Film Score Monthly
Search Terms: 
Search Within:   search tips 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 5:32 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

"I like to see women do housework..."

Pauline Kael called this Bryan Forbes-classic "the first women lib gothic", which encapsulates this film neatly - somewhere between unambigious women's lib sarcasm and classic Hitchcock chill.

For those who don't know, this film tells the story of Joanna and her husband (and two kids) who move from New York to the small village of Stepford. She eventually discovers that the male citizens of this sleepy suburbia (organized in a "Men's Club") kill off their wives and replace them with plastic housewife-robots!

Sounds goofy (and several parts are indeed hammered by unintentional and dated comedy), but the ending is genuinely scary, as Joanna one stormy night approaches the "Men Club" House (a large gothic mansion) to free her children. There should be no doubt as to how evil these men are, of course.

Technically, I noticed one neat effect: Joanna and her yet-to-be replaced best friend are walking through a field of some sort while four, prison-like bars cross the screen vertically (but blurred). As the bars come into focus, they are revealed to be the chains of a...what do you call it..."swing" apparatus? Heavy symbolism, of course.

Entertaining, all over.


Michael Small's score is basically reserved for those places where idyllic harmony and optimism is to be presented (such as the opening "moving" scene or the gardening scene) - laidback, poppish instrumentals in a typical 70's idiom.

However, he also lashes out some pretty harsh atonalities (electronic, were they?) in that scary end sequence, which should prove his versatiliy.

Was there ever an album?

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 7:54 AM   
 By:   Stephen Lister   (Member)

I like The Stepford Wives, and I think it's a pretty solid adaptation by William Goldman. (Trivia: the black eyeballs on Katherine Ross at the end were supposed to be empty eye sockets, but they couldn't stop the light reflecting off the contact lenses!)

Sadly - annoyingly, even - Michael Small's score, like the vast majority of his work, hasn't seen the light of day on album. He remains, IMHO, one of the great overlooked film composers.

"Lu-kas! Loooo-kas!"

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 8:17 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

I love this movie!
If I recall correctly, the line that Diz speaks is "I like to watch women doing small, domestic tasks." ...or something like that. I know the "domestic" part is in there, but it's been too long since I saw this one.
Another neat touch was in having Dick Smith construct Playboy Magazine-style large breasts for Katherine Ross's double. I doubt that it's visible on the TV cut of the film, but she's wearing a semi-transparent negligee, and her earlier costumes were designed specifically to display her actual build. Smith said that it was one of his all-time favorite make-up jobs, and that "Miss Ross was pleased too."
A photo of her "wearing" this makeup was published in Cinefantastique magazine. I was going to include it here, but I'm reluctant to do so. I wouldn't want to offend anybody...

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 8:45 AM   
 By:   H. Rocco   (Member)

Good movie, haven't seen it in ages, amazingly faithful to the novel (as adaptations of Ira Levin's work usually have been). I've read that the screenplay credited to William Goldman was substantially rewritten by director Bryan Forbes, but have no idea what alterations might have been made. Goldman possibly strayed too far from the novel for the director's taste, who knows.

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 10:00 AM   
 By:   Stephen Lister   (Member)

In his "Adventures In The Screen Trade", Goldman explains why the fundamental look of the Stepford women changed from drop-dead gorgeous Playboy sex objects in tight shorts, to frilly long-dressed gals with wide-brimmed hats ... it's because Bryan Forbes wanted to cast his wife, Nanette Newman (gorgeous, but in a refined, very English way). Ergo: out went the sex bomb appearance of the Stepford women as described in the book, and in came this kind of eerie, off-key, frilly-feminine look. Goldman thought the reality of the story was destroyed somewhat - these guys are INSANE, he says, and if you're crazy enough to see women as mere sex objects - crazy enough to murder your real wives and replace them with robots - well, then, those robots better look like Raquel Welch or Bo Derek ... not Nanette Newman. Interesting perspective. But he's candid enough to say he's not sure he's right. And the spooky look of the Stepford women DOES kinda work - their dreamy appearance creates a feeling of unease that straightforward Playboy bunnies wouldn't.

