I won’t be here when you get back, don’t you see? It’s going to happen before then. Don’t ask me to explain it, I just know. There’ll be somebody with my name, and she’ll cook and clean like crazy, but she won’t take pictures, and she won’t be me! She’ll – she’ll, she’ll be like one of those the robots in Disneyland.
So first, happy 40th anniversary! February 12, 1975 brought this great film to us.
So one day I was spending the night at my friend’s house, and her grandmother had a massive movie collection, although nothing made past the ’90s. We were trying to figure out what to watch, when she chose The Stepford Wives (2005). I thought it was funny, and even bought it for myself when it was on sale for $5 at Wal-Mart.
Then I was at a yard sale, where a friend who has a monster horror/mystery film collection was selling all the VHS he had just bought DVDs of. I saw The Stepford Wives (2004) and was shocked. There was another version of the film?
I bought it; along with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Wolf Man (1941), Rebecca (1940), The Phantom of the Opera (1943), North by Northwest (1959), House on Haunted Hill (1950), Family Plot (1976), Lifeboat (1944), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Notorious (1946), and The Night of the Hunter (1955). I really cleaned him out.
Then one day, I decided to watch The Stepford Wives (1975). And I LOVED it! I thought it was sooooo much better than the remake, in fact I never even watch the 2005 version anymore. I really should just donate it to the library or thrift store.
So this film was based on a novel, in fact written by the same man who wrote Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin. Funny that I should review both films the same year. I didn’t even realize they were by the same person until right now.
Anyways, on with the review.
The film starts out with Janna Eberheart (Katherine Ross) saying good-bye to her apartment they have been living in in the city.
She doesn’t want to leave, but moving to the suburbs will be better for her two young kids.
Now Katherine Ross is extremely beautiful, and her husband is only so-so. How did he score such a ringer? Not to be mean, but he looks old and is balding, and looks like the type to get a beer gut.
They are unpacking their stuff when a beautifully coiffed woman comes over with a casserole, Carol Van Sant. She walks and talks a bit weird, almost unearthly in grace.
Later Walter is walking the dog and tells his neighbor, she cooks as good as looks.
So it turns out that Joanna definitely did not want to move. It was all her husband’s idea. He thinks it is safe, secure, and there is more room for the kids and Joanna to have dark room for her photography. Joanna is still not pleased.
The next day Joanna’s kids take the bus to school. All the other kids are too perfect and not rowdy at all. Weird.
Now that the kids are gone, what is the city girl gonna do? She has tea, clearly bored.
She does get interviewed by neighborhood lady, who writes the women’s magazine. We found out that Walter Eberheart, her husband, is a lawyer; while is an inspiring photgrapher. The thing she misses most about New York? The noise.
The next day she goes to return the casserole dish to neighbor, when she sees a guy come up from behind and start feeling her up and kissing her. It is mid morning! Is that her husband? And what is he doing here instead of at work? Weird.
That night Walter tells Joanna how he has met the other Stepford commuters. They invite him to Men’s Association. It has only one rule, men only. Joanna is not pleased.
We see that their relationships actually are having some problems that have been happening for a while.
Joanna Eberheart: You pretend we decide on things, but you have already decided on everything. You ask me if I want to move out of city, and I find you have already been looking. You ask me if I like this house place and I find that you have already made a down payment. You ask me about the men’s association and you have already joined. Why even bother to ask me at all.
When they go out grocery shopping, it seeems as if all the other women are more in control of their kids, have planned out their list better, being perfect; while JOanna harried and forgetful.
Carol coming out of market, and gets into a car crash. She is taken by the ambulance, and keeps repeating herself over and over as if stuck on something.
Joanna Eberhart: [ambulance drives off] We may be new here, but isn’t Stepford Hospital that way?
Walter Eberhart: Oh, no, no, no, you’re wrong… No, no, you’re *not* wrong, the ambulance went *that* way, didn’t it?
That night Joanna wakes up in bed alone, and hears something downstairs. It is Walter in front of the fire, as he just got back from mens association. He is upset and drinking. What’s going on? Why is he so sad and upset? What did the men do?
The next day Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss) comes to see her after reading about her in the lady’s paper. You notice she is the only other woman wearing pants as well.
Bobbie is like Joanna. She moved her from New York, not her decision but her husbands. She isn’t perfectly coiffed and doesn’t have a spic and span house. She is normal and the two quickly become friends.
That night Joanna is working in her dark room developing pictures. Walter calls and tells her the meeting will be at their house, in 20 mins. That’s really short notice to be given, what if the house was a mess? But i suppose those guys think a house should always be perfect.
After Walter gets off the phone, Dale, leader of the men;s association tells him he recognizes that Walter is not altogether sure, telling him not to worry the change is for the better.
So while Joanna is pouring teas and coffees, Dale is watching her, he likes seeing women in domestic settings.
Joanna Eberhart: Why do they call you Diz?
