Based on Ira Levin's novel, Stepford Wives is a sci-fi satirical take on small-town America and deals with issues of socially constructed gender roles. Filmed in the 70's and directed by British born Bryan Forbes, it is rather dated now and the discerning contemporary viewer may find it more amusing than sinister. With this in mind plans are in progress to remake it for the 'noughties' with a spoofed-up re-imagining.
However it remains a cult classic for many and the original version is still highly watchable and does have a sinister element to it. From the outset we know that something terrible is going to happen. As the tension mounts, the climatic ending is reached with all the innocence (and absence of special effects) that only an older movie can deliver.
The central character Joanna and her husband Walter, make a rural retreat to the small, leafy suburban town of Stepford believing their lives away from the hustle and bustle of New York will be easier. From the outset of their arrival there is a strange undertone to the town - the men have secret meetings and the women act in a vacant and unnerving manner. In fact they appear to be robotic. Joanna's suspicions about the behaviour of her neighbours lead her to further investigation aided by her friend Charmaine. However when Charmaine goes away for the weekend she too returns as a vacuous drone and Joanne begins to suspect the worst. As Joanna finally learns the truth about Stepford, this knowledge must come at a price.
Ultimately a 1970's perspective on gender roles, it throws up questions of our ideas of perfection and normality. What may be one person's utopia, could be a dystopic nightmare to another. This concept is still highly relevant and the film is well worth a look, preferably before the new version is released.