A 1964 Psychological Thriller film directed by William Castle, starring Joan Crawford and Diane Baker.
Lucy Harbin has been committed in an asylum after she brutally murdered her husband for cheating on her with a younger woman, also killing her and cutting off their heads with an axe. All this in front of the eyes of her young daughter, Carol.
Twenty years later, Lucy is finally out of the asylum, but still under heavy stress and worry. She stays at her brother's farm, and meets again with Carol who has grown into a kind and wholesome young woman, and who also lives here.
However, strange and creepy events start up again... Lucy sees decapitated heads in her nightmares, she hears creepy singing voices... she is nervous with knives... and what's worse, murders are happening again!
Not to be confused with the manga of the same name.
Contains examples of:
- After-Action Villain Analysis: Lucy herself calmly explains the plan and actions of her own daughter after she's been exposed and arrested.
- Ax-Crazy: Lucy starts by murdering her husband and mistress by actually decapitating them with an axe, through Unstoppable Rage. Her daughter Carol continues axe murders when she returns from the asylum.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Lovely and wholesome Carol is the axe murderer now.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Carol who seemingly is the kind and caring daughter has planned a series of murders and to frame her own mother.
- Doctor Jerk: Dr Robinson, from the asylum, randomly decides to see Lucy as he comes to town, asking her intimidating questions that just make her feel worse.
- Dramatic Unmask: The real Lucy tears off the realistic face mask of the fake Lucy and reveals... her own daughter, Carol!
- Foreshadowing: Carol is shown as a talented sculptor...
- Gaslighting: Done by Carol to her mother Lucy:she places fake severed heads in her bed at night, making her think she has visions and inserts a tape player in her handbag to make her think she is hearing voices.
- Hand of Death: After Lucy returns to her brother and daughter, axe murders happen where you just see the handled axe...
- Insane Equals Violent: Both inverted, subverted and played straight, in a way... Lucy is committed to an asylum for murdering her husband and lover, though it was in the second degree; when she is freed, she is a nervous wreck and unstable, fiddles with blades but doesn't harm anybody, and in fact is the victim of her own daughter's manipulations... who has become crazy herself but is a calculating murderer, and she ends up committed later on.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: Lucy hears a rhyming nursery tune as she sees two little girls playing skipping rope: "Lucy Harbin took an axe, gave her husband forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave his girlfriend forty one." (it is inspired by a nursery tune about Lizzie Borden)
- Latex Perfection: Carol wears a very realistic prosthetic mask to impersonate her mother. Justified as she's been shown as a very talented sculptress earlier.
- Logo Joke: Columbia Pictures' torch lady at the very end of the film has her decapitated, her severed head resting at her feet.
- Made of Plasticine: Cutting a whole head off neatly in one used axe strike? No problem!
- Madness Mantra: Carol screaming she hates her mother and loves her mother as she alternatively stabs the realistic mask of Lucy, and hugs it.
- Mask of Sanity: Carol is seemingly the sane, well-balanced and wholesome young woman who cares for her mentally unwell mother. She is actually the opposite.
- My Beloved Smother: Inverted, as it is more a crazy, manipulative abusive daughter.
- Nervous Wreck: Lucy as she comes back from the asylum.
- Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The opening credits show weird surreal paintings of Lucy being eyeless and Carol witnessing the dead decapitated bodies of her victims. It is implied Carol drew them.
- Off with His Head!: How most of the murders are done. With an axe!
- Product Placement: A box of Pepsi is conspicously shown in the kitchen as Lucy and Carol prepare a meal. Crawford endorsed Pepsi for a long time, having even married the former chairman of Pepsi Co.
- Psycho Knife Nut: Carol fiddles with knives and needles when she is under stress, even stabbing objects or slashing paper when the pressure is too much... but she doesn't harm anybody with them.
- The Reveal: Now there are two Lucy Harbins? She was innocent of those recent murders! And the other Lucy is actually Carol in disguise!
- Sympathetic Murderer: Lucy has murdered two people and spent twenty miserable years in an asylum. When she returns, she is under great stress and just wants to resume a normal life, but her past keeps catching up to her.
- Thicker Than Water: Carol has been committed to an asylum herself after her murders and framing her mother... but Lucy still decides to visit her and be a mother to her after all.
- Weapon Specialization: An axe, of course. A wood-chopping axe that happens to lay there for Lucy's original murders, and one for decapitating chickens at a farm twenty years later.