Ira Levin's scary novel about forced conformity in a small Connecticut town made for this compelling 1975 thriller. Katharine Ross stars as a city woman who moves with her husband to Stepford and is startled by how perpetu... more »ally happy many of the local women seem to be. Her search for an answer reveals a plot to replace troublesome real wives with more accommodating fake ones (not unlike the alien takeover in Invasion of the Body Snatchers). The closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she faces--not to mention the likelihood that the men in town intend to replace her as well. Screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and director Bryan Forbes (King Rat) made this a taut, tense semiclassic with a healthy dose of satiric wit. --Tom Keogh« less
"Whether or not you've actually seen it, you'll probably have heard of "The Stepford Wives". Based on Ira Levin's novel, it was produced in the 1970s and has endured in the public consciousness ever since. Indeed the terms "Stepford" and "Stepford Wife" are now part of our vernacular. If you're in any doubt what these expressions mean, just imagine a woman who is the perfect male fantasy...a wife who cooks, cleans and keeps her husband's home to perfection whilst remaining an object of beauty, with well-preserved looks, sexy outfits and just the right-sized cleavage. A female who is there to service her man's every need - domestic, emotional, sexual - whilst never questioning her role as devoted housewife."
A modern classic
ad_crumenam | Texas, USA | 02/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After hearing references made again and again to The Stepford Wives, I decided to take a chance and buy it on DVD. It was only 12.99, so I figured I had very little to lose. The film is shot and directed in a very 70s style, which can be hard to follow or even annoying for younger, Gen-X viewers (like myself...I was born the year the movie came out) but if you just sit through it, it eventually gets EXTREMELY good. I did not know how the movie ended or what the plot even was, so I found the film particularly thrilling. I paid attention to the foreshadowing, but I figured that the Stepford wives were tamed into submission by coercion, beating, threats, or some other plausible method. It becomes obvious when Ross's character's best friend becomes a "Stepford Wife" that they are being replaced by robots. The sight of Ross coming face to face with her hollow-eyed double, a robot that is not quite finished, is terrifying. People my age don't have the cultural or historical perspective to understand what this film meant when it was released, but 25 years' worth of hindsight allows my younger generation to make the film our own. Feminists were extremely annoyed with this film, saying it was anti-woman, but I think the opposite is true. It is not exactly pro-woman, but it is definitely anti-man. The message I got was that men were too insecure to cope with their wives' growing independence during an era of cultural and sexual liberation, so they simply replaced them with robots.p.s. watch out for Mary Stuart Masterson...this was her first film."
"You're the best, you're the champ, you're the master...!"
Jay Dickson | Portland, OR | 06/15/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Well, not quite. The sad thing about Ira Levin's brilliant little satirical Gothic about the backlash against Second Wave Feminism is that it's never quite received a film adaptation that does it justice. The 2004 comic version is a travesty, but even this 1975 original is not quite as good as you'd like: the pacing is very slow, especially at the beginning; the crucial part of Walter is underwritten; and while Katharine Ross is much better (especially in the last ten minutes, when she's superb) than she was given credit for at the time it's not quite the knockout performance the part of Joanna deserves. On the other hand, there are many things that make this film worth seeing, particularly the great dialogue and the fine supporting performances by Tina Louise, Nanette Newman, and (especially) Paula Prentiss as the heroine's best friend Bobbie. Indeed, there are several parts of the film that are literally unforgettable: Newman's much-quoted "breakdown" at the pool party ("I'll just die if I don't get this recipe!"); Joanna's consciousness raising session, with the Wives breathlessly promoting the joys of cleaning products; and, most of all, the great last scene, with the Wives placidly sweeping through the supermarket in their ruffled prairie dresses and sunhats as they patiently push their shopping carts..."
70's Feminism Revisited
DonnaReviews | Northeast USA | 02/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Stepford Wives," based on the novel by Ira Levin, is worth seeing (and for some, owning) and it is good, but I feel somehow it might've been better. Since the phrase "Stepford Wives" has become a part of the lexicon, I assume most know what it's about. Amateur shutterbug Joanna Eberhardt (Katharine Ross) and lawyer hubby Walter (Peter Masterson) move with their two children from New York City to the suburbs where Joanna quickly suspects something is off about the picture perfect Stepford women. Levin's novel reflected the burgeoning women's movement and a certain New York-bred bias about suburbia.
