You have to be either very suggestible or very, very caffeinated to be frightened by this movie: its pace is glacial, its soft-focus look is more numbing than suggestive, and pretty much all the actors, save for Paula Prentiss who seems to think she's playing "Eunice" in a Carol Burnett show sketch, are trying to underplay their roles but come off as wooden or (if you'll pardon the expression) robotic. But why does everybody know what a "Stepford Wife" is, whether or not they've sat through this USA Network standard? Because, lame as it is, this film represents a watershed in popular culture: women's liberation had so penetrated the mass consciousness that it was now a feature of lowbrow genres like horror films (it had topped the charts one year earlier in a cheesy pop song by Helen Reddy, so I guess B-movies were the next step).
Katharine Ross was briefly the most promising actress in Hollywood ("Graduate" and "Butch Cassidy" in less than 2 years), but this movie shows why she never became a major star -- she's pretty, but pretty annoying. She's acceptable as a supporting player but when she's asked to carry this movie, she responds by acting neurotic, self-absorbed and distant. Her affection for everybody, husband, children and even runnin' buddy Paula Prentiss, seems forced since she seems entirely unable to move beyond her own dissatisfaction -- man, did someone miss a casting opportunity when they didn't ask Ross to play Sylvia Plath. Since she's giving absolutely nothing to her supporting cast, every single scene seems to drag, a situation not helped by a film editor who seems to think it's "artistic" to let every scene last about five minutes past its actual ending. (Note: we understand what's happening to Paula Prentiss in her last scene, it goes from horrifying to banal pretty quickly.) Noteworthy, however, is Tina Louise, who never could act but turns in a performance that's at least commendable although not good as an unhappy adultress trapped in a loveless marriage. Her character deserved a movie, not Joanna the Sleepwalking Feminist, and she's the one you'll miss most when . . . oh, never mind.
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