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What is going on in Stepford?
The Stepford Wives  (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
The Stepford Wives  (DVD)
Advantages: An interesting idea, moderately well-acted, quite entertaining
Disadvantages: The crux of the storyline needs expansion, could be more gripping
RELEASED: 1975, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR: Bryan Forbes
PRODUCER: Edgar J Scherick
SCREENPLAY: William Goldman
MUSIC: Michael Small
Katharine Ross as Joanna
Peter Masterson as Walter
Nanette Newman as Carol
Paula Prentiss as Bobby
Tina Louise as Charmaine
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on Ira Levin's 1972 novel of the same name, The Stepford Wives begins when Joanna, Walter and their children move away from the city to the tiny town of Stepford. Walter is a lawyer and Joanna a semi-professional photographer.
Once installed in the quiet, sleepy Stepford community, Joanna feels out of place and isolated, because the other women in the neighbourhood seem very twee and domesticated, obsessed with housework, cooking and having no conversation other than polishing floors and trying out the latest recipes. These women have blank stares, seeming to be almost automated in their actions and responses.
When Bobbie, another newcomer to the town, befriends Joanna, she (Joanna) feels as though she has found a kindred spirit. Together, Joanna and Bobbie try to stimulate the female population of the Stepford community into widening their interests and horizons, but without success, and before long Joanna senses that there is something very wrong in that the women of the town appear to be robotic, unnaturally obedient, characterless and completely subservient to their husbands.
Joanna also becomes very suspicious of a club in the community which all of the husbands are members of and attend meetings regularly, in that this club has a 'no women' rule.
When the lively, independent, rebel-rousing Bobbie suddenly transforms into one of Stepford's 'ideal wives' brigade, Joanna is forced to try and discover exactly what is going on in the town.
Made in 1975, The Stepford Wives aligned itself quite strongly with the rise of the then modern-day women's lib movement.
As soon as the film begins, although I wouldn't say it gives off a gripping or even an enthralling atmosphere, there is enough going on to sustain a level of interest which keeps the viewer involved. The storyline is a bit slow getting underway, with the main crux becoming apparent once Joanna and her family are settled into the Stepford community.
The acting is moderately OK, but not to the degree that it would make anybody gasp in surprise at its sheer brilliance, but reasonably decent performances are given by the whole cast. Katharine Ross did an acceptably good job of playing Joanna, a spirited young woman who senses pretty quickly that all is not right in Stepford, simultaneously frustrated that her husband seems unable to listen to or understand her concerns.
The storyline of The Stepford Wives is an interesting concept (I must say here that I have never read Ira Levin's novel on which the film was based), but I feel it could have been put across in a gutsier way, as overall it does lack a certain punch. Such, I feel, has nothing to do with the era in which the film was made, because there were plenty of other productions from the mid-1970s which really pushed the boat out. Although characters in The Stepford Wives such as Bobbie and Joanna have strong personalities, it seems to me as if something was being held back in the expression of their independent characteristics.
It isn't often that I feel a film to be too short, but this is the case regarding The Stepford Wives. It could do with being at least 20 or even 30 minutes longer, as more attention needs to be paid to expanding on what is actually going behind the scenes in the town. Also, I'd like to see the events towards the end of the film expanded out, as those scenes I believe could have been constructed to contain far greater levels of suspense for the viewer.
There is a very tiny, almost imperceptible thread of humour running through The Stepford Wives, most of it occurring in the first 30 or so minutes, although it wasn't until I'd seen the film several times that I noticed it. The music for the most part is light orchestral, but once the film gets underway, slides so far into the background that it becomes all but imperceptible.
Although The Stepford Wives is a reasonably entertaining film, it isn't something - bearing the repressed women aspect in mind - which is particularly powerful or thought-provoking, and it could do with an atmosphere hike-up from about mid-point onwards. However, it has over the decades gained a moderate cult status level, which I am in two minds as to whether such is deserved.
I understand that there has been a recent re-make of The Stepford Wives which I haven't seen, but am given the impression that it contains a stronger line of humour, perhaps being presented a little tongue-in-cheek? For the most part, I do have a deep prejudice about re-makes, but the original of The Stepford Wives, I do feel needs sharpening up a bit, and it is possible that the re-make succeeds in that department.
By no means is the 1975 Stepford Wives in any way a bad film, but it does lack power and I feel is largely overrated. However, it is a reasonably decent piece of entertainment which can pleasantly while away part of anyone's evening.....just don't expect to have your mind blown or any of the issues dealt with in the film to urge you onto a path of wanting to change the world!
At the time of writing, The Stepford Wives can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: No new copies currently available
Used: from £14.83 to £52.95
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: Not a bad film, but lacks power