Something strange is happening in Stepford.
This is a quick review on The Stepford Wives (1975) starring Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss each known for their work in The Graduate and Catch-22 respectively.
I’d heard the tagline before, and was always interested in what it meant exactly, now I know. I should state early on, that I have not watched the 2004 version with Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick, this is a view of the original.
Stepford is the stereotypical suburban town that everyone dreamed of living in during the times of Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy. It’s a sheltered town that people either really enjoy, or would hate living in or around. The film even makes fun of itself with the lines;
“Have you heard? A negro family is moving into town! It’s a good thing right? Oh, of course it’s a good thing! Stepford is one of the most liberal towns around!”
“Well of course! We were the first community to get a Chinese Restaurant in the county!”
This film IS a horror/sci-fi, no doubts about it. It starts off good and fun, but once the movie gets rolling and the family moves from New York to Stepford, the soundtrack takes on a new vibe and gives off the typical synth driven horror sounds that became popular in the 70s.
Here’s the Trailer to check out. The audio is very quiet but it’s the best I could find;
There is something strange happening in Stepford as once the family gets to Stepford, Joanna’s (Ross) husband gets invited to join the Men’s Association of Stepford and begins spending more and more nights away from home. Then the other members of the Men’s Association begin paying more and more attention to Joanna. First one of the members, a renowned artist, draws a perfect portrait of Joanna, next she is introduced to a member called Dis as he used to work for Disney Theme Parks who studies her every move and nuance as she moves around the house and town. Finally she is asked by one of the members to read a long list of words under the pretences that he is an accent enthusiast who likes to have recordings of all of his friends so he can get to know their accents as well as his own.
Not much more can be said without giving away the mystery of Stepford. Suffice it to say, the movie is incredibly well shot, as well as having a great cast and script to go along with it.
Once the creep factor sets in, we’re shown a lot of the typical Dutch angles used in horror films to show more dramatic views of the protagonists. As well as putting the main character of a scene in the ‘power position’ on the right side of the screen while having them look off to the right of the screen leaving an open doorway, or ominous shadows occupying a majority of the leftover screen. This happened time and time again, and when coupled with the synth music makes the viewer a lot more nervous for what could happen next.
This film is not just a film for film junkies like myself, it is well written, well shot, well-directed, well produced, etc. It was a blockbuster in its day and continues to have a large cult following even today. It should be stated that ‘cult’ film does not mean the movie didn’t do well in the box office and was subsequently discovered by film nerds who found something to relate to as is the case with Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is really a great movie that stretches the imagination to the sci-fi realm of men wanting to have the perfect wives. Ira Levin who is an amazing screenwriter and has written hundreds of plays that have been made into films wrote the Stepford Wives. If you do watch this, and enjoy it, you need to check out Deathtrap starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeves (A review of which will be coming up soon) and the film the Boys from Brazil in which a group of escaped Nazis try to rekindle the Third Reich by cloning Hitler.
In a final statement, watch this film. You won’t regret it. It’s an amazingly well done movie, another in a LONG list that had no reason to be remade. But it was, and as I said before, it will be reviewed, we’ll see the contrast and comparison soon.