Monday, February 14, 2011


Despite the fact that I was a pretty jumpy kid, I nevertheless LOVED to be scared at the movies. More to the point, I liked the idea of being scared. I had fun huddling in a dark movie house with my sisters, three shivering clumps of terror with knees drawn tight to our chins, peering timorously over fortress walls of raised sweaters. Unfortunately, I was also a very pensive and over-analytical kid with a habit of spoiling my own fun by taking what happened on the screen way too seriously.

The first time I recall doing this was back in 1968 when, at age 11, I broke into tears watching Rosemary's Baby. It was during the scene where the deathly pale and thin Rosemary, fearful that her child is dying inside of her, first feels it kick. In the middle of her cluttered apartment (she and her husband have just had a Christmas party), left alone by her guiltily skittish husband on the pretext of cleaning up, she sits rocking back and forth with her arms hugging her pathetically tiny belly. The look on Mia Farrow's face is so heartbreakingly happy that it just tore me up inside. Most people harbor memories of Rosemary's Baby as a fun, thrill ride of a scary movie (which it is), but I always remember how it struck me as being so sad.

Years later, I had a similar experience with another adaptation of an Ira Levin thriller, The Stepford Wives. Well-acted, suspenseful, and atmospherically creepy, I nevertheless left the theater feeling that the film was more poignantly sad than frightening.
"Daddy, I just saw a man carrying a naked lady."
"Well, that's why we're moving to Stepford."
The Stepford Wives is a feminist nightmare about a city family (Katharine Ross, Peter Masterson) moving into a suburban Connecticut town populated by dull, boorish men who all have stunningly beautiful wives who live for nothing more than slavish domesticity and sexual servility. The ingeniousness of the plot lies in its wry awareness that this women's nightmare is the waking fantasy of a great many men and a cornerstone of the American Dream itself. By pitting repressive traditional values against a more liberated definition of women's societal role, Ira Levin fashions a nifty modern horror story out of contemporary sexual politics.
Katharine Ross as Joanna Eberhart
Paula Prentiss as Bobbie Markowe
Tina Louise as Charmaine Wimpiris
Peter Masterson as Walter Eberhart
Patrick O'Neal as Dale "Dis" Coba
Nanette Newman as Carol Van Sant

Films about losing one's identity (like Invasion of the Body Snatchers) only work when the film takes the time to develop the personalities of the protagonists in jeopardy. You can only be invested in the loss of something once the value of that thing is established. What I love about The Stepford Wives is how well it gets us to understand, identify with, and ultimately root for the flawed humanity of Katharine Ross' character.
From the film's first frames, we get a sense of her restless dissatisfaction and longing for something more meaningful beyond home and family. All the more tragic then that the very individuality she seeks to express is the one quality least valued in women in the town of Stepford.
Suburban Bliss: Dream House / Nightmare Life 
In Stepford, the wives don't even exist on mailboxes

The casting of the principal ladies of Stepford is flawless. The women are all such distinct, lively, and interesting characters that you feel the men of Stepford have to be nuts (they are) to want to replace them with bland automatons. Tina Louise is surprisingly vibrant and even a little touching in her brief role.

Paula Prentiss, always a personal favorite, almost walks off with the entire film. But it's Katharine Ross' show, and she has never been shown off in a film to better effect. Hers is a deeply appealing, intelligent performance that is the genesis of the emotional impact of the unsettling dénouement.
Strange Things Afoot in Stepford

I think it was a risky step for the filmmakers to have the women in Stepford speak to one another almost exclusively in TV commercial clichés. It's hilariously appropriate, of course (the women in those commercials seem to operate on another plane of existence — they all derive a little too much joy from getting a floor clean or a stain out of a shirt). But it runs the risk of diluting the effectiveness of both the horror and the suspense. Happily, the film strikes just the right tone and unearths the eerie subnormality that lies behind the pursuit of conventional perfection.
"We Stepford wives are busy, busy, busy!"

As stated earlier, I enjoy being scared by movies, but that's another way of saying I like to be engaged by them. I want a movie to draw me into its reality.
The Stepford Wives achieves this by emphasizing character and relationships over plot machinations. It's wonderful how well the film works, even though we never really learn just how the men accomplish what they do (like the issue with the eyes). It's plenty scary just letting your imagination go where the film takes you. I think most good writers and directors will agree that detailed explanations and ensuring everything is highlighted and accounted for aren't always necessary if you can successfully suspend disbelief just long enough to keep an audience off-balance.
Much of The Stepford Wives wouldn't stand up to the microscopic scrutiny of today's fandom culture, but the film works splendidly because it's so well-constructed.
The Men's Association

Speaking of scary, I confess that once again, although the film has much to recommend in the way of shocks (the fireplace poker scene is so well edited I jump every time). But what always stays with me is the tragedy.
There's a scene late in the film where Ross (who longs for a career as a photographer) shows her work to a New York gallery owner. Her eagerness to please and desperation to be acknowledged are palpable.
Gallery owner - "What do you want from it all, do you know?"
Joanna  -"I want... somewhere, someday, someone to look at something and say, 'Hey, that reminds me of an Ingalls.' Ingalls was my maiden name. I guess I want to be remembered."

Oh, gosh. That scene just breaks my heart...and all of a sudden, I'm 11 years-old again.
"There'll be somebody with my name, and she'll cook and clean like crazy, but she won't take pictures and she won't be me.
She'll be like one of those robots in Disneyland."

A bit of twisted trivia: Katharine Ross' bathroom wallpaper, seen briefly in the opening sequence of The Stepford Wives (a horrid kind of mustard-colored jungle print with leopards and flowers), shows up 38 years later in the film Lovelace (2013).
Top: 1975. With good reason, as it turns out, Katharine Ross isn't looking forward to moving out of New York.
Below; 2013. In Lovelace, the biographical film about 70s porn star Linda Lovelace, Linda's parents (Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone) watch their daughter on The Phil Donahue Show. An event placing the scene in 1980.

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Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 - 2011


  1. Terrific assessment of one of my favorite suspense films.

  2. Joe Meyers
    It's so gratifying when a film you enjoy, that wasn't such a hit on its release, finds new life as a cult favorite.Thank you very much for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. Much appreciated! Especially since I think you're a terrific writer and came across your piece on "Black Swan" a while back and wanted to comment myself. Now I can return the favor!

  3. I never understood why Paula Prentiss didn't get more attention for her performance in this picture - it's her character's warmth and humor that really points up the horror of the robot replacement scheme.
    She was also terrific a year earlier in another paranoid thriller "The Parallax View" in the small role of a reporter who knows she is about to be killed by those behind a political assassination. Prentiss projects pure unadulterated fear in her one scene with Warren Beatty.

