The Stepford Wives (1975)
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The 1974 film version follows the Levin novel quite closely. Joanna Eberhart is a beautiful young woman of the era in which the women's moment had come of age: intelligent, forthright, and meeting her husband on equal terms. Then she, her husband, and their children move from New York to the small town of Stepford, where she is dismayed to find that most of the neighboring women seem engaged in a competition to have the neatest house, the best-groomed children, the most satisfied husband. Joanna is relieved to find women like herself in newcomers Bobbie and Charmaine, but even so, it seems... odd. So odd that she begins to question her sanity.
The film works on several levels, not the least of which is the macabre sense of humor with which director Byran Forbes endows the film: it is often very funny in a disquieting sort of way, as when Joanna and Bobbie's efforts to start a women's group results in a gathering of perfectly manicured women exchanging recipes and comparing floor polishes, or when Joanna and Bobbie accidentally overhear a Stepford couple making love. But for all the wittiness involved, THE STEPFORD WIVES is rooted in the women's movement of the 1970s, an era in which "a woman's place" was hotly debated on a national level. Just what is "a woman's place?" And to what lengths might men go to keep their women in traditional roles? Unlike many similar films, THE STEPFORD WIVES has tremendous restraint--and moreover a truly exceptional cast. Katherine Ross' talents were never before or after so well used, and Paula Prentiss gives perhaps her single most memorable performance here as Joanna's friend Bobbie. The supporting cast is equally fine, most particularly so with Patrick O'Neal as the unnerving "Diz" and a nice turn by Tina Louise as Charmaine.
Ultimately, THE STEPFORD WIVES is something of a "one trick pony:" it works best on a first viewing, when you don't know what's coming, and on subsequent viewings the film tends to read as unnecessarily slow. Even so, it is an interesting little cultural artifact, an "almost classic" that is sure to give you pause the next time your better half announces he is joining a men's club. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
I had the misfortune of both seeing the remake of 'The Stepford Wives' before seeing the original and *actually seeing* the remake of 'The Stepford Wives.' If the original serves any purpose, it is to expose the remake for the gutless, toothless, anemic waste of everyone's time that it is. God, what a terrible movie
I presume most people, if not all unless they have been living under a rock or Siberia, will be acquainted with the plot, which in the novel is very short yet covers a period of four months, and in the movie moves along a little too slowly in the beginning but later starts to gather quiet force in a tightening noose, so I won't detail it here because to do so would not only be redundant but could not be done without revealing an important aspect of the movie. While the novel basically drops the secret midway by means of a poem Joanna Eberhart writes, the movie takes its time to let us in on the conspiracy which at the end reveals itself in that final, horrifying sequence at the Men's Association. And by then we've been outraged by the women's blighted feminism, and infuriated at the men who are little more than dangerous cavemen hiding behind technology and deceptive appearances.
I don't know if Levin, in creating his story, was looking for satire or horror but he manages to (again) blend elements of the two in a short yet unforgettable book. The fact that "Stepford" has made its presence in today's vocabulary has a lot of debt to the story and of course, the shocking movie. Both work on different levels while giving us the same bleak ending, but the movie has Joanna conveying even more sadness at the end as the camera moves into the expression in her eyes, and one can see just how much has been quenched in the name of submission. Katharine Ross is great in giving us that visual sense of a woman's life snuffed in favor of a mannequin's programmed existence. For that, it deserves to be up there with another similar classic: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, as stories about the Individual being forced into Assimilation by Complacency and Conformism, and Stepford couldn't spell it out better.
Anywho, the movie is great and if it were up to me, Katherine Ross' birthday would be a national holiday. She is terrific and beautiful and is matched by best buddy Paula Prentiss. Tina Louise and Nanette ("I'll die if I don't get this recipe") Newman are also memorable. The final shots of Ross are chilling, and top off a memorable movie.