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 10:56 AM   
 By:   H. Rocco   (Member)

Damn, I should have remembered all that. Thanks.

 Posted:   Mar 8, 2001 - 11:00 PM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

"if you're crazy enough to see women as mere sex objects"

Granted, the Stepford men were crazy, but I don't believe that "sex object" fully describes what they wanted. They wanted slaves. Beautiful, compliant slaves. They didn't just want sex, they wanted dinner on the table and a spotless home as well. That's why I think that Forbes' image fits better than Levin's.

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 12:50 AM   
 By:   Stephen Lister   (Member)

I haven't read the book, and when I found out (via Goldman's comments) how the women were originally depicted in it, I was glad that Forbes, for whatever reason, chose to visualise them in a totally different way. I like Goldmans' writing, but I don't always agree with the way he reasons things through. I admire his self-awareness and honesty, though.

Does anyone else mourn Bryan Forbes' directing career? After International Velvet he pretty much dropped off the map. In the now-defunct British magazine Films Illustrated he once wrote with profound weariness (and some bitterness) about how he detests the struggle to appease the money men's sensibilities in order to raise financing for his projects. I thought he was being a little precious at the time, but I now realise he was spot-on - and that nothing has changed in the two decades since he wrote that (I'm in the same situation with the small company I write for - getting a film financed in the UK, especially one that doesn't slavishly bow down to the currently accepted trends, is extremely tough. I'm not complaining - just acknowledging how right Forbes was, and still is.) I remember seeing something he directed for the BBC shortly after Velvet, but I can't recall what it was - just that it had his usual hallmarks of intelligence, taste and subtlety. Now he seems to have abandoned movies altogether and makes a living writing novels. Very wise. If things keep going the way they're going, I may join you, Bri!

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 12:57 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

The movie posited an interesting premise during the early, more
radical times of the feminist movement. I thought the music was quite
effective in its environmental ambiance.

I also was fascinated by what “supposedly” men wanted in the perfect wife.
Lots of long dresses plastered with RUFFLES? Bleck!!
(Great uninhibited sex, of course, while dressing in ultra-feminine, Victorian style??)
Stephen’s and Chris’s insights finally allow these images to make some sense.

Viva la The Revenge of the Stepford Wives! (A poor sequel, I’ll admit.)

Interesting question: if women made a movie called The Stepford Husbands,
what traits would we infuse in those perfect husbands? You guys could
have fun with that question. I.E.. Would hate couches and football?

My hubby is super, but I’d add Paul Newman eyes, of course, and
a propensity for cooking and buying LOTS of jewelry.">

Oh, yes, would probably hire Rachel Portman to compose this sequel. Interesting to hear how she'd score the idealized husbands.

[This message has been edited by joan hue (edited 09 March 2001).]

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 1:29 AM   
 By:   H. Rocco   (Member)

I'd agree that the Stepford men wanted slaves, but it seems to me also that they wanted access to something else, the power and wealth that accrued to the men's club that created the wives. I don't remember how explicitly or specifically this is outlined in the novel or the film, neither of which I have encountered in more than ten years. I remember Katharine Ross's husband does feel guilt over having sold her out, but he wanted something he felt was larger and more important (however vain and cruel), than just keeping his regular wife.

I kind of liked REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES at the time. Never saw the third one, STEPFORD CHILDREN. Not sure if it's true there'll be that rumored fourth one, STEPFORD PUPPIES."> (Kind of a dumb idea really, you can already pretty much get dogs to do what you want.)

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 1:40 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

The Stepford Husbands?

You know, I'm shocked that it hasn't been done. Hmmmmmm. Maybe I'll get to work on a script, and shop it around.
Let's see...Mel Gibson in the lead, as a plumber married to Geena Davis, a powerful stock broker whose career has skyrocketed past hubby's simple trade. She suggests that they move to Stepford. Mel is greeted by his new next-door neighbor, played by George Clooney. George is a cabinet maker who is married to Susan Sarandon, a famous golf pro (get the Thelma And Louise thang I got goin' on here?). Mel and George begin to notice that all the other Stepford Husbands look (and dress) like Chippendale's men! PLUS they're all gourmet cooks, and they all make DAILY trips to the Stepford Jewelry Shoppe!
Mel and George really become suspicious when they meet the Stepford pharmacist, Sandra Bernhard, and her Chippendale hubby. There's gotta be a part in here somewhere for Roseanne Barr.