  4. I totally agree. She's the heart of "The Stepford Wives." I've always thought Paula Prentiss must be one of the most frustrated actresses of her age. Here was a woman who possessed a screen persona as quirkily unique and one-of-a-kind as Katherine Hepburn, but Hollywood didn't seem to know what to do with her. I loved her in "The Parallax View" (a very scary cameo with a terribly chilling payoff)! As with "The Stepford Wives," everything weird and quirky about her becomes a symbol of what is most "human" about us all that is at risk of annihilation in these great 70s paranoid thrillers.

  5. And Tina Louise is almost as quirky and as funny in her much briefer role.
    I always crack up when Charmaine does that very un-Stepford-like thing of showing off her maid to Ross & Prentiss:
    "Isn't Nettie marvelous? She's a German Virgo. Their thing is to serve!"

  6. Prentiss-"So that's why we won the war."
    HA! That is a great exchange.
    You're the only person I know to give Tina Louise here due in this movie. She's actually very good. I like also how her character is sort of absent-mindedly present at the first Stepford Women's encounter group (her being startled "awake" by Ross is a terrific take by Louise), yet hers is the most moving disclosure.

  7. Even though I knew the premise of the film, I was still wonderfully spooked (the fire poker, as Ken Anderson mentions, made me jump too). Prentiss and Louise definitely are great. I think the fun, humanness of Bobbie's character is what makes the scene where she malfunctions so creepy, because we know and liked the real Bobbie, which is not the case of the other wives who aren't real to begin with.

  8. @Anonymous
    I think one of the strengths of Ira Levin's writing (EVERYBODY knows the "surprise" of "Rosemary's Baby") is that they tap so well into core human fears that their enjoyment isn't dependent on shock value alone. His plots get creepily under your skin. You're right about the Bobbie character. The film really needed someone so fun and likable to make her transformation hit home. Thanks for the comment!

  9. I'm now 52, I was 15 when I first saw this and sided with the women. I remember lines from the movie about the kids being dirty, the house always dirty, the laundry always dirty, dinner not ready or even planned or thought about during the day, and Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss talking at length and never doing a dam thing all day long. The writers had to have lived through all that to be soooo insightful all those many years ago. That must have really struck a cord with men...and the whole feminest movement. Cutting edge writing for sure. This could be my life in old lady is EXACTLY the same, except they were thin.... OH MY GOD was that good writing. Oh by the way...where do I place my order? HA HA :o)

    1. The points you bring up are exactly why the remake of "The Stepford Wives" proved so frustrating. The battle of the sexes had not ceased with the 70s, and the remake missed the opportunity to shed a little satiric light on all the post-feminist backlash and sexual politics of the new millennium. Thanks for your comment!

    2. The Nicole Kidman "The Stepford Wives" was vague about the technology of enslavement. That was a maddeningly missed opportunity to comment on Prozac-Nation, had they been explicit about the men using pharmaceuticals to docilize their wives . . . . as opposed to the 1975 original which used the implied -- but pedestrian -- android/robotics trope.

    3. That's the first time I think I've ever heard anyone suggesting drugs as an alternative to the original's robotics theme. So perfect!
      The Kidman movie is indeed more notable for how expertly it evaded every opportunity a remake presented.

  10. This is a fantastic film I love films that f*ck with your psyche and this is one of the best in the genre. Terrific performances by all. Special mention to Miss Tina Louise, who worked wonders with her slight role. I feel she never really got a fair shake in Hollywood because of that damned Island.

    1. Hmmm....I lost an earlier reply to your post. Wonder it if it's going to appear elsewhere, out of context on this blog?
      Anyhow,thanks a heap for your comment and for taking the time to read my post. I agree, this is a great movie for messing with your mind. When you let the theme really set in, it's surprising how monstrous its premise is (a town full of complicit murderers. Men willing to kill the women they supposedly love because they want a clean house and subservient mate). Also, had to laugh at "that damned island" comment because I'm sure Ms. Louise has thought the very same thing.

  11. Always remember my Mum and Dad watching this one Saturday night in the 80s...really unsettling for a child to see, and still unsettling for an adult! Unless you happen to share the views of The Men's Association I guess!

    I've never been a huge fan of Bryan Forbes and his nepotism in casting his wife, Nanette Newman, in virtually everything, but I have to admit when he scored a hit, he scored a hit. Seance On A Wet Afternoon is similarly gripping.

    Katherine Ross may just be my ultimate woman. I've always gone for girls with her hair, shape, her looks etc so I'm always pleased to see her in films, but Paula Prentiss is adorable and I've been a fan ever since her hilarious turn in What's New Pussycat

    1. Hi Mark. The beauty part of "The Stepford Wives" has always been that to a certain faction of our culture, what The Men's Association believes in is mighty close to what many consider an ideal marriage state. Here in the states, where we have nutjobs who think they can "pray the gay away," I wonder if there aren't secret organizations here who think they can pray feminism and independence out of women as well.

      Fans of Levin's book were shocked when Forbes was handed the directing job. So many thought it was such an American theme. (Have yet to see Seance on a Wet Afternoon)

      I've only seen Nanette Newman in one other film, but seriously, they come as a team? You ask for him and you have to take her? I think Steve Allen had a clause in his contracts like that for Jayne Meadows.

      Ross is the prettiest I've ever seen her in this film and of course Prentiss can do no wrong. Neither has worked in film as much as I would have liked. Thanks again for commenting!

    2. Thanks for posting. I could spend days reading through all these and commenting, blissful days I hasten to add!

      Yeah, she's in virtually all of his movies, including the rather odd role of her playing the Elizabeth Taylor role years on in International Velvet. She's also in Seance On A Wet Afternoon, The Wrong Box, Deadfall....the list goes on.

      Intriguing point regarding your nation's more oddball and fanatical element, I can agree I'd image such a cult who think they could do just that, after all it's no more staggeringly awful as you say as those who are homophobic or even the communist witch hunts of the 50s

    3. Nanette Newman is among the more memorable things in the film with her I'll just die if I don't get the recipe! She's excellent with Malcolm McDowell in Forbe's forgotten Long Ago Tommorow (1971) and is effective in her only scene, the last, in her husband's L-Shaped Room an excellent film as well.

  12. Hi Ken,

    A belated response to your post on Stepford Wives which I happened to stumble across through googling the movie! Great post with insightful comments and I agree a lot with what you say...The movie is up there as one of my all-time favourites; sure, it's dated and slow-moving by today's standards, but it also contains so many strengths. The 2000s update, whilst not quite the disaster everyone made it out to be, left a lot to be desired and doesn't hold a candle to the original! I agree with your comment that one of the film's strengths is its characterisation and this consequently leaves you rooting for the main female protagonists...I just love Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss' performances, so naturalistic, believable and touching and their rapport is believable too. Which makes what happens to Bobbie later on all the more heartbreaking...the scene when Joanna comes back from the gallery and find her "changed" friend never fails to move me! And yet I love the campy lines:" If you're going to tell me you don't like this dress, I'm putting my head right in the oven!" (Yet, as you rightly say, there isn't so much camp that it swamps/ruins the movie - it's actually much more subtle than people give it credit for).

