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"The Stepford Wives" (1975) - Directed by Bryan Forbes (Director of "The Whisperers") Produced by Edgar Scherick (Producer of "Sleuth") Written by: Screenplay - William Goldman (Academy Award Winner for Best Original Screenplay for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and for Best Adapted Screenplay for "All the President's Men"), Story - "The Stepford Wives" by Ira Levin (Author of "Rosemary's Baby") Featuring Katharine Ross as Joanna Eberhart (Etta Place in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," Elaine Robinson in "The Graduate"), Paula Prentiss as Bobbie Markowe (Liz Bien in "What's New, Pussycat?" Lee Carter in "The Parallax View"), Peter Masterson as Walter Eberhart (Fryer in "In the Heat of the Night"), Nanette Newman as Carol van Sant (Girl Upstairs in "The Whisperers"), Tina Louise as Charmaine Wimperis (Ginger Grant on "Gilligan's Island"), Patrick O'Neal (George Maxwell in "Bed of Roses" on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," Harmon Gordon in "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain" on "The Twilight Zone," Jonathan Meridith in "Wolf 359" on "The Outer Limits," Justus Walters in "A Fear of Spiders" on "Night Gallery"), Josef Sommer as Ted van Sant (District Attorney William T. Rothko in "Dirty Harry"), Franklin Cover as Ed Wimperis (Tom Willis on "The Jeffersons") --- I had managed to avoid "The Stepford Wives" (the original version) for my entire life, but given that the term has entered our lexicon, and more importantly, that the 1975 version was at least an attempt at horror (the latter version mixed in comedy), I thought I'd give it a go. While I can't say "it was a great movie," I also don't regret watching it. My biggest gripe about this film is one that other critics have repeated: It feels like a made-for-TV film, and is also about thirty minutes too long. I can't imagine walking into a movie theater, even when I was fourteen years old, and seeing this on the big screen. Katherine Ross is eight years older than when she played Elaine in "The Graduate," but she weathered those eight years beautifully - she has a very unique loveliness to her, and did a pretty good acting job in this role (I can't honestly say it was "great," but that's because she didn't have much to work with - this script would fit nicely in a thirty-minute episode, or perhaps a sixty-minute episode, of "The Twilight Zone"). *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** One thing that isn't entirely clear to me is whether or not her husband, Walter, knew about the goings-on in Stepford before leaving New York City - his conversion to one of the Stepford Husbands was seamless and total; yet, how could the town of Stepford trust a complete stranger, whom they'd never before met (or had they?), with this information? Two-thirds of the way through the movie (I'm loathe to call it a "film"), I wasn't quite sure how the transition would be done - was it drugs? Surgery? Or something else entirely? Make sure to see the outstanding 2017 film, "Get Out," which was clearly influenced by this movie, as well as by several other films (I won't insult you by naming them). "The Stepford Wives" is optional viewing; "Get Out" is an absolute requirement.
*** SPOILER ALERT *** (Please do not read this if you're planning on watching the film for the first time.) I haven't seen "Rosemary's Baby" in decades - the only thing I remembered about it was that it starred Mia Farrow giving birth to the devil's spawn, and now that I'm prompted, that it was directed by Roman Polanski. The year that I've recently concentrated on was (coincidentally) Roger Ebert's first year as a critic, 1967, and Rosemary's Baby is from 1968, making it right after what I consider to be one of the most significant years for Hollywood. Incidentally, I've read Ebert more posthumously than I did when he was alive, and although I don't always agree with him, I consider him to be one of the greatest critics in any field that I've ever read. My father used to *love* "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies" - "This is the best show on television," I remember him joyfully telling me, repeatedly - as my father became older and more feeble, he rented 2-3 movies a day, every day, for several years - besides my mom, movies were my father's great love when he got older, and he saw more of them than anyone I've ever known. As a second tangent, I remember very well Mad Magazine's movie satire, "Rosemia's Boo-boo" - not the details (I was only 7); just the fact that it existed - the cover is pretty funny: One amazing thing is that Rosemary's Baby only came out five years before "The Exorcist" - it seems like a *lot* longer to me. There are several movies I distinctly remember my parents making a big deal out of going to see: The Exorcist was one, and "The Godfather" was another, both being around the same time. I was "treated" to seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey" when it came out the same year as Rosemary's Baby - I didn't appreciate it at all, but I remember the usher selling pamphlets, walking around the theater before the film started, hawking, "2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001: A Space Odyssey - Get the official brochure for 2001: A Space Odyssey" - it's funny what kids remember, and what they don't, because that had - by far - the greatest impact on me. I don't remember another time when I've seen an usher hawking brochures in a theater before a movie like that, but my memory doesn't mean much. I love the subtlety of John Cassavetes in this film, although much of that was probably due to the screenplay of Polanski - he changed from being a completely human cynic, to an agent of the devil, and the viewer is unable to pinpoint exactly when this change happened - although in retrospect, it happened early on. Right when Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) reaches her breaking point about the quack, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), and the pain she's been in for an extended period of time, the pain instantly goes away - that's a brilliant ploy on the part of the Devil. This isn't the first film to juxtapose raw evil with a child (I can think of "The Bad Seed," and also "The Twilight Zone" episode, "It's a Good Life," both of which used pre-adolescents, but neither of which used a fetus or neonate) - so this might be one of the first-ever movies to impose Satanism on a pregnant woman, certainly running parallel (and opposite) to the Virgin Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus. I just now this afternoon had a piano lesson, and I mentioned to my teacher that I naturally think polyphonically, so the very second I heard "The name is an anagram," I was sure I knew what it meant: The "tanas" root would redirect as "Satan." - but, of course, I was wrong, as the root is spelled "tannis"; the real meaning of that cryptic instruction is much more clever. Rosemary also taught me a new word: "covens." Man, I hate to say this, but when Rosemary has sequestered herself in her apartment - attempting to flee her creep-o husband, Guy, and Dr. Sapirstein - when she's on the phone, and the two sneak by her in the background, they look *exactly* like something out of Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks." Now try and see that scene - supposedly fraught with tension - without laughing your ass off (the movie is free with a Hulu membership, and the scene takes place with 20:30 remaining in the film). Goodness, I'm at the part with the Asian gentleman with the camera. Ugh. I actually *still* don't know what's going to happen, although it has already been revealed who the baby's real father is; we just haven't seen "little Adrian" yet. Wow, I just finished the film: *Very* well-done ending. I was fearing that they'd show the baby, and that would have ruined everything - you can't show pure evil, but you can imagine it. I also thought Rosemary might have been carrying a second knife, and was going to kill the baby (without showing him), which would have been a brute-force outcome; as it turns out, maternal bond(age) wins out in the end - no matter what. In 2014, the Library of Congress selected Rosemary's Baby for preservation in the National Film Registry; I suspect if Rosemary had killed the baby at the end - which I believe would happen had it been filmed for today's audiences - the film would not be such a classic.