Monday, 9 October 2017

The Stepford Wives

"The Stepford Wives" (1975, Bryan Forbes, Palomar Pictures, Columbia Pictures) is a science fiction horror film based on a novel by Ira Levin.

Aspiring photographer, Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross), and her husband, Walter (Peter Masterson), have just moved from the bustling streets of New York City to the quiet, homely suburb of Stepford.

Joanna finds life in Stepford dull and isolating. All the other women are perfect housewives who's interests seem limited to looking perfect and household chores, all the men are members of a secretive local men's club and spend all of their time split between the club and work. Walter quickly settles into life in Stepford, joining the club.

She finds two other women who are also new to the area; tennis playing Charmaine (Tina Louise) and messy Bobbie (Paula Prentiss). Like her, they have other interests and personalities than housework and pleasing their husbands. However, to Bobbie and Joanna's dismay, Charmaine mysteriously changes overnight and becomes a housework obsessed wife, even going as far as to have her beloved tennis court removed. Worried that they may be simply paranoid, the two remaining women begin to uncover some clues.

During their investigations into the strange behaviour of the other women in the area, they uncover some very disturbing things and realise that they too might be in danger of becoming... a Stepford Wife.

A fun, but chilling concept. The film is very of its time, and suffers from being a little too slow-burning in the build up. The wives are all perfectly, surreally creepy; especially Carol van Sant (Nanette Newman) who's unnatural reactions are the first trigger warning for Joanna.

The settings are all very cheerful and colourful; a perfect contrast the what is going on under the surface and a sure inspiration for other following horrors and homages set in the suburbs.

Although slow starting and a little leisurely, the film enjoys an exciting climax on a stormy night and boasts some nicely chilling scenes with the Wife characters. It delivers a strange and unsupporting message on the suburban "dream" and makes a commentary on the value of marriage.

[Image: Columbia Pictures]