    As a matter of fact I recently showed the movie to some of my English students (I'm a college lecturer) as I teach a text which is all about women's issues over the past century, and I think the movie has a lot of relevance with regard to such matters! I'm always harping on about the film and boring people senseless! I even once organised/attended a Stepford Wives party!

    Anyway thanks for indulging me, and again, thought-provoking post!

    Simon (Old Cheeser - I don't blog much these days...)

  13. Hello Simon!
    I always enjoy hearing from people who like this film. It has an amazingly strong cult following here (among the young, surprisingly). You rightly point out that the rapport between Ross and Prentiss is conveyed so naturally that the eventual "transformation" has the required emotional punch. I like the camp dialog as well and appreciate it better now with the distance of time. As you say, it's more subtle than it's given credit for.
    I love that you expose your students to the film and serve as this subversive force of promotion for this, to me, under-appreciated film. You have to tell me what a Stepford Wives party involved!
    Thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to share your thoughts on the film. It seems as if you appreciate Forbes' balance of genre thriller/sexual politics satire. The delicate balance sunk the film for those expecting a more heavy-handed approach, but I think it works marvelously. Hope to hear from you again, Simon!

    1. Hi Ken, after a gap of a few years I've just stumbled across your website again! Great site and wonderful to see you that you are still posting so many reviews of great (and I note rather kitschy at times!) movies. As a matter of fact I have started blogging again recently myself, so take a look if you fancy:

    2. Hi Simon!
      What a great surprise to hear you've resumed your blog!I am especially looking forward to reading your post on the AB Fab movie, as that show was a big favorite, but I rarely venture to movie theaters these days. Thanks for saying hello and alerting me to your "return"! We can use more of your ilk! See in you in "virtual" land!

  14. Hi Ken - I first saw "The Stepford Wives" when it was in release and I was young and experiencing the stirrings of feminism. Around that time I married and, for a time, had a hyphenated last name. As you say, the film is extremely engaging and involving. I thought the final scene chilling. Today I am reminded of the Stepford husbands and wives whenever I happen to catch sight of the anchors on Fox News. A very well done review, excellent insights. By the way, I'd forgotten that Ira Levin also wrote "Rosemary's Baby." That is a film that completely captivated me when I first saw it. I didn't know who Roman Polanski was at the time - what a master! - but he completely swept me into the film and I entirely identified with Rosemary. I found it heart-rending - and irresistible.

    1. Hi Eve
      You should live in Los Angeles...there's one particular beach community (I won't name it) where you'd swear every man, woman, and child is a Stepford robot. I love that you saw "The Stepford Wives" at a time when you personally were becoming aware of feminism. Much in the same way that I can't imagine how "Rosemary's Baby" would play to a pregnant woman, I've always been aware that "The Stepford Wives" would be experienced differently, perhaps, by a woman becoming of feminism in the 70s.
      Its a marvelous thriller and I'm glad you enjoyed it. And yes, the teaming of Polanski and Ira Levin on "Rosemary's Baby" was remarkable. Levin was quite the storyteller!

    2. Hello again, Ken. I just pinned an image from your Stepford post to Pinterest and paused to re-read your review. I noticed something this time that I didn't the first - that wallpaper! I've seen that wallpaper in person - and in this century - in a mansion in Hillsborough. The room was a butler's pantry that, obviously, hadn't been remodeled since the '70s. It made quite an impression on me at the time - was completely out of character with other rooms in the house. Hard to believe I didn't recognize it when I first read this post more than 2 yrs. ago.

    3. Hi Eve
      When you saw this two years ago I probably hadn't seen "Lovelace" by then. I added the pics of the wallpaper after the film came out on DVD. I was so surprised to see that wallpaper I remembered so well.
      Fascinating that you had a real-life, up close and personal encounter with must have been a popular 70s pattern!

  15. Chilling movie...I think what's scariest about this and Rosemary's Baby is the idea that you can never, ever really know another person...least of all your own spouse. Walter Eberhard and Guy Woodhouse are seemingly charming, interesting men and loving husbands...but are actually monsters. It's our worst fear...that the ones we love the most will sell us down the river for fame, money, sex or just convenience.

    I've loved Paula Prentiss ever since her funny pas de deux with Jack Lemmon, as the stewardess in The Out Of Towners: "We are circling prior to landing..."

    1. Yes, Ira Levin was the master of a certain kind of domestic dread. Long before husbands murdering their spouses became a depressingly common news headline, Levin tapped into the tension and terror behind the possibility of not really knowing the person closest to you.
      I'm just crazy about this film and glad to hear you are as well.
      Oh, and I hate to be one of those film geeks who goes around correcting bits of trivia (Well, I am a film geek, guess I can't change that part) butthat stewardess in "The Out of Towners" is actually Paula Prentiss' late, troubled younger sister, Ann. I know this because I am a HUGE fan of "The Out of Towners" and always crack up at that exchange between Lemmon and the stewardess you cited.
      I think Ann's career was severely hampered by her near identical resemblance to her more famous sister. She is in an old episode of "Get Smart" and displays a similar gift for comedy, but I's like you're looking at Paula Prentiss.

  16. Oh--good catch!! That WAS Ann Prentiss, wasn't it? Very similar look and comic delivery! I appreciate the correction!

  17. Love that psychiatrist Ross visits: "You come all this way to talk to me...and then you don't talk to me." She's so intense, many in the audience were saying out loud, "She's one of them!" But it's that she's so convinced of Ross' incredible story that her trust and belief is momentarily shocking.

    1. That's so true! I remember thinking that the first time I saw it, and on revisits to the film, I'm always impressed at how that scene is played and written. It recalled for me the scene in "Rosemary's Baby" when it appears as if Rosemary has found a savior in Dr. Hill, but is betrayed by him.
      I was so sure that was going to happen with the psychiatrist, and that only added to the tension.
      Saw this film AGAIN when it aired on TCM. It really only gets better with time.
      Thank you, Jon, for jogging my memory of a favored scene and audience reaction (and your Google ID jogging my memory of an early Hayley Mills film I loved as a kid)!

  18. That last scene breaks my heart too...I hate it when evil wins. I too loved Paula Prentiss' role as outgoing Bobbi in the movie! Lol. She tickled me ~ my kind of friend! ;) You are right~she practically stole the show!! I really enjoyed your magnificent review of this movie...after all these years I finally got to see it the other day, and now I'm hooked! :)

    1. Hi Deanna
      I love it when people tell me they have only recently seen this film and that it has become a favorite. It's such a testament to the enduring quality of a well-made film and a story well-told, that it can reach audiences literally decades after it was first released.
      Director Bryan Forbes was fairly raked over the coals when the film first came out, but perhaps he had an ace up his sleeve that we weren't aware of way back then; that a horror film can be bloodless and still be every bit as chilling when it takes the time to give us characters we care about. Prentiss' Bobbi is a lot of people's favorite.
      Thank you very much for you kind words, and especially for taking the time to share your fondness for this movie that gets better with every passing year. Much appreciated!

