Sunday, 22 May 2011

'GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF': EXPLOITATION IS AS SEXPLOITATION DOES

 
 
 
One of the great joys in doing this blog is being able to share with the rest of the Cyber world some inner thoughts regarding various hidden gems, like this 1979 controversial film called GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF starring Anne Heywood and based on a William Inge novel. Controversial because the delicate subject matter turns out to be treated rather harshly. The story revolves around a sexually repressed school teacher during the mid-fifties who finally comes to terms with her inner urges after being raped by a black student (John Lafayette). I know, written this way, the film sounds awfully like a smutty R-rated after school special, and it probably could be, come to think of it, but one thing I guarantee you: once you start, you won’t be able to take your eyes away from the film.
 


Since sex is the central theme in GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF, expect a lot of talk on the subject, but thanks to Marvin J. Chomsky skillful eye, all is handled in the most gentle manner (well, at least for the film first half). A shared table at a coffee house here, a flirtatious chat with a bus driver there (okay, so he ends up being married, but that’s beside the point). Everything is and looks smooth and dandy. And thanks to the ever-talented Anne Heywood, you easily connect with the protagonist who’s trying so much to overcome her plight. All she wants is to be normal, to be loved and feel desirable by a man—and she should, for she is quite attractive, despite the fact that her character looks 10 years older than her reported 35 years (the actress was really in her mid-40s at the time). Even her gynecologist, played by the always deadpan-looking Robert Vaughn, thinks she should, and he is "THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E." after all. But true to cinematic form, happily ever after is a long road ahead, especially when one encounter a would-be rapist in a lonely class room after school hours like Miss Wyckoff. does.


That’s when the film switches gears and becomes what it is now reputed to be: quintessential trash. From then on everything is shown without white-gloves, from pre to post rape. And in her confused state of mind regarding her sexual needs, Miss Wyckoff throws herself right into an affair that’ll ultimately (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) cost her her job, her friends (among them Dorothy Malone, Carolyn Jones in her last big screen appearance), and least of all, her room at the boarding house; overall a much too raw depiction of a desperate woman who’s in way over her head.


Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the whole interracial matter.  I think the politically incorrect way it was shown (an older white woman enjoying a young black stud) is what really set off reviewers and moviegoers alike back then, even more so than the sexual matter in itself.



We could go on and one about what’s good and what’s not so good in this movie. But what I gathered from watching and re-watching it is that loneliness sometimes makes us do things we never would imagine contemplate. And if it’s the message director Marvin J. Chomsky wanted to convey, then, in my humble opinion, he has done his job. And I dare anyone to watch the last scene without feeling some form of remorse for this lost but so proud soul that is Miss Wyckoff.

 

Unfortunately, the film has yet to be released on DVD (I urge any company who owns the rights to do so). But if you’re lucky enough, you may find it on late night TV (like I did) or you may wind up with a bootleg DVD edition or, better yet, end up owning a VHS copy under its various titles (THE SIN, THE SHAMING, and SECRET YEARNINGS) that pops up on eBay now and again. Either way, the search is definitely worth your while.



UPDATE: Make sure the film is the unedited 105 minute version, and not the 80 minute print that seems to float around. Also, I forgot to mention that TV's POLICE WOMAN Earl Holliman and HALLOWEEN Donald Pleasance co-star.


NEW UPDATE:  At last, the film is going digital.  Yes, kiddies, GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF will  finally hit the street on August 13th 2013 by Vinegar Syndrome.  The Blu-ray/DVD combo will feature a slew of  DVD supplements (Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots, Reissue Cut "THE SIN", Thoughts On Author William Inge...) and will even include the soundtrack CD as a bonus.   Now that's what I call a good deal.






Until next post—Martin


 






2 comments:

Elliot James said...

I don't remember her being forcibly attacked in Inge's novel, a revolting scene in the film. The movie is as graphic as it can get without an X rating.

Authorfan said...

I agree. Thanks for your comment.