Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979)

The shocking opening leaves little to the imagination as to how this film will turn out.  Pretty spinster high school teacher Evelyn Wyckoff (British bombshell Anne Heywood) struggles to make it through her day to day activities in 1954 Freedom, Kansas.  Once she was an energetic firebrand fighting for African American students to receive equal treatment a full decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, now she finds herself so tightly wound that she can’t sleep and has outbursts of despair.  She catches movies with her friends (even risqué ones such as A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE!), but she is not herself as she soon has a nervous breakdown during a school recital.  She meets with Dr. Neal (Robert Vaughn) her condition may be brought about by sexual repression.  He sends her to Wichita psychiatrist Dr. Steiner (Donald Pleasance) for a consultation.  She tells the shrink that she likes to being alone because she is independent and free.  Further questioning reveals that is not the case at all.

On her trips to and from Wichita, a married bus driver flatters Evelyn when he offers her good time if she was up for it after he explains that he is not always faithful to his wife.  She passes up the offer because she is afraid to disappoint the man with her inexperience.  Finally ready to take him up on his offer she is frustrated again as he had left town abandoning both his wife and his job.  Miss Wyckoff returns to her job and even takes on the challenge of swaying the town’s opinion on a history teacher that is “soft on communism” and may be homosexual.  She saves his job and spurns her half-hearted advances.

Everything soon changes when she is raped by the young black janitor.  The scene is shocking, violent and difficult to watch.  The camera lingers on him as he slowly strips down, spits vitriol at Evelyn and strides slowly and menacingly towards her.  Sadly, for Evelyn, this is the inexorable advance of inevitability.  She has no way to fight him off and because of the setting she has no recourse but humiliation.  Afterwards, she is unable to reconcile her feelings with the horrible event and she finds the doctor out of town leaving her to figure things out for herself.  The two develop a sadomasochistic relationship where Rafe (John Lafayette) dominates the exceedingly shy and sexually inexperienced Evelyn who quickly adopts the role of a willing and expectant submissive.  She watches the clock eagerly awaiting his arrival.  Eventually she realizes the gravity of her situation and the character of her domineering, rough lover.

The language is coarse and should shock today as much as it did in 1979.  What happens to Miss Evelyn Wyckoff is a tragedy that is exploited to its fullest.  It fails miserably as a movie that tries to present the story from a neutral point of view.  It shows Rafe as a manipulative monster, and Evelyn as a naive woman who meekly accepts what happens to her.  Though heavy handed and exploitive, the film does make a few points about the racism and sexism that still haunts society.  It is through the compassionate Principal Havermeyer (Dana Elcar) that the film makes one of its most important and prescient points, “It’s ironic isn’t it, that a man never suffers the same social ostracism that a woman does in situations like this.”  The racism that boils under the surface of society is also tackled in rough fashion.  The cover of the disc could not be more apt, a serpent guarding the forbidden fruit.  The movie is about breaking social taboos and trying to cast them in a different, even if inept, light.

Anne Heywood takes on a challenging role at the age of 48.  She plays the prematurely menopausal Miss Wyckoff who is only 35 years old.  Donald Pleasance is exceedingly creepy as Dr. Steiner when he asks Evelyn about her sexual history.  John Lafayette is the epitome of calm, cruel confidence.  Other actors that pop up include R.G. Armstrong, Ronee Blakely, Dorothy Malone, Carolyn Jones, Doris Roberts and Robert Vaughn.

Vinegar Syndrome has released a painstaking edition of GOOD, LUCK MISS WYCKOFF that is on par with their releases of MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS, THE TELEPHONE BOOK and PUNK VACATION.  The Blu-Ray contains the feature while the accompanying DVD contains the feature, THE SIN re-issue cut, an interview with Shirley Knight about author William Inge, a still gallery, theatrical trailers and television spots.  A third disc included is a CD soundtrack.  The widescreen picture is a hi-def 2k transfer from a 35mm negative.  The mono English audio works though there are a moment or two when the dialogue becomes softer than the score and sound.  GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF is another outstanding Blu-Ray release from Vinegar Syndrome.  It will be available on August 13th at Amazon, Diabolik and VinSyn.  Check out the trailer below.

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