  19. Wow! A very accurate and well written critic we have here Ken. Thank you. The film is a neglected true piece of art. A nearly buried treasure that should be reavaluated. I hated the remake. Nothing that toped the cheer humanity, the depth of the original "Stepford wives". I saw the film when I was 10 and experienced almost the same feelings as you (mainly the natural empathy -love?- I had for Katherine Ross's character). She looked so beautiful and played such a clever yet vulnerable character... Funny how the frontiers, different languages (I'm french) disappear when a great story touches you as it reaches so wonderfully its target. Thank you again for your perfect review (and more) of the film.

    1. Hello Adam
      And thank you for the exceptionally kind comment! You write very eloquently about the power of film to address different cultures, ages, and individuals when a common humanity is touched upon. Rare in a genre film like horror.
      I love that you saw the film at such a young age and responded to it on an emotional level, not a sensationalistic one. I'm please you enjoyed my review, and I'm happy to hear from someone who also appreciates this film as I do. Thanks!

  20. One scene that has stuck with me was when we escape Stepford after an hour or so within, with Ross standing on a New York City street (in a tight, nearly transparent shirt, that I didn't realize was for foreshadowing!), and had an overwhelming feeling of release, that I could finally breathe fresh air again. Of course it was not to continue.

    1. Oh, I know that scene well, and I love that reaction you had. Impresses the hell out of me when filmmakers can have that happen; audience engagement on the level that they are having a vicarious experience.
      Also, your foreshadowing comment made me take note of something I've always been aware of; Ross wears a number of super-clingy, near transparent tops - the one you mentioned, the gown at the meeting with the mens' club - that indeed serve the purpose of providing a kind of physical foreshadowing. That never occurred to me, but it's SUCH an important part of a later payoff! Quite the cinematic eye, Mr. Knutson. Thanks!

  21. Hi Ken,
    I bookmarked your blog, your reviews are a delight. Scanning the index, I saw quite a lot of personal fav movies that I want to check out later. Thanks for the Gatsby piece in the first place. I've been wrestling with this movie for decades, I never knew whether to adore it or to condemn it. You hit the nail right on the head- do both.
    I think the same applies to the Stepford remake: it made me angry, Such an insult to Levin's storytelling genius! Then I saw it a second time on YouTube, and suddenly saw it for what it is: a sparkling, hilariously over-the-top satire, and I truly enjoyed it. I wasn't surprised by Glenn Close's comedy streak but I didn't expect this quality from Nicole Kidman as well. It's also the first movie where I find Matthew Broderick interesting. We see an very good director at work, here.
    I know it's difficult, but for optimal consumption of the second Stepford Wives you have to let go of Levin's novel and the original movie altogether. In its own right the remake is great fun, professionally made.

    1. I rarely ever see a film only once, but the remake of "The Stepford Wives" was a single-timer for me. Your latter-day appreciation for it intrigues me and at least plants the seed that perhaps enough time has passed for me to check this film out devoid of expectations and see if I can assess it for what it is.
      I was one of those disappointed that this particular "Stepford" didn't reach hoped-for, "Rosemary's Baby" standards, but in the intervening years I've come to really think of it as something special.
      Thank you Willem. I've been enjoying your comment posts!

  22. Hey Ken, I just watched this on DVD; the last time was years ago as a teenager! Much better than the over-the-top, half-baked remake--which seems to be typical of mainstream remakes. The parallels to "Rosemary's Baby" are intriguing: the heroine's husband throwing Joanna under the bus not for Satan, but male chauvinism! The coven vs. the association! Just as Rosemary got thrown under by Charles Grodin as the young doctor, I truly thought the lady shrink was one of THEM, too!

    I always thought that Paula Prentiss and Geena Davis would be great in a movie as mother and daughter ; )

    And loved Katherine Ross during this era, when many stars were slim, tan and had "Cher" hair! Susan Saint James was another. Ever see Joanna Pettet on "Night Gallery"? She had that chic hippie chick look going too, like in my favorite episode, "The House," which I may have mentioned before ; )

    This movie holds up quite well and captures the era as well!

    Thanks, Ken!

    1. Hi Rick
      I love that you noted that 70s look with actresses. I was watching an episode of Charlie's Angels recently and was taken with how really skinny everyone was, and how much i missed that Katherine Ross look once that ridiculous Farrah feathering thing came into vogue.
      I don't think Katherine Ross has ever looked better in a film. She's just gorgeous here. And I like that Geena Davis/Paula Prentiss should pitch it to them as a TV show!
      This film really does hold up (what the hell were they going after with that remake?) and I remember when I first saw it, the lady shrink seemed too sympathetic to be true. I was SURE she was in on the plot!
      And I don't remember if you mentioned Joanna Pettet before, but you hit a chord with me. She was such a knockout to me in my teens and I loved that Night Gallery episode (all that slow motion hair blowing and hippie-chic clothes billowing in the wind). She and hubby Alex Cord appeared in one episode and he had that 70s porn-stache that was so much my thing in my youth - I thought they were seriously the best looking couple in Hollywood.
      i think I have to do a write up on those episodes. I absolutely adored them. Thanks for stirring up the memories, Rick!

    2. Ken, You can check out those "Night Gallery" episodes on Hulu. The one I think you are talking about has haunted me ever since I saw it back in 1970 as a kid: "The House," where Joanna is indeed lovely and hippie chic as she drives and runs in slo-mo to house that haunts her dreams ; )
      Not only was Joanna Pettet gorgeous, she had that slight British accent that was just a little scratchy and very appealing!
      Cheers, Rico

    3. I'm in the same camp as you- "The House" and "Keep in Touch, We'll Think of Something" were both rather hypnotic for me as a teen too (also, "The Girl With the Hungry Eyes). Pettet looked soincredibly stylish, strikingly beautiful and, as you point out, that incredible husky voice. I have indeed caught those episodes on Hulu and they still remain captivating to me. I know she had personal things in her life that led her to ultimately shun show biz, but I always thought she could easily have been a bigger star.