Dale Coba: Because I used to work at Disneyland.
Joanna Eberhart: No, really.
Dale Coba: That’s really. Don’t you believe me?
Joanna Eberhart: No.
Dale Coba: Why not?
Joanna Eberhart: You don’t look like someone who enjoys making other people happy.
Joanna sit in on the meeting, One guy draws Joanna, as the rest of the men talk about charity events they could do. The men are absolutely boring and horrible at planning and deciding on something. She goes to check on the kids to get out of there.
They all stop talking as soon as she leaves. Hmm…interesting.
When she comes back, the meeting breaks up and the guy gives her the drawing of her.
Ike Mazzard: [Handing drawing to Joanna] In case you’re wondering what I’ve been doing.
Joanna Eberhart: You’re not the Ike Mazzard are you?
Ike Mazzard: I’m afraid so.
Joanna Eberhart: Walter tell him, I’m just awful on names. You’ll have to forgive me. I used to gawk at all those girls in those magazines. You blighted my adolescence, you know that?
Walter Eberhart: [Grinning] I thought I benighted your adolescence.
Joanna doesn’t like the men, as she thinks they are boring. The women, besides Bobbie, are not friendly and also don’t seem to think that much beyond how they look or how to cook. She thinks her husband is acting weird by hanging with these people.
Dale give a barbecue, and Joanna and Bobbie dress casual; Joanna in a nice sundress and Bobbie in pants. However, all the other women are dressed SUPER fancy in long dresses. Joanna and Bobbie feel really out of place, but can’t quite put their finger on why exactly.
Joanna Eberheart: It’s all so dazzling, so why don’t I like it. I like it but I don’t like it. Does that make sense?
Carol starts talking to them, but keeps repeating herself. Something is not right with her. Is she drunk? Or is it something else?
The next day Carol comes and apologizes to Joanna and Bobbie. She explains that she used to be an alcoholic, one of the reasons why they moved out of the city, and the reason why I was acting weird last night. I had started drinking again. Her husband made her come apologize to the newcomers, didn’t want to frighten them off.
So strange to Bobbie and Joanna. Both ladies did women’s liberation in New York and decide they need to start something here in Stepford. They start inviting women, but they don’t really care and don’t want to. One too busy ironing, one too busy baking, another shopping, etc.
The last person they see is Charmaine. She is relatively new, only been here a little bit longer than Bobbie. She heard that the girls wanted to start meeting, and wants to join as she has had a hard time connecting. She used to play tennis with one girl, but now she is far too busy cooking and cleaning.
One of the men wants to do a speech experiment with her. Needs to know every place you have ever lived, and you have to read off a vocab list he made up. Joanna won’t do it, unless the wives come to her meeting.
Joanna Eberhart: I’m very busy…just like your wife. Bobby and I tried to involve her in one of our projects, but she had too much ironing. Maybe you could convince her. Kit Sundersen, too. If they could find the time for me… I could find it for you.
Claude Axhelm: Isn’t this uh… kind of blackmail, Joanna?
Joanna Eberhart: It’s what made this country great, Claude.
They have the Women’s Liberation meeting, but the other wives don’t seem really into it. Joanna starts by saying she thinks walter cares more about law than her. Charmaine says that she doesn’t think her husband ever loved her, but only married her because she looked right. After that emotional piece, one of the wives says she didn’t bake any thing yesteday because she didn’t finish cleaning. Then all the “other wives” start talking about products they use, sounding like a commercial.
Joanna goes out for a walk with her dog, when she is gone men come over and looking at room and all her stuff. They leave after their observations.
The next day, Bobbie and Joanna run into an older woman who tells them about a new family coming to Stepford, a black family. She says it doesn’t surprise her as Stepford is the most liberal place. Bobbie and Joanna are surprised and find out they used to have a ton of women’s groups, including a huge Women’s Liberation. What happened?
They go see Carol, who they discovered was the leader of the Women’s Liberation in Stepford. She tells them it died out because the women got bored.
Joanna Eberheart: Is it enough?
Carol Van Sant: It is enough for me, maybe not for you.
Joanna goes to New York to show some photographs to a gallery, but the owner turns her down. When she returns, she discovers that her dog is gone. She and Bobbie start driving around looking for him when they see Charmaine’s Tennis courts being destroyed!
They go see her and she is dressed like other wives and acting like them. She only cares about making her husband happy. Fired the maid and wants to do all the cooking and cleaning herself. She’s letting her husband get the heated swimming pool that he always wanted.
Both are freaking out about this. Bobbie is convinced that they must be poisoning the water or something. She wants to take a sample and give it to a trustworthy chemist, but doesn’t now any. Joanna does, and when they give it to him; there is nothing in the water.
Bobbie is scared.
She wants to leave, and is planning on asking Dave tonight to move. She doesn’t want to become one of those women.
Joanna wants to leave, but Walter doesn’t. After a bit of pleading, he gives in. But is it too late to move?
