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on 12 May 2004
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.
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on 27 May 2010
If you like the modern style of movie making where everything has to happen at break neck speed with all the vital clues being spelt out in capitals for the benefit of the slower members of the audience, then you won't like this film. It is a quietly disturbing tale that unravels almost imperceptibly until the heroine is, finally and haplessly propelled towards the devastating conclusion. It's what I think of as a slow boil. It creeps up on you and gathers tremendous speed only at the very end - and I think this is the strength of the film, and also the strength of the director in that he wasn't afraid to pace the film in this unusual way. I have to disagree with those reviewers who say that nothing much seems to happen for quite some time, because in Stepford something is always going on, you just have to look out for it. I have watched this movie many times and always see something extra on each viewing. For film fans, this dvd comes with a featurette on the making of the film and includes interviews with the director, Brian Forbes, members of the (excellent) cast and the producer. It seems at the time there was much controversy over an English director making a film that was quintessential Americana, but the conclusion was that he brought a new perspective to the idea of the American dream and had crafted himself a clever and chilling thriller. During his interview Brian Forbes said that he wanted to make a thriller that took place in bright sunlight, and so the story of Stepford largely unfolds the in houses and gardens of sunlit suburbia. This is in direct contrast to the thundering climax of the film that takes part on a stormy and wet night when our heroine confronts her worst nightmares. For me the final 20 minutes of the film are some of the most haunting I have ever watched. The fact that it is almost understated makes it all the more sinister and more likely to have happened and the very final scene is like a kick in the heart. For those who say Stepford is dated and very much of it's time - yes, of course it is - that does not make it any less valid as a great piece of cinematic story-telling. Efforts to remake and update the story (2004) have fallen far short of achieving anything like the power of the original film and butchered the ending completely. The original has not achieved cult status for no reason. Watch it and make your own mind up.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 April 2012
This original of The Stepford Wives (remade in 2004, with Nicole Kidman) cajoles us in a typically 1970s middle class American way. The comfortable house, big estate car and cosy cinematography. The happy couple. This is all set to coax one into a sense of comforted security, one which, by the end, will send a real chill up through the spine.

Or, are they? Obviously not, since they've moved from the City and out to the town of Stepford, which at first, seems gentle and almost too perfect. However, it is run by a secret committee of prominent men. They all have busy and difficult jobs and they all prefer a quiet and hassle-free home-life.

I'm not giving too much away to say that the Stepford 'Wives' are in fact manufactured and mind-controlled servants to their husbands and perfect, physically. Our protagonist, Joanna, superbly played by Katherine Ross, doesn't agree with her husband, Walter, or his involvement with this men's committee and starts to rebel, a behaviour that doesn't go unnoticed.

Attempting to start a rival, all female group, she also gets more and more aware and concerned by the sudden placidity of some of her new friends. Then, she feels for her life and for her children and then her worst nightmare begins.....

The build-up, as I said, is skilfully and subtly built up, meaning that when, in its final throws, it's all the more shocking. I actually felt rather unwell.

Many, quite rightly, highlight how perceptive this near 40 year old story was - and still is. The quest for eternal youth and women's rights and the changing role of women in the home is always a contentious one and this film is among the very best of its kind and is still very watchable - and much more sinister and original than the plastic re-make.
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on 19 August 2003
She is the pre-feminist ideal: a meticulous housekeeper, flawless cook, thrifty shopper, adoring mother, perfect wife, fabulous lover--and eternally, unspeakably bland. Even today, more than thirty years after Ira Levin's bestseller startled the reading public, we are likely to refer to such a woman as "a Stepford wife"--a creature who is just too good to be true.
The 1974 film version follows the Levin novel quite closely. Joanna Eberhart is a beautiful young woman of the era in which the women's moment had come of age: intelligent, forthright, and meeting her husband on equal terms. Then she, her husband, and their children move from New York to the small town of Stepford, where she is dismayed to find that most of the neighboring women seem engaged in a competition to have the neatest house, the best-groomed children, the most satisfied husband. Joanna is relieved to find women like herself in newcomers Bobbie and Charmaine, but even so, it seems... odd. So odd that she begins to question her sanity.
The film works on several levels, not the least of which is the macabre sense of humor with which director Byran Forbes endows the film: it is often very funny in a disquieting sort of way, as when Joanna and Bobbie's efforts to start a women's group results in a gathering of perfectly manicured women exchanging recipes and comparing floor polishes, or when Joanna and Bobbie accidentally overhear a Stepford couple making love. But for all the wittiness involved, THE STEPFORD WIVES is rooted in the women's movement of the 1970s, an era in which "a woman's place" was hotly debated on a national level. Just what is a woman's place? And to what lengths might men go to keep their women in traditional roles?
Unlike many similar films, THE STEPFORD WIVES has tremendous restraint--and moreover a truly exceptional cast. Katherine Ross' talents were never before or after so well used, and Paula Prentiss gives perhaps her single most memorable performance here as Joanna's friend Bobbie. The supporting cast is equally fine, most particularly so with Patrick O'Neal as the unnerving "Diz" and a nice turn by Tina Louise as Charmaine.
Ultimately, THE STEPFORD WIVES is something of a "one trick pony:" it works best on a first viewing, when you don't know what's coming, and on subsequent viewings the film tends to read as unnecessarily slow. Even so, it is an interesting little cultural artifact, an "almost classic" that is sure to give you pause the next time your better half announces he is joining a men's club. Recommended.
--GFT ( Reviewer)--
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on 29 May 2009
This film is less entertaining and slower than the more recent version and next to any other recent film this one is definitely dull and boring. If you love your action films then avoid this one like the plague.