On 21 April 2005, I saw the remake of "The Stepford Wives" and I found it a funny entertainment. However, the original adaptation of Ira Levin's book is a suspenseful and very dark sci-fi, and certainly better and better than the 2005's version. When I was a teenager, Katharine Ross was one of my favorite actresses, and she is perfect in the role of an intelligent woman finding the truth hidden behind the complacency of such dedicated wives. The pace of this thriller is adequate, and the direction of Bryan Forbes is very good. I do not know why this great movie has not been released on VHS or DVD in Brazil. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "As Esposas de Stepford" ("The Wives of Stepford")
Directed by Bryan Forbes this was the first filmed adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ira Levin whose literary work include the source novels for various films such as Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Boys from Brazil (1978), Deathtrap (1982) & Sliver (1992) although the final script was written by William Goldman who himself has quite a resume including script's for All the President's men (1976), Marathon Man (1976), The Princess Bride (1987), Misery (1990), Maverick (1994) & The General's Daughter (1999) amongst other's. While watching The Stepford Wives I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed & a little let down, the potential is here for a terrific thriller with a dark satirical edge that could have been very effective but The Stepford Wives just never gets going & never fully explores it's themes or ideas. The idea of men killing their moaning wives & replacing them with perfect obedient robots is great but how are these robots made? Who makes them? What happens to the women they are set to impersonate? Why were that robots eye's black at the end? Why do so many men let their wives be replaced with robots? Has no-one ever gone to the authorities? Surely the robots wouldn't age? Nothing is explained in a very rushed & unsatisfying climax which left me wondering why I had bothered sitting through almost two hours of it to get absolutely nowhere. The logistics of the story are just absurd, none of it ever feels plausible or well thought out & even the satire is dry, bland & underwhelming. The attempt to make a social point about American idealism as the male chauvinist's are shown sexist pigs while the women are portrayed as nothing more than objects to cook & clean don't quite work either, it's all so tame & pleasant & nowhere near dark enough & the fact that the script takes itself so seriously doesn't help what is essentially a very silly sci-fi thriller anyway.
Over the years writer William Goldman has never hid his dislike of the finished film & has criticised director Forbes in particular who threw out his original concepts of picture perfect dolly birds in mini skirts & replaced it with boring middle aged women wearing long dresses & large hats. The Stepford Wives has dated, the issues & themes are from a bygone era & aren't as easy to relate to these days, in fact I was amazed at the scene in which Joanna tells her husband Walter about their neighbours kissing in the garden (in early morning no less!) with a surprising level of outrage. There's no violence to speak of & while there may be one or two moments which resemble a horror film The Stepford Wives doesn't go for scares.
Filmed mainly in Connecticut this wasn't particularly successful at the box-office & you can maybe see why, I don't think it's a film with mass appeal or much replay value. The acting is alright, I can't say I thought anyone was particularly great but no-one was particularly bad either.
The Stepford Wives tries to be a creepy sci-fi thriller & make a sweeping social statement about stereotypical American life & sexism but it just all ends up being rather dull & uninspired, I can't say i liked it that much myself. Followed by three made for television sequels Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980), The Stepford Children (1987) & The Stepford Husbands (1996) before being remade as The Stepford Wives (2004) starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler & Glen Close no less.
There are a number of problem's with this film. Whilst the 70's was the classic area of paranoia films (think "The Parallax View", "All the president's men" etc), director Bryan Forbes fails to really convey the paranoia, tension and suspense needed. When compared to Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" (another adaptation from an Ira Levin novel) it falls very flat indeed.
The screenplay is not particularly strong. I'd be interested to seen William Goldman's original script - apparently Forbes completely rewrote it.
The casting is all wrong too. According to the original novel (and Goldman's original screenplay) the wives themselves are supposed to playboy bunny types - the complete embodiment of the American ideal of a perfect woman. Nanette Newman may be a good actress, but centrefold material she is not. This somewhat destroys the husbands' motives. If you are going to make a replacement wife, you are going to make her as perfect as possible.
It was rumoured that De Palma was considered for the director's role - I think this would have been a far more interesting film with him at the helm.
Still, some of the concepts and themes are interesting - which in some ways makes it all the more disappointing that the final result is so flat.
Joanna finds that nearly all of the wives in Stepford are placid drones whose only ambition is cooking and cleaning. The Stepford Wives is very much a 1970's film with overtones of environmental pollution,powerful corporate conspiracies,sexuality, and of course feminist dogma.