  23. I have to watch again, as always...I missed important things...(i'm trying to quit smoking and I'm in a bit of a fog). Your analysis, yes, again, made me long to watch it again and remember the important points you made. whenever I hear the name Katherine Ross...I think The Graduate...but an actress who married the guy with othe beard, and had kids and did the occasional movie here and there (I only found out recently that she starred in the VERY short lived Dynasty spin off The Colbys). I wonder if I would have noticed the same themes from Rosemary's Baby, if I had NOT known Ira Levin wrote it. I've seen RB many times..and what scares me and upsets me the most is the theme of issues with trust in your family, friends, people who work for you, the next door neighbor (that would be the fabulous Ruth Gordon in RB, lol). And that is in full throttle for Stepford Wives. One of the worst lessons in life is betrayal of those you trust and the need to be careful of WHO you let into your life. Just like Mia Farrow, Ross isn't completely self confidant (or as you very accurately pointed out has a clear identity) and ironically, slowly through the story...she gains more and more confidance and strength in her investigation of the secret...maybe more so than her ambition to be a photographer. And the ultimate horror/irony....she solves the "case", she becomes a hero, her own woman, at once with full confidence...but is too late and it is ultimately "killed" or she is literally killed...her accomplishments and identity completely destroyed. (I think I have just stated in a different way, what you already just said, if so, I apologize :( " and I know I have seen Paula Prentiss in other films or tv...and I need to check/google. but I was happy to finally see this very compelling and moving film. question: what was up with all that dialogue/action between Ross and Prentiss taking place in that sunny, flowery field?? Now I am being too analytical!!!!! but something is up there I just know it!!! (my theory is that the field of beautiful yellow flowers and everything else is already "taking over" the though it cannot and could never be avoided. they're unaware that they have already been trapped. I just kept asking, "why are they always in that damn field!!!! LOL. :)

    1. Hello Cinemarocks
      Your comments about the issue of trust and betrayal are so on point! I got to interview Ira levin once and asked him about whether or not all his books and plays (Deathtrap) about husbands homicidally betraying wives made his wife nervous or give her paise.
      He said that he likes thrillers that are grounded in believable motivations having highly dramatic consequences. He expressed that the bond of fealty in marriage is so scared, that to break it is the height of what he imagines to be the worst a person can do to a spouse because it undermines the core of their security.
      you've expressed as much. Both Rosemary's Baby & The Stepford Wives are dramatically powerful because the betrayal is so complete.
      Issues like identity and self reliance is always an interesting thing, because insecurity seems to be the area where people in Ira Levin films are susceptible to being exploited.
      In both RB and Stepford, the women "solve" the case, but the victory is a hollow one (Rosemary gets the case wrong...she thinks the neighbors want to use her baby for satanic rituals...only at the very end does she discover what their real plans are and the real father's identity).
      It's fascinating stuff!
      I hope you do watch this film again and see if any new things pop out at you.
      Next time I give it a look, I'm going to look again at the scene where Prentiss and Ross meet in that field. Nothing ever spoke to me about the sequence before, but I like that you saw something in it and it intrigues me to see if anything similar speaks to me the next time.
      You certainly make a good case for it, whatever it is!
      Thank you for an enjoyable contribution to the comment section here, and your many thoughtful observations. Always fun to read insights from an enthusiastic lover of cinema!

  24. Hi, Ken! It's been a while since my last comment (Been working a lot lately), hope everything is fine with you and the ones you love :)
    Yesterday I had the chance to watch "Get Out", the 2017 critics' darling (so far), and even though I didn't quite love it, I took the chance to rewatch "The Stepford Wives" today since "Get Out" was (explicitly) some kind of a homage to the 1975 classic. AND BOY AIN'T THAT MOVIE A TREAT?
    What I love the most about horror is that feeling of "inevitable". Wether the hero escapes the awful ultimate fate ("The Shining") or doesn't ("Stepford"), it's awesome when we feel trapped in this dangerous dance that takes us away from safety. I love horror when it seduces me (A plus is the feel of organized evil we get from Levin's stories. It just creates an instant atmosphere and we can't run from that) Also, I predicted the ending of the movie right away but it didn't make the experience any less worthy: as the movie progresses you get more and more involved with its message so much so that in the conclusion you just whisper and say "That's it. Women are trapped. We need to do something", and I applaud Ira Levin and the creative team behind the movie for not giving it a happy ending. A light conclusion would turn our eyes away from the problem: by the loss of Joanna we have no other option than to see and think and reflect. (I know this movie is 40-something and a lot of people like to say that we are waaaaay past that, but an attentive look around would prove the world is a little better, yes, but just you blink and see what happens with our 50 years of progress). Also, I loved how much the movie sticks to its satire and message: no big-ass robot machine, not one single "Westworld" special effect, no futuristic shot (I was waiting for some scene like that marvelous "bodies hanging from the ceiling" we saw in "Coma" but it didn't happen and, well, we still have "Coma"), nothing to distract us from the dark spaces of an empty house, the silence and loneliness in the life of an endangered housewife. Just brilliantly done. And the cast, oh!, fabulous. I was reluctant to believe Katharine Ross could carry a movie at first (I had only seen her as support) but here she had all the space and structure to flesh out her introspective and vulnerable quality.
    What makes me sad is that Joanna valued so much her identity that watching it was pretty sad. When I think about death the only thing that matters to me is my conscience, my identity, the pieces of me I've been carefully putting in place since day one. I love it and treasure it so I felt Joanna's despair in some ways. (Also, as an aspiring artist I would like to be remembered as well).
    The only thing I thought could be better was that she wasn't well stabilished as a mother so when she goes looking for her kids before runnung out of town feelt a little unbelievable to me (Plus Katharine looked nowhere near a mother of two, and even less when you think about how impractical is to be a housewife-mother-of-two with that long hair of hers).
    Anyways, love it and I think I should finally start looking for Levin's books.
    Have a good week :)

    PS. Watch "Get Out" if you didn't yet. A lot of people liked and maybe you'll like it too. I had a lot of problems with the script and the entire third act but it has a very interesting premise, GREAT acting (really), good directing, it has a 99% on ~that critic aggregators site~ I don't like, and something tells me it will be around at the next Oscars.

    1. Hello Joao Paulo
      This was your first time seeing "The Stepford Wives"? If so, how wonderful!
      I found reading your impressions of the film very pleasing, reminding me of all that I, too, find so enjoyable about the film.
      I'm glad the human scale of the fantastic tale still resonates; that a sci-fi premise that doesn't feel the need to show us HOW it's all done, still works thematically.
      Also, it's gladdening to hear that the general feeling of tension and being trapped is as effective now as it ever was. Levin was a master of paranoid dread.
      I think he was an author that felt that a circumstance could be frightening only inasmuch as you can get the reader/viewer to relate to it on a small, personal scale. "Stepford" taps into what you yourself mention--that our sense of identity is often all we have--and knows that the horror isn't really to be found in how the men create the robots, but in how it must feel to know your individuality is not valued.
      Certainly that is the core of sexism that many men don't seem to grasp.

      Of the many things you took note of, I'm glad that you recognized Katharine Ross' effectiveness in the lead. I honestly don't think she was ever as good in anything else, and in a real way, doesn't have what it takes (for me) to be a strong led. But something about her in this is really remarkable. A very natural performance that is ultimately heart-wrenching.
      You also made two excellent points: 1. The impracticality of her long hair for a mother of two (If I taught a film studies class, you would get an A for taking note of that); 2. the film not fully establishing her character in terms of motherhood, and the way it undercuts the effectiveness of the third act. That is a brilliant observation!