 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 8:32 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Write that script, Chris. Sounds good so far. I love Mel Gibson...Yummy.">

Play on those continuous communication troubles. For instance, when those women create the perfect hubbies, and the husbands are watching their allotted 30 minutes a day of TV, have the wives talk and the husbands immediately hit the "MUTE" button and say, "Honey, do you want to talk cuz I want to listen, really really listen." (Snicker, snicker, I'm making myself sick.)

 Posted:   Mar 9, 2001 - 8:46 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

"...and the husbands are watching their allotted 30 minutes a day of TV..."

30 minutes of TV a day?

Are there husbands out there who really have THAT kind of freedom?">

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2001 - 1:20 AM   
 By:   Graham Watt   (Member)

I remember hearing a radio interview with Bryan Forbes about his relationships with composers. He mentioned that The Stepford Wives was probably the least satisfying experience he had had musically, not because Michael Small's score was in any way bad, but because he never had the opportunity to talk things through with him.

I thought that the score worked a treat. Supermarket muzak for the "perfect" wives! (I think the last scene was actually set in a supermarket.)

And indeed, Michael Small is one of our unsung heroes, isn't he?

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2001 - 2:43 AM   
 By:   vulcantouch   (Member)

maybe this should go in the fave quotes thred, but: "ah'll jest Dah if ah don't get this recipe"">
and by "this recipe" i mean the schematics for buildin my own kath ross babedroid">

 Posted:   Mar 10, 2001 - 8:02 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

vt, old pal... Only God can make a tree.

He also holds the recipe for BABES like Katherine Ross.">

I'll ask Him for the recipe, but I'm not certain that He will share it...

 Posted:   Mar 12, 2001 - 7:54 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

The blind, male lust for slaves and sex is one thing. But an important point is that the original Stepford wives were well-organized in the women's lib movement. As such, it might be seen upon as a reaction against that.

Note that the only motivation for these hideous acts is a rather circular one:

- "Because we can!" (or something like that), Diz replies when Joanna apathically asks why.

 Posted:   Mar 12, 2001 - 6:49 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)

There are now, and have always been men who WOULD do what the Stepford men did, if they could.
Marriage is not an easy relationship, and most men will, by nature, follow the path of least resistance.
If that sort of thing could be done, believe me, it would be done...
Here in the new millennium, I'm quite honestly surprised that "replicant prostitutes" are not available. Think of the financial possibilities! Safe sex with a machine that has been manufactured to perform whatever acts you desire. Somebody somewhere must be working on this...

 Posted:   Mar 13, 2001 - 10:16 AM   
 By:   H. Rocco   (Member)

Again, I've neither seen the film nor read the book in a long time, but I distinctly remember -- if only in the novel -- that the men of Stepford had another motive beyond simply having slaves, and they were willing to sell their own wives out for reasons of power and status. The ultimate trophy wife is what they were after, and Katharine Ross's husband is browbeaten (offstage) into accepting this. At least he briefly feels guilty about it, however obscurely it's expressed. WHY did they do this? I don't think either book or film says for sure, since the idea "Let's make our wives our slaves!" is a juicier selling point.

 Posted:   Mar 18, 2001 - 7:43 AM   
 By:   Chris Kinsinger   (Member)


IT HAS been done! I didn't know! I'm surprised that nobody mentioned it!

I was just now skimming through my weekly TV Guide, and right now on the Lifetime Channel, they are showing:

"The Stepford Husbands" Drama 2:00 (1996) In this sequel to 1975's "The Stepford Wives", a spouse (Donna Mills) subjects macho-man hubby (Michael Ontkean) to a procedure that turns him into a goody-goody.


Oh well...I'll toss my script into the trash.

THOR! Thanks for adding that great poster art!

You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
© 2020 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved...