KLAATU YOU (27)
July 1, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
THE STEPFORD WIVES | d. BRYAN FORBES | 1975
It’s incredibly hard to write about The Stepford Wives in 2020, because what is there left to say? One could talk production details — the costume design, casting decisions, script rewrites; one could talk about Ira Levin’s genius — first Rosemary’s Baby, and now this! One could talk about body-swapping and/or supermarket tropes in ’70s horror, or the execrable remake, which so badly missed the point. Or Jordan Peele’s virtuosic homage in Get Out. But that all seems pedantic next to the larger thematic issues — gaslighting! Structural misogyny! Robotics! — and yet… we’re living in those. Tell me something I don’t know!
But it can’t. Just like Death of a Salesman feels obsolete now that that guy is actually our president: Tell me something I don’t know! What was once nightmarish ends up flatly descriptive. And yet I love this movie. So here’s three of the last things one can say about it:
- Paula Prentiss and Katherine Ross have terrible chemistry. Even though they’re both doing great work (Prentiss especially), they never seem like they’re speaking to each other. This might be related to:
- The director, Bryan Forbes, is bewildered by female comradeship. He can’t depict honest relationships between women as anything but sexual. Why do Joanna and Bobbie first encounter each other in a wheat-field, Bobbie approaching, in slow motion, in a sunlit haze? Why is Joanna’s therapist treated like a rapacious dyke with ulterior motives until the very last moment, when she advises Joanna to run?
- The movie either has, or lacks, a class analysis (can’t tell!) Those supermarket scenes are interesting because you’re like, “Do the townies notice?” Checkout clerks, parking-lot attendants, people servicing these petit bourgeois chumps every day — are they like, “Hah! Serves those motherfuckers right”? Do they flatter themselves that they, too, might someday be replaced (or do the replacing)? Do they worry about job security? And what of the 4th estate? That little old lady with the newsletter: has she been co-opted by the powers that be? Cowed into silence? Or is she too ancien régime to even notice the change in Stepford’s wives?
And yet the film also, very carefully/casually, introduces “the first black family in Stepford” in that last, nightmarish scene. Amid an ocean of buxom, perambulating robots, these new arrivals argue in the soft-drinks aisle. The implication is clear: this young striver is as ready as anyone to sacrifice his wife, because misogyny is no respecter of race; given the opportunity, anyone joining the upper-middle class would replace their wife with a robot. Assuming the Men’s Association is progressive enough to offer him a spot.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | J.C. Gabel on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS | Alison Fensterstock on ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW | Wayne Chambliss on THEM! and PHASE IV | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Kevin Obsatz on DEATHSPORT | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.