A film by Bryan Forbes
This film is the first “Stepford Wives” movie and is adapted from Ira Levin’s novel of the same name. The tone of this film is much different than the newer version. The new “Stepford Wives” is more of a comedy, but this version fits into the horror/thriller/suspense genre. It deals with an idea that should scare the feminist movement: that men would rather trade their wife in for a human looking robot than have a strong woman as a mate. When this movie was released in 1975, “The Stepford Wives” had a social identity and a social relevance to the feminist movement. In that vein, the movie might have been more powerful twenty years ago, but I can only react to how it played today.
Walter (Peter Masterson) and Joanna (Katherine Ross) are moving from the big city to the smaller town of Stepford. Joanna is unnerved by the women of Stepford. They all seem to be very happy and content in their lives…lives that are solely focused on pleasing their husbands. Joanna thinks that something is wrong, and seems to get confirmation when new residents who start out normal begin changing dramatically to the “Stepford” type wife. The tone of this film leans towards suspense as tension is building throughout the film as hints are given and Joanna’s fear mounts as to what is happening and what may very well happen to her.
The movie has a great idea behind it. The whole concept of Stepford is wonderful for a movie (and a book, too) and it should work much better than it does. The problem is that the acting was not very good, but that may be because the dialogue the actors were given wasn’t much better. A big example of this is the character of Bobbie (Paula Prentiss). She comes off as a very hokey character, somewhat hickish, though the character has pretenses of being a true feminist. No character is truly given a chance to develop or show a personality, not even the characters which are supposed to actually have a personality. “The Stepford Wives” was just a disappointing movie, though I can imagine it had more of an impact in 1975, but surely not for the quality of the picture. The impact must have been for what the movie was about. The only thing I found truly interesting about “The Stepford Wives” is that this is the film debut of a young Mary Stuart Masterson (the son of Peter Masterson).