I disagree with the heavy-handed feminist message of the film which is that most men would prefer their wives to be obedient maids rather then equal partners.
There are a few good moments in The Stepford Wives though. Tina Louise does very well with a small role and it's hard not to feel pity for her when she confesses that her husband never really loved her.
Katharine Ross was briefly the most promising actress in Hollywood ("Graduate" and "Butch Cassidy" in less than 2 years), but this movie shows why she never became a major star -- she's pretty, but pretty annoying. She's acceptable as a supporting player but when she's asked to carry this movie, she responds by acting neurotic, self-absorbed and distant. Her affection for everybody, husband, children and even runnin' buddy Paula Prentiss, seems forced since she seems entirely unable to move beyond her own dissatisfaction -- man, did someone miss a casting opportunity when they didn't ask Ross to play Sylvia Plath. Since she's giving absolutely nothing to her supporting cast, every single scene seems to drag, a situation not helped by a film editor who seems to think it's "artistic" to let every scene last about five minutes past its actual ending. (Note: we understand what's happening to Paula Prentiss in her last scene, it goes from horrifying to banal pretty quickly.) Noteworthy, however, is Tina Louise, who never could act but turns in a performance that's at least commendable although not good as an unhappy adultress trapped in a loveless marriage. Her character deserved a movie, not Joanna the Sleepwalking Feminist, and she's the one you'll miss most when . . . oh, never mind.
This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. I did read the book before the movie came out and thoroughly enjoyed both the book and the movie.
Katharine Ross has these haunting eyes which really makes the theme of the movie very realistic. It was a work of art how the Director had the cameras zoom in on her eyes as the focal point throughout the movie. Paula Prentiss was a perfect costar as her friend Bobby. She was ideal for the role.
I also thought Nanette Newman brought timeless class and elegance to the movie as Carol Van Zandt. When there were complaints about her in the interview... I felt they were completely wrong. In the interview (included on the DVD), they claimed they had to change the costumes because Nanette would not have looked good dressed up as a playboy bunny... if that is the case, then she saved this movie. It would have turned into a ridiculous joke if they had dressed up all the women like sex bunnies as they talked about in the interview. The long sun dresses, white gloves and spring hats brought class and elegance to the movie. It made the movie more believable and taken seriously by the audience. It also made the movie memorable. Anytime someone sees this style, they think of Stepford. In fact, Stepford has become a part of our culture.
The movie and the book both kept you on the edge of your seats wondering what was going to happen. The movie did improve upon some things that the book was not clear about. In the book, we were not certain whether they were doing something to the women to change them using technology or drugs... or if they were actually replacing the women with some kind of android or clone. There was no stabbing of Bobby in the book and Joanna never came face to face with her replacement. It was at that point when we saw she was being replaced with a robot automaton. Having the eyes incomplete let us know we were looking at an android and not a clone.
The book had more storyline about the new couple in town, but we could see them arguing in the grocery store at the very end of the movie, just before they showed us the new Joanna.
So with these new scenes added to the movie showing her stabbing Bobby and meeting the android... it actually made the movie better than the book... and that is rare. The book is still great, but the movie didn't leave us confused as to the actual fate of Joanna. But make no mistake; the book was still great.
There is nothing about this movie which is against women. That concept is about as ridiculous as saying every serial killer movie is against men.
This movie is more about how terrible the evil deeds these men are doing against the women. Don't let anyone talk you out of watching this movie. It is wonderful. I would have loved to have seen sequels made by the same cast and crew who did this movie. I did watch the other Stepford movies but they were nowhere close to the quality of this movie and cast. I can't seem to get enough of the Stepford movies and it is a shame they have not made them all into DVD's. But, I would have loved to have seen a followup to where this movie left off.
As for the new movie with Kidman which made a joke out of this movie... I didn't appreciate it one bit. It was insulting, offensive and condescending of a great movie and a story which was a work of art. But since Hollywood can't seem to come up with their own story lines or fresh ideas... these wannabe's in diapers sit around trying to trash great movies made by others... I'm thankful that when they tried to do the same thing to make a new movie to ridicule Dallas, the actors squashed that idea. The public does not appreciate having beloved works of art trashed by low brows who have no class. Instead of trashing the work of others... they should see if they can do a better job... with original ideas.