      I did see the movie "Get Out" and thoroughly loved it. I think in some ways it was overhyped, but personally, as a film fan who grew up almost exclusively on film narratives told from a white perspective, I delighted in seeing so many of MY fears presented in a genre I adore.
      I found it quite ingenious and intelligent. No masterpiece, but the best thriller I've seen in a long while. It ranks with "Tales from the Hood" (an absolute favorite) in presenting the value of letting other people tell stories besides white, heterosexual men.
      The change in perspective breathes new life into long-familiar tropes and narratives.
      Wonderful to hear from you, Joao Paulo! And hope all is well with you, too! Thanks for the great comments.

  25. Just watched this movie; I'd heard of it and wanted to read the book and probably will at some point. I think it was great, so full of suspense and shot in a realist way that removes the overly-done gloss and glamour of modern Hollywood movies. I loved Joanna and rooted for her the whole time; the ending broke my heart. I don't think this film was scary in a 'monsters and ghosts' way, it was scary because it portrays such a horrifying world. It's sickening to think that a man would want a wife who had no personality at all, that just looked good and did as she was told. When Dis says to Joanna 'don't you want to come home to a sexy stud that just showers you with compliments' I was all like 'NO! I want a real guy with flaws and personality!' You fall for someone's character, not an idealised vision of them.

    But yeah, this movie was really good. Pretty slow moving but that was to build all the tension. I loved Bobbie also; it was so sad when she got turned. Apparently Betty Friedan hated this movie when it came out and said it was sexist, but I think she and probably some other feminists mis-understood that it was in favour of women's equality and independence, and against the horrible patriarchal utopia that the men of Stepford wanted.

    Check out my blog sometime; I write about movies, feminism, politics, human psychology and loads more :)

    1. Hello Zarina
      I'm always so fascinated to hear from people who have never seen the film before. As one who saw it when it first came out, it's hard to gauge how an older film will play. Especially a suspense film whose basic premise is really no longer a surprise to anyone.
      From what you say, the film's strengths for contemporary audiences lie not in the "scare" but in the film's performances, atmosphere, and ideas.

      I'm glad to read that you liked the women characters, and they were developed enough to create sympathy. What's strange about the film to me now is that in 1975, there was a sense that the kind of men in Stepford were dinosaurs on their way out. If you were to ask anyone at the time what they imagined 2018 would be like, vis a vis male-female relationships, I'm certain there would have been the belief that equality was around the corner.
      While quite significant strides have been made, the conservative, anti-woman climate of America today makes this film doubly poignant. One can imagine the men of Stepford all being GOP members of Congress.
      I laughed when I read your reaction to the prospect of the kind of "perfect" man that Diz mentions to Joanna! I feel the same.
      Although when one catches a glimpse of those "bachelor" type of reality shows, one cant help but imagine that there are plenty of people out there looking for programmable robots as partner, not flawed, complex, but basically more fulfilling real human beings.
      Thank you for contributing your thoughts on this, one of my favorite films. I have so many male readers, it's good to hear what a woman's perspective is.
      I look forward to checking out your blog. Your thoughtful comments and insights here are a grand inducement. Thanks for reading!

    2. No worries man! I wasn't born till the late 90s and I'm British lol so can't really comment on 1970s America XD

  26. I've always loved this movie, but I think that I differ from most people, with regard to the fact that I am sooo fascinated by the Stepford versions of the ladies!

    1. That's a first! And a fascinating perspective.

    2. Thanks! :) I absolutely hate the man-bashing 2004 version of the movie, except when it comes to Glenn Close's character, with whom I identify. I take issue with a few aspects of the 1975 version, too. I mean, it takes a primal approach to Feminism ("You must kill or seriously injure that which may prevent you from being independent, and you must be brutal and inhumane in order to be free.") I cannot ever, ever, ever condone what Joanna does to Walter. I mean, I realize that the reality of what was ultimately done to her was cruel, but why couldn't she just sneak away, try to find her kids, etc.? I mean, to scream, "Where are my children?", and to then hit a man who isn't going to reveal the truth just ILLOGICAL....and to be scared by DIS, after all of that BRUTALITY? Mindblowingly stupid to me, even though I am a woman. In my mind, it's, like, "Okay, Joanna. Either get the Hell out of there and figure it out YOURSELF as a humane person, or at LEAST have the guts to not be afraid of DIS....after you've bothered to brutalize your own HUSBAND."

      It must now sound as though I hate these movies. That's not the case. I was in my 20s when all of the rabid man-bashing began, though, and I tired of it....quickly.

    3. Oh, and I also forgot to say that Joanna STILL could've defeated Dis....AND been overtaken by the robot after that.

  27. Not surprised you found The Stepford Wives more sad than scary, Ken. I remember an Entertainment Weekly review from years ago that said the same thing, and I think many people, including me, have had a similar reaction over the years. Pretty sure it's the music, particularly at the end. We get that close-up, then a freeze-frame, of poor half-dead Katherine Ross' mournful eyes, and then that sad, sad music begins. Even the music over the opening credits, that acoustic guitar leading into those melancholy strings and woodwinds, doesn't sound anything like what you would typically hear in a horror movie. I think Forbes or the producer made a conscious decision to downplay the horror elements in the story, and play up the social commentary. Whether or not they did this with an eye on the feminist movement, or more on the box-office returns, I don't know. But I believe it works beautifully. The saddest horror movie ever made...

    Another creative decision is less successful. Stephen King said it best, in his first book of horror genre criticism, Danse Macabre: "As a labeling device, the long flowing gowns the wives wear is pretty crude, even laughable. They may as well have a sign over their heads that reads: I am one of the WEIRD STEPFORD WIVES!" I think you can blame Forbes' perennial casting of his wife Nanette Newman for this one. From what I understand, the original conception for how the wives would be depicted was much more like a Playboy fantasy. With Nanette Newman cast, that had to change, since she had a more matronly appearance. Hence the flowing gowns, which really, in my opinion, ruin the picture. People laugh at this aspect of it now. If the original conception of a Frederick's of Hollywood look for the wives had prevailed, I think the movie would be that much more chilling, and possibly even more enduring. Those stupid long gowns just throw you right out of the mood of the picture.

