The Stepford Wives
Ira Levin (novel) William Goldman (screenplay)
Katharine Ross as Joanna Eberhart
Paula Prentiss as Bobbie Markowe
Peter Masterson as Walter Eberhart
Nanette Newman as Carol Van Sant
Tina Louise as Charmaine Wimperis
The Stepford Wives is the screen adaptation of a popular novel by Ira Levin. Does a story about selfish men who will stop at nothing to have subservient wives make great horror? Absolutely.
The 1970s in the United States was a period of significant social change. Beginning with the “bra burning” 1960s, a movement toward more equitable treatment of woman began to gain considerable momentum in the 1970s. This continues enforce today, primarily led by Oprah Winfrey. Actually, the push for equitable treatment of women both socially and in the workplace is an ongoing work in progress, but I can’t miss an opportunity to take a stab at Oprah.
Does life imitate art, or the other way around? Elements of art imitating life are certainly apparent in The Stepford Wives.
The story opens with a shot of heroine Joanna Eberhart, gazing forlornly out her apartment window at the busy street below. Mr. and Mrs. Eberhart (Ross and Masterson) live in New York City, and The Stepford Wives begins with them moving their belongings to a new house in the quiet suburb of Stepford. Stepford is an odd place – quiet, clean and filled with women with no ambition beyond caring for their husbands, cleaning the house and treating their men to some “afternoon delight” any time they desire it. Yes friends, it’s truly ghastly.
She even tries to organize an informal rally of sorts, hoping to gather support for her outrage that Stepford has a “Men only club”, but nobody will voice any frustration with their life situation at all. In fact, the other wives begin comparing notes on which cleaning products save the most time (which, of course, leaves more hours in the day for baking!) instead of complaining about their husbands. Something strange is afoot.
Horror and social commentary together – I love it! Not only is The Stepford Wives an original concept with good suspense and scares, but it also provides commentary and parody about a period of significant social change in the United States. There isn’t really any gore to speak of, but the quality of The Stepford Wives is so high that even a Horror Freak like myself can let the gorelessness slide.