/10

Sadly, the Psycho Biddy double feature does not include any special features, unlike Scream Factory's blu, which features a host of new features as well as a feature length commentary. If you aren’t the kind of person that doesn’t care about special features, this disc is the way to go.

Value: 10/10

At less than $10, this campy double bill is great value. Mill Creek doesn’t go all out on extras and that keeps the cost down. You really do get a bigger bang for your buck and as I said you can score this one for cheap on Amazon.

Overall: 7/10  

Are you a fan of schlock horror/camp? A devotee of John Waters? Then this set is made for you.  Psycho Biddy packages two great Joan Crawford fright fests for a ready-made double feature. If you are a fan of extras this package might disappoint, however if you just want the movies and not all the frills you cannot go wrong. The films look good and for anyone wanting to upgrade Berserk this is the only Region A option. For less than 10 bucks you can own both movies, which look sharp and crisp and sound great as well. You really can’t go wrong with this blu and anyone interested in the Psycho Biddy sub genre really needs to own it. I would love it if Mill Creek made a series out of this and released other Psycho Biddy titles. A must own if you don’t mind the lack of features.








Michael Vaughn is a rabid horror and cult fan who turned that love into a career. He is a writer, blogger and film historian and now author of 'The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema' which Shock Wave Podcast named their pick of the month, and Chris Alexander of Fangoria called “recommended reading.”


His other credits include Scream Magazine, Fangoria and websites like Films in Review and Bloody Flicks(UK). Please follow his Twitter @StrangeCinema65 and Instagram @castle_anger.

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