    Ah, but then there is Katharine Ross! Like Buck Henry once said, "When we got her for The Graduate, we didn't even know if she could act. We just kind of said, look, anyone, anywhere, would love to spend two hours just staring at that FACE, that HAIR!" And even the Gorgon Kael, damning her with faint praise as "not a bad actress" had to admit that "Katharine Ross is lovely-looking." As for myself, even as a gay man, wherever I mention The Stepford Wives, I always qualify it by saying, "It's a two hour and forty minute movie, but it always takes me three hours to get through it, since I keep hitting the DVD remote pause button hundreds of times. Just so I can stare at a closeup of Katharine Ross' almost otherworldly beauty for a bit longer. I almost fall off the couch every time."(Although I'm pretty sure I've never used the word 'otherworldly' in conversation. I'm more of a working-class-New-Yawkese-deez-dem-doze kinda guy)

    1. Hi Rick
      Yes..."The saddest horror movie ever made." Over the years I've come to terms with the compromises brought about by the Nanette Newman factor (I think she's a wonderful actor, and on the DVD "making of" film, she's adorable in her awareness of and denial of the fact she actually spoiled the film's concept for so many)-- but like you, I have always felt that long gown thing was just not right for Levin’s concept. The visual side of male objectification of women is ill=represented by that whole granny gown thing. To satirize the whole mannequin thing about sexism and misogyny really required a look at the absurdity to be. The painful and awkward outfits Playboy bunnies were required to wear encapsulates the idea. If Stepford was full of women dressed in absurdly feminized or sexualized ways to tend to their kids or go grocery shopping, a whole level if satire could have been mined.
      The long dresses become something grandfathers might have wanted, but straight men in the middle of the sexual revolution weren’t looking for Little House on the Prairie.
      Since Forbes Mr and Mrs was a package deal, I always wish he would have cast Nanette Newman as the therapist Ross sees (beef up the role if need be) and leave the Stepford wives to be absurdly young and pretty women married to dull, unprepossessing men.

      But I could never fault the choice of Forbes because as you cite, he brings things to the film I don’t think anyone else could.
      And I absolutely love your appreciation of Katherine Ross. I agree wholeheartedly and fully concur.
      Another exceptional contribution, Rick, and very amusing, to boot. Thank you so much.

  28. I don't think Peter Masterson was right as the husband. I mean he is too nice and I never bought for a minute that he wanted to replace his wife with a automaton.

    An actor like Donald Sutherland obviously could have done that (who would have been kind of slumming and probably wouldn't have taken the role, anyway) but so could have Frank Langella. Both Sutherland and Langella are big and tall and when they play heavies, they are heavy. George Segal is a good enough actor to carry it off, same with Elliott Gould but the chemistry between Ross and Gould might have been dicey. And all of those actors would have seriously impacted the small, quiet feel of the film with their larger than life personas.

    Art Hindle, on the other hand, who played Jeffrey, Elizabeth's boyfriend in the 1979 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" would have been perfect. A good actor, but not a star, in "Body Snatchers", after the character has been transformed he goes from being a offbeat but caring character to one whose demeanor becomes so cold, indifferent and scheming that he made a relatively small role unforgettable, for me anyway.

    1. I like your thoughts on the casting. In that I get a sense of how you see the film/story and what elements would have worked for you. Fascinating choices you suggested, too.
      Although it took me years to get used to the reimagining of what an ideal Stepford Wife would look like, I have to say that, for me, I liked the idea of going with a male case of supremely unprepossessing husbands. There's a beige blandness to all the Stepford husbands that remind me of those politicians who are always caught with hookers. The sexist male pardigm has always been that the woman must be an absolute "10" and the males are as Katharine Ross describes the husband she walks in on: "Nothing, absolutely nothing." I like all the actors you suggest, but they're all too charismatic for how I saw those guys. I always imagined the husbands in Stepford would all look like Conrad Bain or McLean Stevenson (I thought they should all look a little too dumb to be capable of what they do), and the women would look like Raquel Welch and Farrah Fawcett.
      Sadly, the remake (reimagining?) was such a misfire, I can't imagine anyone going near the property again.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your ideal casting choices for THE STEPFORD WIVES!

  29. Good article. I agree with all the points you made, especially about the under-appreciated Prentiss. Stepford was inspired by my home town of Wilton, Conn. where Ira Levin lived in the late 60s. I wrote an extensive article about the movie and novel for the magazine Scary Monsters: Monster Memories #26. This includes the terrible remake which takes a strange, campy, gay-influenced approach in spoofing Martha Stewart-type materialism and trashing men in place of the 60s sexual stereotypes and TV ads from the original story.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jim.
      I hope the Levin/Stepford version of your Connecticut home town was an artistic-license exaggeration. It sounds horrifying even before the robot angle rears its head.
      The scope of your article on both Stepford films sounds fascinating. The remake I have blotted from my mind. There are few films that I genuinely hate, but I loathed that version. What a mess and missed opportunity to really capture the tone of the novel.
      Given how badly the Brian Forbes' version was received in 1975, I find it so gratifying that it has undergone a critical reassessment via its cult status.
      Again, thanks for reading this post and sharing your thoughts.

  30. Love all the input! One of my favorites. By the way, I had that wallpaper on a bedroom wall as a kid- I saved a generous slice when mom and dad redecorated... though I had to scrape the glue off it when they covered it with rustic wood paneling!

    1. Hi Jimmy- Yes, the commenters are great, aren't they?
      And to that observation: how terrific is it that you actually had that wallpaper!! I see I was much too hard on it in my original post. Lo these many years later it looks kinda cool to me. I'm glad you had the foresight to save a bit of it. Brilliant! Gotta love the '70s aesthetic.
      Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment, Jimmy.

  31. Hi Ken-
    Before I get to my latest LCD-inspired viewing, just a quick mention that I recently rewatched the "Going Back to Xanadu" featurette and was so pleased to see you! Really lovely that you got to participate in that, considering your connection to the film. (Usually those talking heads featurettes don't come close to including any sort of real emotional attachment outside of fond filming memories, so kudos!)

    I ended up rewatching Stepford Wives due to the mention in another post's comments of how the ending got edited for TV, and it was time for a refresher before reading the reveal...although once I re-saw the ending I knew exactly how it became less impactful. Doubly so if they also don't make it as explicitly clear what transpires with the shot of the pantyhose being grabbed and pulled taut.

    Even though I own the DVD, I'd only watched Stepford once before. It most likely got purchased thinking it was going to be a 70's camp fest, but this second viewing confirmed that I was mostly just bummed out by the turn of events! (Kinda like Mr Goodbar, but not nearly that traumatic.) I'll give Katherine Ross credit, as although I didn't really like her character, her portrayal didn't keep me from still feeling for her during her attempts to escape from Stepford. Plus one has to toss her a sympathy card as the film lights up tremendously when Paula Prentiss shows up. Her character and acting job is a truly a delight, and her transformation is really affecting. I need to see more of her acting work; it's a shame she didn't have a larger career.

    One aspect that surprised me was the scene with Walter after he returns from his first meeting, and he appears to be on the verge of tears sitting with his cocktail. The additional level of sadness over his impending decision was an unexpected and welcome one...especially due to his being a lawyer. Makes his actions all the more upsetting.

    The main thing I recalled from my prior viewing, and that which is still memorable, is the sheer volume of Tina Louise's hair. What's awesome is that it's now properly attached to her performance, which is an understated and fabulous addition to the film. As one of your other commenters mentioned, if she hadn't gotten saddled with "that damn island" as her lone calling card who knows what else she could have surprised us with. A pity, as she's indeed one of the strongest elements at work. Who knew the loss of a tennis court could be heartbreaking?

    Another fab post, on yet another 70's gem. Cheers.