On the plus side is the cast: pretty Katharine Ross; ebullient Paula Prentiss; and Hollywood glamorous Tina Louise (here as red a redhead as you can get). Still, it isn't completely satisfying, to use a cliche and yet fairly apt film review phrase. One of the things that detracts, for me, is the fact that the men are so uniformly unappealing. Obviously this was partially supposed to be the point, but it doesn't work well for me, because at the very least, Walter Eberhardt should come across as an appealing character who has somehow gotten swept up into the Men's Association mania and changed. At one point, Joanna even says to him, when he calls the Stepford husbands "a nice group of guys," "Are you serious?. .That's not me and it's not you." Isn't it? He comes off as a rather obnoxious, self-centered character from the get-go, wanting to "christen" every room in the house, making a comment to another Stepford husband whose wife brings over a "welcoming" casserole, "She cooks as good as she looks" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and basically being domineering in a passive-aggressive way. I couldn't see what attracted her to him, and they seemed to have zero chemistry. The fact that Joanna and Bobbie (Prentiss) are commenting that the babes of Stepford have chosen husbands who are "nothing" is rather an irony, since their own husbands are nothing to write home about. Joanna's husband, moreover, is whiny.
Beyond this, there are some anomalies. What's with the older woman who writes about new women coming to Stepford? Is she representative of the active women's movement that once existed? I know this is in keeping with Levin's novel. And what about the children? What fate will they have with robotic mothers?
The ending is pretty creepy, granted (in fact, individual scenes are great) but I also feel this film unintentionally --at least in retrospect -- sheds another light on feminism, exposing some fears that weren't entirely justifiable. Being a strong feminist myself, I don't want to suggest in any way that feminism wasn't necessary and vital or that the need for it has passed. Heaven knows that women are still back in the Stone Ages in many countries without many rights to speak of. But the hysteria here of suggesting that men would literally turn their wives into robots (even if it is a metaphor for the subservient role that already existed -- the "decorative but mindless" ideal the media has long put out)-- well, it didn't happen, did it? The women's movement did happen and now women are in the boardrooms and fighting to have the luxury of being stay-at-home moms. You can't really have it all, whether you are male or female without some compromise. But, in any case, nothing on this scale in essence happened in our country or society. (Actually let me amend this! Something on this level DID happen, I see, judging from the scary feminist backlash that is suddenly popping up and fundamentalist communities in our country that DO turn women into baby-producing "robots" of sorts, completely under the dominion of men - and even beaten as part of their "conditioning." See Christian domestic discipline if you want your blood chilled. So I stand corrected here. It is frightening and depressing.) And if men were looking for ideals, would they choose those peasant dresses and floppy hats? I guess that was 70's chic.
Oh -- and the Tina Louise character -- irony of all ironies -- has a maid and makes the disparaging comment about her that being from whatever country she is from, makes her good at "serving." Joanna and Bobbie later are shocked and disturbed that Tina Louise has fired her housekeeper so she can do her work herself. I was uneasy that she had the housekeeper to start with! She was as oppressive and condescending in speaking about the woman as the husbands were about their wives.
But in spite of what I consider to be a sense of lacking in this film, it's still a good one. Seeing the women behave as robots is the thriller part and it is very effective. The companionship of Joanna and Bobbie is appealing, and the other "wives" are quite good, especially when they sound as if they are doing advertisements for cleansing products. It has a good musical score, highlighting all that is twisted and unsettling. And some of the dialogue is a hoot. All in all, it's worthwhile and fun to watch -- just not as great as what might have been. "
Martha Stewart Takes Over the World
mr_nasty | 04/20/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Every time I see "Martha Stewart's Living" on television, for some reason this film comes to mind. If you're a fan of horror / sci-fi films that are interspersed with bits of wry comedy, then this is a film for you. Like Ira Levin's other book-adapted-to-film, "Rosemary's Baby", this is an example of a film where it's obvious to the viewer what is happening 10-15 minutes into the movie (that is, if you don't know the film by its reputation), but, unfortunately, our heroine, in this case Katharine Ross, doesn't realize what's going on until it's literally spelled out for her. I personally believe that the film also encourages individualism,() But if you're a "campy-horror" fan, this will be a treat for you regardless."