Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rare TV Flix: The Revenge of the Stepford Wives

I only did this for the Director.  Even though I never got to meet Robert Fuest before his death in 2012, I always felt for the guy.  He made 2 of my favorite Films ever- The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again-, but then got screwed over by the Hollywood System.  One big flop- The Devil's Rain- and his Career would never recover.  That leads into today's Film- 1980's The Revenge of the Stepford Wives, a TV Sequel to the iconic Film.  If you don't remember it (or the 2004 Remake), this is the basic Plot- a small town in Connecticut has started turning their Wives into robot slaves that only want to serve them in the House.  Nice, homely stuff.  Five years later, we get a Sequel set...10 years later (for some reason).  If you think that this time jump matters, it doesn't.  Now a Reporter comes to Town and gets stuck in the midst of the continued craziness.  As noted, the Director is Fuest and the Cast has some notable names.  Sharon Gless is the Reporter, while Don Johnson plays a Cop who gets caught up in all of this.  This one, like all of the Sequels, fudges the details a bit.  Is it worth trying to track down (despite the lack of quality copies)?  To find out, read on...
If you're wondering about that Title, my Version apparently has the German VHS Title and burned-in...Dutch Subtitles?

Anyhow, a guy in Stepford wants out, so they let him...get driven off of a cliff and die.
A Reporter- Gless- drives into Town right after (literally driving past the Cop who caused the wreck) and wants to know about the Town, due to its 0% turnover rate for Housing and nearly 0% crime rate.
The men in Town are wary of this, of course, as they are mind-controlling their wives.  How?
With Pills, of course!

No, they're not Robots anymore.  Did the time-jump between Films make this change?
Our Heroine meets up with a potential new Wife (the future voice of Marge Simpson) and her Husband (the future voice of Lt. Falcon).
He somewhat reluctantly agrees to have his wife- who is messy and opinionated- converted in exchange for a new life in Stepford and a Job.
She is now programmed to serve and not question, as the treatment is said to suppress all instincts but to serve the man.  If the Pills are taken too often or not enough, things go wrong.
Gless tries to help her new friend, but finds out that it is easier said then done.

She finally manages, thanks to information that the head of Stepford exposited conveniently earlier.
Gless' escape attempt is initially stopped, but she ultimately does so with the Cop/Wife pair (who work things out).

As for the Wives, they get their 'revenge' when they are tricked into taking too many pills, making them go violent and kill the Leader.  The End.
Pretty good stuff, but nothing mind-blowing.  Right off the bat, you have two issues to confront: familiarity and Plot Changes.  On one hand, this one feels very familiar to its more famous predecessor.  I'm not sure how many different ways you can approach this Plot, mind you, so I'm giving it a little bit of  pass.  As for the changes, well, there are no Robots.  This allows them to give Kavner a happy end, since she wasn't killed and replaced by a Robot.  To be fair, the mind-control without full replacement thing makes it feel less like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.   What the Film does right is make the whole Setting feel unnatural and too serene.  The performances by the Wives are quite fun here, ranging from silly to a little scary.  The Film doesn't shy away from the core issue to tackle: patriarchy run amok.  Does wanting your Wife to be subservient make you a bad person?  Probably, at least if you go too far with it.  Wanting to be happy and content- logical.  Making someone abandon their whole self to make yourself happy- insane.  Could people really go this far if the technology allowed them?  Regardless of how you feel about all that, this one is actually...kind of good.  It doesn't make any big changes or do anything super-remarkable.  There are some nice touches (like Gless' arrival), good shots (Gless backing up towards a potential attacker) and it pretty much works.  It would be nice to see this on something better than a VHS Rip from overseas...although a Blu-Ray wouldn't have this little bit at the end...
Next up, I go back to some older stuff as I continue to sort through my Moviestop purchases.  Something smells fishy.  Stay tuned...

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