    1. Hello Pete
      Thanks for mentioning the XANADU featurette! That was a kick to be a part of, and my participation I owe completely to a lovely lady and fellow Xanadude who told the producers about me.

      Again, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on a favorite film. I was so intrigued by you saying you didn’t care for the Katharine Ross character. She’s so much the emotional lynchpin of THE STEPFORD WIVES for me, knowing that she came across differently had me wondering how she could be perceived by other eyes. Many are the times I’ve liked a character in a film, and upon reflection, found I am, at least partially, responding to feelings of fondness for the actor, not the character. This is made clear for me mostly when it comes to actors I don’t like (say, Bruce Dern) when they play likable characters. I seldom warm up to them. Also, I guess it’s a matter of identification. I identified with Ross’s character, so I never gave much thought to an alternative perspective.

      Paula Prentiss is indeed such an asset to the film, and her presence helps out Ross as well. Most leading ladies from the 70s only played opposite leading men. Ross was always such a “guy’s girl” in so many movies (a sort of idealized girlfriend prototype, pretty and smart, and nonthreatening) that it was a rare treat to see her sharing scenes with women.

      The scene you cite of the husband sitting in the dark after the Men’s Club meeting is very good. Just the kind of thing that adds emotional complexity to what’s going on with the men…that they have a sense of the horror of what they’re participating in.
      And it reminds me that there was a similar scene shot in ROSEMARY’S BABY, in which Rosemary, the night after Guy spends the evening alone with the Castevets, comes across him sitting in the dark smoking a cigarette. The scene appears in the novel and the original screenplay and was perhaps even filmed, but was excised when Polanski wanted to make the film less concretely a witchcraft plot and more ambiguous as to whether Rosemary is simply imagining it all.

      Lastly, your tribute to Tina Louise is both hilarious (that hair) and very apt (she is awfully good).
      Sometimes an actress of limited range can be shown off to great advantage if the role is well-cast and (to my eye) more a character role than leading lady. I found this to be the case with Lois Chiles, who seems to shine in brief roles, but is a bit flat when given a lot to do. Tuina Louise is like that for me.
      Glad you wethered revisiting another film with a downer of a ending in order to share your thoughts of it with us. Thanks, Pete!

    2. Hi Ken-
      Pardon the delay. I do relish the opportunity to chat film with someone like yourself, even if it's via a comment thread. (And your comment threads are quite a rich addition, as you very well know.)

      Thinking more on my disappointment with Joanna as a character, it's mostly based on the sad fact that she's riddled with such self doubt and need for validation. The scene when she's showing her second batch of photos to the gallery owner is obviously meant to underline how many women lose their singular identity especially within societal marriage confines, but I can't help but wish she had a bit more confidence. (Maybe it also cuts a little too close to home personally?) I also really relish when women get to finally portray strong and confident roles since it's so sadly rare in Hollywood, and Bobbie comes off as being quite comfortable in who she is and her inner resolve. I guess I just wanted Joanna to be cut from the same cloth so to speak. It's nothing against Katherine Ross as an actress, who is quite good here.

      It's quite interesting that Rosemary's Baby had a similar scene with the husband pondering the consequences of the choice at hand. It's cool that Ira Levin got to go to this well twice and come up with two great ideas that both work.

      And I totally get the idea of character actors who are best in smaller doses. I do hope Tina is proud of what she offered here, even if it didn't open more doors.

    3. Thanks for offering that extra insight into your thoughts on the character of Joanna. It's fascinating, actually, because it brings to mind how much things have progressed in what we have grown accustomed to in films.
      Feminism embraces the reality that, as human beings, women have value whether they are passive or strong. But contemporary audiences often express a weariness with female characters written by men. Certainly, in the 70s there were lots of uncertain Joanna types around, but in film, perhaps she's a trope that young audiences have grown weary of.
      I can well imagine someone really liking this film, yet finding themselves frustrated with Joanna sticking around as long as she does, or lacking so much direction on what she wants to do with her own life.
      For me, it makes for a far more compelling drama to have Joanna be a woman in search of herself at the very same time her husband is out to obliterate the individuality she seeks, but I totally see your point.
      It's a very good thing if the kind of woman portrayed by Ross is one that feels perhaps very much of her time. At least I'd like to believe that to be the case.
      So thanks, Pete, for adding more interesting food for thought to this post!

    4. That's a good point, Ken. If she was well established with a singular identity before the change it wouldn't have quite the same dramatic effect as she's just making some headway. Thanks for the extra food for thought as well!

  32. Hello, thank you for this blog. Goodness, I am re watching right now for the nth time. ONE thing always puzzles me. It's about Joanna's husband, Walter. I cannot quite decide if knew about Stepford before they moved there or not. He certainly makes a case in the movie that he is going to move and he is clueless. But at other times, I am not convinced. Have any thoughts about this, or is there something that I have missed all these years that points to the answer? Stay safe! :)

  33. This movie was shot in the summer of 1974 in my hometown of Darien, CT as well as Westport, Fairfield and Norwalk. I actually watched them film Nanette Newman's fender-bender in the parking lot of Goodwives Shopping Center. (Not too exciting. I would have much preferred watching the ensuing outdoor cocktail party, where a short-circuited Nanette wanders the immaculate grounds in a pinafore, murmuring "I'll just die if I don't get this recipe" over and over.) Funny thing, despite its absurd plot, this movie "got" life in 70's era Fairfield County better than just about any movie ever has. (THE SWIMMER and THE ICE STORM come close.) And neither the book nor the movie caused much controversy or soul-searching at the time. When your that privileged nothing bursts your balloon outside of losing all your money. The women are all magnificent in this flick and the men (except for Patrick O'Neal) are ciphers, which seems precisely the point. A man with the personality of a robot should be married to a robot.

    1. Hi Kip
      What a cool experience/memory to have! In real life watching a movie being made is rarely very interesting except if you're a kid (as captured on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER where we learn a kid can sit enraptured all day just watching a construction crew dig a hole). And then there's the added bonus of not knowing if what you're watching may then become your distant connection to a classic, and your evidence of "I was there!" Given how much I loved the book and was looking forward to the film, I would have been thrilled. Hope you got to see Katharine Ross and Newman,

      No one ever mentions if the recreation of STEPFORD is an accurate recreation of a certain kind of American suburb, so it's nice to hear the film does a good job of capturing that.
      And an interesting point you make about the people in that privileged enclave never really seeing themselves in the book or movie. The last four years or so have reinforced what I think I've always known or suspected...satire is almost always lost on its targets.
      THE STEPFORD WIVES definitely has its problems (although it looks like Citizen Kane next to the remake) but I think both it and the book were a tad misunderstood. Perhaps a side-effect of being so timely. What you say at the end of your comment about the casting of the film (sunning women, super bland men) being precisely the point, seems something modern audiences grasp more readily than '70s audiences did.
      Thanks for sharing your childhood association with this film and your thoughtful observations, Kip.