They start looking in different areas together. Dave, Bobbie’s husband is mad about house hunting. He was so upset that he almost canceled their annual trip to plaza. Bobbie has Joanna take care of her kids.
The kids are crazy and loud, and Walter hates it. Joanna takes tons of photos while kids are playing. Joanna is working in the dark room making Walter have to care for the kids. He wants Joanna to take over as he is tired and can’t think of anything else to do. Joanna tells him too bad, she deals with it every day.
Joanna goes to New York to get a gallery owner to look at them, thinks they are amazing.
Joanna goes to tell Bobbie about gallery accepting her work, but Bobbie doesn’t even care. She just wants to discuss clothes, looks, cleaning, all about taking care of Dave.
They’ve gotten to her, and she is no longer the same.
Joanna tries to tell Walter what is going on, but he doesn’t understand and won’t listen. He just keeps telling her that she is crazy!
Joanna is going to leave, and planning on it today. Walter stops her, telling her they will move, but only if she sees someone. He tries to get her to see one in town, but she refuses. She wants to find her own person and someone far from Stepford.
Getting out of here
Joanna visits a doctor far way, but is afraid to tell doctor the real reason why she wants to leave Stepford. Ater four months Charmain changed. After four months Bobbie chnged. And four months is how long Joanna has been in Stepford. She’s afraid that whatever changed them will change her as well.
Joanna Eberhart: I won’t be here when you get back, don’t you see? It’s going to happen before then. Don’t ask me to explain it, I just know. There’ll be somebody with my name, and she’ll cook and clean like crazy, but she won’t take pictures, and she won’t be me! She’ll – she’ll, she’ll be like one of those the robots in Disneyland.
Dr. Fancher: Alright, now listen. I’ll give you a prescription which you have filled, then you gather up your children and you GET THE HELL AWAY! Don’t tell your husband, don’t tell anyone, just go, wherever you feel safe. Now, do you have family?
Joanna Eberhart: They’re dead.
Dr. Fancher: Well, just drive, and stop some place. Then in a few days – I’ll be back on the 10th – you ring me, I’ll come to you, and we’ll sort this thing out. Now how does that sound?
Joanna comes home and plans to do just that. She goes upstairs looking for kids, but they are not here.
Joanna wants to know where they are, but Walter won’t tell her. He tries to get her to go upstairs and lie down, grabbing her.
They fight and Joanna breaks away, going upstairs and locking herself in. Oh no, just like in Rosemary’s Baby! But it didn’t save her!
The phone starts blinking, and Joanna can see that he is talking to someone. While he is on it, she sneaks out of the house and heads off to Bobbies to look for her kids. But when she gets there, they aren’t there.
After she short circuts Bobbie, she heads back home. When she gets there, she smacks him in the head with a fireplace poker, demanding to know where her children are.
He mutters “association” and Joanna decides to head out there. When she gets there she hears her children’s voices calling, follows the sound and it turns out to just be a recording. It was all a ploy to get Joanna there.
Joanna Eberheart: Why change the women?
Dale Coba: Because we can we make them perfect.
But Joanna won’t just go down, she still has a lot of fight in her and takes off running. She gets lost in the hallways and opens a door to her bedroom.
Camera slowly pans…………..tension building…………dun dun dun dun dun….and we see:
Her!!!! Brushing her hair with her black demon eyes. Robot Joanna. Body even more perfect. Probably one of the creepiest moments in any horror film, of all time there.
Next day all in supermarket, talking to each other.
And we end seeing that new family in town, fighting the same way everyone else did previously. They are next on list.
So after watching this a second time, there are a few things I have noticed and wanted to bring light to now that the “real” review is over.
1)The Husband was the one who wanted to move. So I wonder, did Walter know ahead of time that the town was like that? Is that why he choose Stepford out of any other suburb?
2) The clothes are great with the differences. Joanna and Bobbie are the only ones “in” with current fashion. They wear jeans, crop tops, no bras, and show lots of skin with their mini skirts and shorts. Originally the directors wanted the robot women to be “playboy bunnies”, but I think it was better having them in nice, lacy dresses. It definitely shows an extreme difference between the “fixed” women and those “still in need of alterations”. Plus the women in those dresses, defintely is a throwback to not the ’50s, like most assume: but the turn of the century. I mean look at those clothes, throwback to a time when women really had no rights. Or at least that is my views on the whole thing.
To start Horrorfest IV from the beginning, go to You Cannot Conquer It. It Has Conquered You!: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
For the previous post, go to Because I Am Mad, I Hate You. Because I Am Mad, I Have Betrayed You: Gaslight (1944)
For more on evil robots, go to We’re Mad Scientists. We’re Monsters: Avengers, Age of Ultron (2015)
For more by Ira Levin, go to What Have You Done to Him?: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
For more husbands that are more than what they seem, go to She Cries in the Night: The Screaming Skull (1958)