The Stepford Wives (1975)
Director: Bryan Forbes
Is Stepford a perfect town? All the wives are obsessed with cleaning and treating their men like gods. Joanna (Ross) and her hubby (Masterson) move there. He joins an enigmatic men’s club but she’s miserably bored. Joanna notices very fast that something is wrong with her new home and tries to figure out what’s going on. Will she wind up with a broom in one hand and a dust buster in the other?
As a feminist flick, a statement on oppression and fight for individualism...this flick works. The message is crystal clear and when the credits rolled I said to myself: "I got the point". Shit, I wanted to burn some bras! What wuz up with that mentality? Why would a man want to be with a chick that acts like a slave, has no independent thoughts or any ambition? Personally I like a woman that challenges me, has her own things going and who will surprise me. Damn, I’m getting off topic…sorry guys…
So yes, the movie has something to say and it says it in an original way. The problem is that as a horror movie it doesn’t do much. This is the first time I see this classic and since I’ve seen every recent update of it (Disturbing Behavior comes to mind) the plot points felt very familiar. They didn’t shock me or thrill me...they were just there. The film moves at a snail's pace and although the performances kept me going (Ross is awesome), I really would have liked more twists and turns, more highs and lows. Here, the movie rolls on a straight line and only jumps twice.
On the upside, the main character (Joanna) is well developed and the flick has this very odd visual vibe going on. Everything seems so…well…clean. The color white is very prominent, the women’s costumes are doll-like and the drawings (you’ll see) are a nice creepy touch. I also liked how the film begins: a man crossing the street with a naked female mannequin under his arm. The film doesn’t waste any time in starting to feed us its point, that’s fer sure.
In the end, I personally think the movie goes too far to deliver its message. Once I found out what was going on exactly…I didn’t buy it. I mean hypnotize the gals, put a CPU chip in their head or drug them. But what they do to the women in this movie is so over the top that it kind of blemished the oh-so important point of it all. I can’t see any man doing that to his woman, no matter how much he likes a clean house. I found it silly.
The movie feels very dated and yes, the whole housewife thang eluded me. Don’t get me wrong, the flick kept me interested the whole time and the semi-tense ending was appreciated, but if I look at the whole picture, I can’t say that The Stepford Wives was a thrilling movie-going experience. Maybe if the flick concentrated a bit more in being a horror flick instead of spending 98% of its time being a message movie, I would have dug it more. Now where’s my apron...I gotta clean house!
Some of the chicks in this flick wear too much makeup. That’s as gory as it gets.
Katharine Ross (Joanna) plays the ideal woman. Strong, artistic and a little funky. Ross gives her heart and soul to this part and her wide expressive eyes reeled me in more than once. Paula Prentiss (Bobbie) borders on overacting as the loudmouth friend. She tested my nerves from time to time. Tone down two notches, girl. Peter Masterson (Walter) reminded me of Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix). He does his shtick well. Nanette Newman (Carol) looks great, but in my opinion she should have shown more cleavage.
T & A
It’s a feminist flick, what do you think? Take a wild guess...
Lots of wide shots, slow traveling shots and some hints of style. The camera movements seemed to be slower than usual which didn't help the pace. The lighting was also very white, a bit irritating to my eyes… and yes, I watched the flick with shades.
The score is very standard at first but eventually goes totally haywire. Kind of 70’s trippy on acid thang…u dig?
"The Stepford Wives" didn’t age well. I’m sure that when it was released it must have been very powerful (taking into account the politics of the time), but I would still recommend that you check it out. It’s always kool to see from where recent horror movies borrowed their ideas and even though the subject matter feels dated, it’s still somewhat interesting. I would compare watching this movie to seeing a sheep skinned condom. It’s not from my time, I never used one but there’s still a level of interest. Curiosity is the word I’m looking for.
Actress Mary Stuart Masterson (Benny And Joon) plays the daughter of the couple.
Peter Masterson is her real life dad.
The film is based on Ira Levin’s novel.
Followed by three TV movie sequels: "Revenge of the Stepford Wives", "The Stepford Children" and "The Stepford Husbands".