So why five stars? It is a subtly chilling film that created a sense of unease in me as I watched it. Everything's too perfect. There's no drama that you get from other films and it is the way that everything is so perfect that makes it creepy. The ending was a surprise, nothing like the 2004 version. The music is subtle, nothing like anything these days. Every aspect of this film is different and subtle and that is what makes it good for me, none of this gore horror.

In contrast to the 2004 version it shows a wonderful difference in our society's changing ideas towards what men want and how women are supposed to be.

I definitely enjoyed this film, it was a nice break from the action packed thrillers. I'll definitely be watching this again.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2008
This film certainly deserves to be rated a classic for the imprint it has left on popular culture alone. Everybody knows what a Stepford Wife is even if most people haven't seen the film. And as a straightforward suspense horror it belongs in the top league. Perhaps a little slow in the first half but more than making up for it in the second.

In terms of the message, the film is a well made satirical portent of the possibility of a vengeful male backlash against the recently won gains of feminism. It must be remembered that in the 1970's it wasn't clear at all what the eventual outcome of the great gender war would be. Feminists should delight in the carefully charicatured mysogny on display, from the mens' 'objectifying' picture drawing to the dismissal of the lead character's conspiracy paranoia as merely an over emotional hissy fit.
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on 15 August 2011
Although recently remade and relaunched there is something about the original that's worth seeing. Sure it shows it's age as a movie made well over 30 years ago but there is a very good and sinister feel to the movle. worth seeing before you see the remake
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This is a well made adaptation of the thought provoking, tautly written novella of the same name by Ira Levin, author of "Rosemary's Baby". It was first released in 1975 and became a box office smash.
The story is very simple, but gripping and well written. Joanna Eberhart (Katherine Ross) moves to the seemingly bucolic town of Stepford with her husband, Walter (Peter Masterson), and two children, leaving behind the dangers of big city living. An independent, assertive, intelligent, and creative woman, Joanna epitomizes the newly liberated women of the nineteen seventies. Looking for like souls with whom to become friends, she seeks out some of the other married women of the town, only to find that they are, for the most part, all uniformly addicted to housework, give their husbands complete obeisance, are made up to the gills, and have figures courtesy of more than maidenform.
Joanna manages to find two like minded women such as herself, Bobbie Marlowe (Paula Prentiss) and Charmaine Wimperis (Tina Louise) with whom to pal around. Bobbie, however, has a creepy feeling about the town and the women that seem to dominate the landscape and wants to move out of Stepford at the first possible moment. Then, a series of puzzling events occur, and Joanna becomes convinced that the town's mysterious Men's Association, presided over by the slightly sinister and chauvinistic Dale Coba (Patrick O'Neal), has hatched a sinister plot to change all the wives of Stepford into submissive Barbie dolls. Will Joanna manage to escape the fate of the rest of the Stepford wives? Watch the film and find out.
This film, coming out on the heels of the feminist movement, struck a deep chord at the time of its release. No one can doubt that the women represented by Joanna, Bobbie, and Charmaine are infinitely more interesting than the lady in the kitchen-whore in the bedroom stereotype desired by the Stepford men, who were, for the most part, physically unprepossessing, though successful. Have things changed all that much in terms of what successful men want in their wives? Instead of the submissive, Betty Crocker, little Miss Homemaker, Barbie doll type desired by the men in this film, many successful men today desire young, submissive, trophy wives with boob jobs. So what has really changed in the quarter of a century since this film was released?
Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Tina Louise all give fine performances. Patrick O'Neal is terrific as the slightly sinister and supercilious President of the Stepford Men's Association. All in all, this is a moderately suspenseful and enjoyable film.
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on 3 August 2009
this film starts off quit slow, with alot of mysterious things happeing. especially with the men taking the woman who was hit by her neighbors car in the oppisit direction to Stepford hospital. and i think you know that something is rather wrong when bobbie starts repeating herself and randomly dropping mugs and opening cupboards.the film looks a little dated now but is still highly entertaing. i love it!
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on 17 March 2011
A clever and biting satire on the desires of men and their ideals of women. Accused by some at the time of promoting misogny and by others as a rallying call for feminism, this film still holds up in these PC times. Katherine Ross is brilliant in the lead role.
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