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At the behest of her husband, Walter, Joanna Eberhart, a freethinking photographer, reluctantly moves from crime-rotten New York City to the safe haven of Stepford, Connecticut, with her two daughters. Joanna, however, is having difficulty adjusting to her new environs as the women of Stepford are vacuous and remain totally subservient to their husbands.

Soon, she realizes that Stepford is a male chauvinistic utopia where the patriarch steals the souls of women.  Evidently, moving to suburbia is indeed the final nail in every woman’s coffin.

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Bloody Rundown

Based on the 1972 novel by Ira Levin, who also wrote Rosemary’s Baby (1967), The Stepford Wives was written for the screen by William Goldman and directed by Bryan Forbes. Goldman and Forbes were said to have argued about the script. Their opinions clashed over the characterization of the Stepford wives as well as the film’s conclusion.

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The film’s plot surrounds men changing their wives into the ideal woman, or rather, robots. Goldman’s idea that these wives would morph into robotic sexpots would surely work as a more logical premise; but, Forbes nixed the idea. His wife Nanette Newman was cast as Carol Van Sant, a character who had already undergone the Stepford change.

A wardrobe of promiscuous miniskirts for the new and improved wives was swapped for conservative long dresses. Evidently, the sexism of the fictitious Men’s Club mirrored the sexism on the set as Nanette Newman was wrongly deemed too middle-aged to depict a sexpot.  (The irony of said statement is not lost on MMM.)  Goldman’s original ending, which was said to be far more horrifying, was also nixed by Forbes who shot the tamer version.

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Although moderately successful at the time of its release, The Stepford Wives has since garnered a cult following. Even the title is now a part of the American lexicon, describing all those compelled or forced to conform under clutches of the patriarchy. 

The Stepford Wives is a social commentary on the horrors of misogyny and mind control, and, in spite of the tension between the creators, the film is sufficiently scary and thought provoking. There’s many open-ended questions to the film.  One in particular startles MMM the most:  Does Walter desire his two daughters to also conform.  Wouldn’t that would make for a great sequel!

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*In artistic and narrative violation of this classic horror, the film was remade into a ridiculous comedy in 2004. I implore you not to confuse the two.

Die-Anne’s Diatribe

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I absolutely love this movie, which sadly still resonates almost 40 years later. (And, if you don’t believe me, turn on TLC.) The performances are also astounding. Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Nanette Newman, and Tina Louise nailed the Stepford transformation.

So thoroughly creepy and downright depressing, this twisted tale of servitude is a cinematic deterrent for women to never ever ever ever get married.

Plot Mutilator

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Between their station wagon jaunts to the supermarket, the wives of Stepford blissfully immerse themselves in maintaining a spick-and-span home and a manicured appearance all the while dutifully doting on their husbands. Together with fellow rebellious misfit Bobbie, also a newbie, Joanna inquires why the women are so bizarrely preoccupied with domestic labor.

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Disillusioned by the Stepford Men’s Association, the pinnacle of sexism, Joanna and Bobbie retaliate. They recruit “trophy wife” Charmain, who is equally unnerved by the town’s peculiarities, to launch a Women’s Lib “consciousness raising” group.

The group is soon disbanded when Charmain morphs into a submissive cookie-cutter Stepford wife. Petrified that they too will be transformed into robotic housewives, Joanna and Bobbie investigate. But, it may be a little too late as their individualistic freedom remains in urgent jeopardy.

Deadly Details

                                      

Director ∞ Bryan Forbes
Producers ∞ Edgar J. Scherick
Screenwriters ∞ William Goldman
Based on The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Music ∞ Michael Small
Cinematographers ∞ Enrique Bravo and Owen Roizman
Editor ∞ Timothy Gee
Distributors ∞ Columbia Pictures and Palomar Pictures International
Release Date ∞ February 1975
Running time ∞ 115 minutes
Country ∞ United States
Language ∞ English
 
Cast ∞
Katharine Ross as Joanna Eberhart 
Paula Prentiss as Bobbie Markowe                                   Stepford wives 9
Peter Masterson as Walter Eberhart 
Nanette Newman as Carol Van Sant 
Tina Louise (“The Movie Star”) as 
     Charmaine Wimpiris 
Carol Eve Rossen as Dr. Fancher
William Prince as Ike Mazzard 
Carole Mallory as Kit Sunderson 
Toni Reid as Marie Axhelm 
Judith Baldwin as Patricia Cornell 
Barbara Rucker as Mary Ann Stravros 
George Coe as Claude Axhelm 
Franklin Cover as Ed Wimpiris 
Robert Fields as Raymond Chandler 
Michael Higgins as Mr. Cornell 
Josef Sommer as Ted Van Sant
Paula Trueman as Welcome Wagon Lady 
Martha Greenhouse as Mrs. Kirgassa 
Neil Brooks Cunningham as Dave Markowe (as Simon Deckard) 
Remak Ramsay as Mr. Atkinson 
Mary Stuart Masterson as Kim Eberhart 
Ronny Sullivan as Amy Eberhart 
John Aprea as Young Cop 
Kenneth McMillan as Market Manager 
Tom Spratley as Charlie the Doorman 
Dee Wallace as Nettie the Maid 
Patrick O’Neal as Dale Coba