Katherine Ross, long remembered as Mrs Robinson’s daughter in The Graduate (1967), plays the lead role of Joanna Eberhart in this screen adaptation of Ira Levin’s chilling novel of a twisted sort of utopia.
Joanna uproots herself from the chaos of life in New York city to resettle with her husband Walter (Peter Masterson) and their two small children in the picture-perfect suburbia of Stepford, Connecticut (the film was shot on location in Connecticut, with towns like Darien and Fairfield standing in for the utopian Stepford).
It doesn’t take long for Joanna to realise that something is seriously wrong with the townsfolk.
The women are obsessed with cleaning their kitchens, meticulously and slavishly cooking all day long for their husbands, adorning themselves to look beautiful for their men, pruning the garden, shopping endlessly, and discussing the virtues of “Easy On” spray as opposed to another brand . . .
Their only aim in life is to be attractive domestic robots for their coven of Ivy League husbands, who all belong to a mysterious club known as the Stepford Men’s Association which they have to visit each night.
The sinister truth is gradually revealed as Joanna and best friend Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss) – another recent arrival from New York – watch new friends like Charmaine Wimpiris (Tina Louise) change personalities overnight, transforming into obedient male fantasies.
Four decades later, The Stepford Wives stands as a creepy gender study that cleverly explored women’s role in the home and turned “Stepford wife” into a household phrase.
The film fueled several ‘made-for-TV’ sequels as well as a 2004 remake starring Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, and Glenn Close. The remake jettisoned the original film’s creepy atmosphere for a campier, more comedic tone and received dismal reviews.
Carol Van Sant
Mary Ann Stravros