Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Stepford Wives, The

US movie (1974). Fadsin/ Palomar/Columbia. Pr Edgar J Scherick. Exec pr Gustave M Berne. Dir Bryan Forbes. Screenplay William Goldman. Based on The Stepford Wives (1972) by Ira Levin. Starring Peter Masterson (Walter Eberhart), Nanette Newman (Carol Van Sant), Patrick O'Neal (Dale "Diz" Coba), Paula Prentiss (Bobby Marco), Katharine Ross (Joanna Eberhart). 114 mins. Colour.

With their two standard children, lawyer Walter and photographer Joanna Eberhart move to dull town Stepford. He soon joins the mysterious Men's Association; she finds all the oddly beautiful wives are over-placid and obsessed with domestic trifles. It proves that the Men's Association, led by ex-Disneyland engineer Coba, is killing the women and replacing them with amazingly lifelike automata who will be sexual dynamos and willing domestic slaves. The last we see is not Joanna but her replica, exchanging blandnesses with the other "wives" against supermarket muzak.

TSW loses much – but not all – of the double-edged Satire of Levin's novel, aiming instead to suspend disbelief; its leisurely pace allows the development and climax the feel of plausibility, no mean feat given the subject matter. Further aiding this sense is the fact that this Technofantasy draws its themes not from Science Fiction but from traditional sources: the perfectly realized yet mindless automata are other-selves, Doppelgängers, cuckoos in the nest, Changelings, Ghosts ... Despite the veneer of modernity, the horrors TSW evokes are horrors that already have aeons-old presence inside us: we believe in them because we always have.

TSW engendered two sequels. In Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980 tvm) journalist Sharon Glass comes to Stepford, digs out the truth, and causes the simulacra to rise up and, à la Frankenstein's Monster, destroy their creators; its climactic revenge scene has a chilly effectiveness, but in general there is a sense of existing material being reworked. The Stepford Children (1987 tvm) ignores the 1980 tvm: the men of Stepford are now trying to complete their bliss by replacing also their children. [JG]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.