Poster of the 1975 film, The Stepford Wives

Do the Stepford Wives Movies Follow the Book?

When novels or books become successful, they catch the attention of those filmmakers who believe that the films made on these books will bring in a huge commercial success. The example of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is deemed accurate. Similarly, The Stepford Wives has also been a famous satirical novel on which a movie was made for two times. However, what has been controversial over the past many years is whether the films have accurately depicted the events and storyline of the books or have they changed it.

This stands as an important question because the reach of the books towards an audience is significantly low while the reach of the films towards an audience is significantly high. Learn more about whether the Stepford Wives Movies follow the Book or not in the article below.

About the Book

In 1972, The Stepford Wives first got public towards the audience in the form of a novel by Ira Levin. The novel was satirical, thriller, and to some extent had the element of horror as well. The story revolves around Joanna Eberhart who was a photographer and her young mother who have a suspicion that there are submissive housewives in their new neighborhood which could be potentially robots created by their husbands. Throughout the book, the question of them being potential robots ponders the reader until the end which changes everything. The book was quite a major success round the globe which is why it got into the eyes of many movie directors as well.

First Edition Cover of The Book, The Stepford Wives

About the First Film – The Stepford Wives

As soon as the novel became a global success, film director Bryan Forbes got the attention and had the idea of shooting its film. Within 3 years of the first edition of the novel, the first film by the name of “The Stepford Wives” was released in 1975. The film was written by William Goldman and starred Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Peter Masterson. It was filmed in Connecticut in 1974. Upon its release, the film earned an income of $4 million.

The film plot was like the book but was considered as much more of a thriller and horror concept. Since the film depicted the women to be working under men in a submissive manner, the film received a mix of positive and negative reviews from the critics. Some feminist groups and writers were divided and claimed that it is a “rip-off of the women’s movement” and discouraged other women to see it. However, others like Gael Greene defended the film claiming that it could be used to raise awareness and the fact that it is just a film to  be taken in a satirical manner not in a critical one.

Perhaps the most interesting element about this film is that it has been a major influence on pop culture as well as for the Hollywood industry. With a new science fiction concept of a robotic submissive wife with a dedicated name of “Stepford wife”, many new ideas towards the film industry were seen and it grew further to become a cult classic film over the years.

The Stepford Wives – Second Remake

Although there were many different types of films released right after the first film, this one was actually considered to be a remake of the original film and book, The Stepford Wives. However, unlike the previous film which was based on thrill and suspense along with an element of horror in it, this one appeared to be quite different. It was an American science fiction black comedy movie which was directed by Frank Oz and the screenplay was written by Paul Rudnick. Stars of the film included Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill and Glenn Close.

The film was considered a success as it earned $13 million over its budget of $90 million. However, critical responses on this film appeared to be very fluctuating. Many critics said that comparing this with the original film as well as the book, it appeared to be a mindless camp from the chilling satire story of the original. American monthly magazine Rolling Stone also had negative comments and said that there were major troubles on the set which cannot be compared to the problems faced on screen. According to New York Times, “the movie never lives up to its satiric potential”.

Since there were a majority of negative reviews and only a bare minimum of positive ones, it was apparent that the movie had been distorted from the original story and the book so much that the people did not like it as much as they did the earlier ones.

Film Poster of the second remake, The Stepford Wives

Book Vs Movies

The choice between Books vs Movies has always been movies for the large-scale audience as books are not read  by as many people. For this case, the movie and the books had differences which changed the basic storyline and plot to an extent as well. This is why reading the book is essential as well so as to actually understand the story and then compare it with the different films that have been released.

Comparison with 1975 Film

As far as the first film is concerned which was released in the year 1975, it was quite close to the original story with just minor changes and turned into a much more horror film so that it gains the audience’s attention and becomes a grossing film as well. This is one reason why the 1975 film was considered to be a major success and even the critics liked the film. It created the buzzword “Stepford Wives” which would now be used elsewhere too.

With a few changes such as turning women into zombies created the element of horror, but the basic storyline stayed like it was which is the reason why the film became successful. The 1975 film had the extra element of mysteriously vanishing children as well which added more to the element of curiosity. As far as this movie is concerned, it can be said that it followed the book to the maximum possible extent and a few essential changes were made so that the novel could be adjusted according to the film industry.

Author of the actual novel, Ira Levin

Comparison with 2004 Film

The 2004 film should not even be considered as a remake because it has a major change of the basic storyline from the original film. The 2004 remake was a film that was taken in the comedy genre whereas the actual novel and prequel film were of high suspense and thrill to the audience. Many audiences did not approve of it as before watching the film, they had a perception that it would be an even better version of what was created in 1975. In addition to that, even the Director of this film Frank Oz admitted later on that this film was not what he expected to be.

Comparing the results of two films on the popular film website, Rotten Tomatoes, it was obvious that the 1975 film was a much better one than compared to the 2004 film. The first one got 70% rating while the second one got only 24% rating. The reason why this film was not able to earn a very large sum as compared to other films was that it was not marketed to be a parody film. Many of the audience had claims that even if it was considered in the comedy genre, the film was not funny at all.

Conclusion

The Stepford Wives book has been quite amazing along with the first film that was made in 1975. However, things did change with the second film. In addition to that, there were several other films with the same buzzword and somewhat storyline, but these were totally irrelevant compared to the original book and film. Common names of these films include Revenge of the Stepford Wives, The Stepford Children, and The Stepford Husbands.