But this movie is wonderful. A great story, excellent cast, wonderful script with a great director who actually used genuine scenery and locations without having to waste money building a bunch of props or sets. This movie proves it doesn't require a bunch of special effects or CGI or fancy sets to make a movie with a great storyline and fantastic cast.
This movie deserved a lot more credit and recognition than it received. I can't say enough nice things about it. If you have not seen it you should do so. It is an exciting thriller with a fresh, original storyline at the time and doesn't have a boring moment in it.
A huge hit in its day, this film is dated but still holds up. Some people might see the film as anti-female but, really, the men come off very badly. And they are the villains. The acting is good--Ross (whatever happened to her?) is excellent as is Paula Prentiss as her VERY energetic best friend Bobbi. Also interesting to see Tina Louise (very good), Dee Wallace and Mary Stauart Masterson (as a little girl--no dialogue) in the mid 70s. The film isn't really scary (mostly because everybody knows the ending) and a little bit long, but it's still well worth catching.
Also, personally, this film had a defining moments for me. I'm gay, and I saw the movie when I was 13 at a theatre. I didn't know I was gay...I just knew there was something different about me. When they show Ross' robot double with the HUGE breasts clearly visible my immediate reaction was "Ewwwwwwwww!" So, this movie helped me come out!
The principal conflict in the movie was that the women were too subservient and too concerned about their husbands' happiness, but it came off as too contrived. Like somehow the world was going to come to an end because a 1970's woman doesn't want to join a women's lib group and would prefer her house to be clean. In other words, you can get one or the other: a clean house with a pleasant wife or a dirty house with a shrew. And of course, these men want a pleasant obedient wife so bad that they'd do whatever ungodly or unethical thing they're doing in Stepford to get that.
But it wasn't even just a slight attitude adjustment that these Stepford wives had undergone. These women were now devoid of any authentic personality and they were essentially carbon copies of one another. So, what is it these men were now married to? Who cares!? Men are such pigs that they don't give two flips of the finger about the actual women they married so long as said women are cooking and cleaning. This movie set out to prove that the criteria men care about is very limited: pretty, perky, and domesticated is all they need.
I may be going a little over the top with my interpretation because it could be said that the movie is only about the tiny town of Stepford not the entire country. Yes, it could be. Blame it on the times. I found the movie obtuse and repulsive and I couldn't take Joanna seriously so long as her liberated nipples were boring holes through her shirts. I wonder if her blouses are permanently indented? If they could have been just a little less heavy-handed with their message the movie would have been more palatable. The remake with Nicole Kidman and Glen Close was far better.
A friend of mine who had just watched this film told me that once I saw it, the term "Stepford Wife" would enter our lexicon of references. He was right about that.
Joanna moves with her husband to Stepford, CT. While Walter is at work, Joanna and her new friend Bobbie are both appalled at the behavior of the wives of Stepford, a bunch of milfs who all seem to have come from dish-washing detergent commercials.
At first, I thought that this film too deeply resembled "Rosemary's Baby". The couple moves into a new place and slowly realizes that something bizarre is going on, although it doesn't appear life-threatening. The difference becomes more and more obvious, and the married couple grows further and further apart. The oddities in both films put their heroines in an ominous subtlety that they find frustrating or almost impossible to explain to other members of the cast, and the women wonder if it is they, themselves who are the oddities.
The strategy is rather obvious; after about four months, the men take their wives off to a "weekend getaway," and when the couple returns the wife is another brain-dead subservient slave to her husband. The wives sure don't catch this, even though it appears as though the suspicious Joanna and Bobby probably would have figured it out. Its technical and social references make the film appear dated; It is quite laughable that the Stepford Wives could get their entire vocabulary from recording their voices into a microphone. I also don't see what is so shocking about a guy groping his girl on the front lawn--hey, some of us do that all the time!
Where the film works is in its payoff, which surprisingly, I didn't predict. I thought that these women were being hypnotized or lobotomized, or something else. Where it becomes chilling and eerie, is when we learn that indeed, these women will never return to their original selves. I figured Joanna's friend Bobbie would "snap out of it," however, Joanna stabs her, and the model goes haywire--this isn't Bobbie--Bobbie is dead. Looking back, certain clues for us are eerie, like Walter's first dream-like encounter with a Stepford wife, or even hilarious, like one man's smiling expression along with his "thumbs up," gesture as he tears up his wife's tennis court to make room for his new swimming pool.
