'They have good homes, colour television sets, two cars, help in the house, foreign holidays - most have families - but all are bored. They're nothing extraordinary, they are the Suburban Wives'
'Suburban Wives' is a film that manages to hold your attention for an hour and a half without ever becoming particularly interesting, for a film fan it does exactly the same as it probably did to the dirty raincoat brigade: it promises much, and signally fails to deliver. Introduced by a female journalist (and suburban wife) as a series of 'true' stories, it has something of the mondo about it, but it is supremely non-sensational, in fact, apart from the music, it needs a bit of a boot up the harris.
The stories, vignettes, snapshots, ten minutes slots (whatever you want to call them) all tell of the '9-5 widows', the lonely, jaded housewives left behind when their boring husbands go off on the 8.15 to Waterloo or wherever the hell they used to go in the olden days. One lady tells of how she slept with her husband's boss to ensure that he got promoted, only to have her husband, now full of confidence and ambition, leave her for a younger model. Another woman goes on the game after running up debts betting on the horses. She has uncomfortable looking sex in a half filled bubble bath, but seems to get a kick out of it.
|That's her 'enjoying' face.|
|The sensual allure of a shed.|
In a rather tenuous sequence, a woman goes for water skiing lessons, only to round off the session by having it off with the instructor in the equipment shed. Sex on the floor of a shed by the river in Winter. How glamorous. Actually, that's what's wrong with this film: everything looks shit, including the sex. Everything is grey and dour and pinched and cold. Even nice looking ladies like Jane Cardew and Gabrielle Drake look lumpy and pasty and out of condition, with tired faces and suet pudding skin. If the film makers had invested in some decent lighting, or make up or, perhaps, just taken some time and care, this could have been halfway decent but, although it's clearly not the work of idiots, it is sad and neglected - unloved and unexciting.
|I know how you feel, Jane...|
There's a fairly unpleasant episode about a man who goes from suburb to suburb taking pictures of babies in order to get close to their Mums. Posing as a professional photographer, he persuades the Mums to strip off for him and snaps away, making all sorts of promises and playing on their boredom, their vanity and their desire to be fanciable. When he returns the next week the women have usually changed their minds and want the photos back, so he extorts money from them and, if he can, shags them as well. Sleazy doesn't come into it, especially as he's a greasy little rat faced man with an extremely fistable fizzog.
Then there's this next sequence, which looks great and is funny, especially in the way it contrasts the idealised view with the reality: the grace and elegance of the fantasy routine is interspersed with clips of the lady in question as she breathlessly thrashes about on the living room floor, clumsy, knackered and ready to roll over and die.
|Feeling the burn?|
This is the journalists own story, of how she reads a self-help book and makes a massive effort to try and spice up her flagging love life: getting fit, buying new underwear, draping red scarves over the lights, putting nude pictures on display, etc. only to have her planned seduction ruined by her fathead 'Emmerdale' bloke husband unexpectedly bring home his Boss, who gets a right eyeful and goes away thinking his employee is getting it all ways, every night - which has got to be a good thing, surely?
Finally, there is a tall tale about an errant husband who has a habit of sleeping with the au pairs. He doesn't really want to, you understand, but, after a while, he begins to feel bad about not using 'the facilities'. 'You make them sound like a public lavatory' his wife says. Mind you, according to him, it's all the Missus' fault because she hasn't been too 'accomodating' in recent months. Well, you know, when you put it like that...
Wifey has the last laugh when the new au pair arrives - she cops off with her before he does (that sentence should probably have ended with an exclamation mark, but I refuse to give it the satisfaction). You should see their stupid, gormless faces. Oh, you can, and here they are --
|Electric tooth brush.|
Actually, you know what, I've seen a lot worse. Derek Ford's name on the credits isn't exactly a mark of quality but, as smutters go, it's often as good as it gets. Pretty successful in commercial terms, 'Suburban Wives' was swiftly followed up by a sequel, the predictably titled 'Commuter Husbands' - but we've been through all that already.
Probably the best thing about the film is its soundtrack, which is really very good throughout, culminating with the weirdly hypnotic dissonance of the music that accompanies the scene in the sex shed. I've done a little mix of it all, chucking in some choice dialogue. It's only sixteen and a bit minutes long, and you can download it by clicking the little arrow, so treat yourself. Incidental music by Terry Warr; songs performed by Clive Peterson ('Real Life Woman') and Keep Off The Grass ('9 to 5 Widow').
I'm not going to say 'enjoy', firstly because I don't like the expression and, secondly, because if you don't enjoy it then I just don't know what else I can do: this is gold, baby, 14 carat gold.