And then there is Joanna's final scene, which holds up disturbingly well, as does the thought that the wives were created by someone who used to work at Disneyland. I think that deep-down we all find animatronic humanoids quite creepy, as there seems to be an almost sinister magic behind the lovable robots on the rides we enjoyed as children and still do today. When we meet Janet's stacked (nice touch!) replica, she appears without eyes. It is an image and a haunting ending that probably couldn't be as frightening if it were done today (oh yeah, they are remaking it). I'm glad I didn't see this film as a child.
I was lucky enough to have had that opportunity years ago.
If by some equally lucky chance you personally have no idea what this movie's concept is about and are completely innocent of it, let me pass on some helpful advice; read no further than this paragraph. The movie may seem to have a snail's pace, hokey acting and a dull layout but trust me, see it through to the end. Don't stop watching it whatever you do until it finishes. I'll just say that I envy your getting to experience this film for the very first time... I wish I could be in your shoes again.
***SPOILERS AHEAD: All those who haven't seen or heard about this movie should stop reading here***
Okay, those people will be SO lucky to get to experience this sharp fable for the very first time fresh, as it was intended. I have found it classified under several different categories in different videostores; "sci-fi", "horror", "thriller", "drama", and yes, "classic". The truth is that it fits into all those categories. But however you want to personally classify it, THE STEPFORD WIVES is a powerful movie with a powerful message to share.
The movie nearly threatens to bore you to death at first as it lulls you into a fake feeling of comfort while it slowly starts dropping clues as to what is happening in the creepy little town of Stepford. After seeing it all the way through to its shocking conclusion, one can see that all the "bad acting" was deliberate and just how carefully crafted this mini-masterpiece really is.
The performances are actually all top notch once you realize how the acting was "supposed to be" in the end. Joanne and her friends are all so well-portrayed and superbly acted that you find yourself rooting for them even when you don't realize at first just how serious their plight really is. And the dark portrayal of the character "Diz" (I USED to think *I* made that name up first! ACK!) is powerful, and made all the more insultingly evil when it turns out he used to work for Disneyland; like Pinocchio's "Stromboli" character, the connection of using the technology of such a happy and innocently beautiful place for such an evil purpose makes us loathe him all the more (one gets the impression that Diz was FIRED from Disneyland for being such a selfish and cruel snake).
This movie has often been described as a Women's Lib statement. And, of course, it can definitely be taken that way. But it actually works on a far deeper level than that. There are two levels to it at once: it attacks the obnoxious stereotype of men out there who believe that all women should be slaves to mechanically do their bidding, AND it also savagely attacks the equally obnoxious stereotype of women out there who believe that all men are the selfish, heartless jerks that they are in this movie.
And as extra "plus" points, the movie even makes huge proclamations about the importance of being true to yourself and not being forced to go along with blind conformity. The women are forced against their will to eventually become "bland conformists" void of personality, a strong statement of just how awful it would be if everyone was alike and how it is everyone's individuality that makes them so wonderful and special. This idea is further enforced by Joanne's obnoxious but weak husband; he goes along with the whole idea due to peer pressure, and all the while attempts to drink the pain away with tears in his eyes because he doesn't want to do it but is nevertheless too much of a coward to say "no" due to his desperately wanting to fit in with the "In" crowd (and that's a statement that EVERYONE can and does understand).
This movie is a wonderful reminder of how it is our humanity and our individual personalities as people that make living so special. Many films have made that point, of course, but not many out there have managed to do so with the powerful "slap in the face" whallop of THE STEPFORD WIVES, an important film that still rings true in a world where people's special and individual qualities are becoming more and more ignored.
Based on Ira Levin's novel, story resembles his "Rosemary's Baby" premise in many ways, and though it is moderately interesting for its length, and has a good cast, I just did not find any of it believable(would men really do that?) Ending in the supermarket may produce laughter more than horror! Still, this is a cult favorite.