• Good Luck Miss Wyckoff

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 13, 2013.
    Director: Marvin Chomsky
    Cast: Anne Heywood, Donald Pleasence, Robert Vaughn, John Lafayette, Dorothy Malone, Ronee Blakley, Carolyn Jones
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Directed in 1979 by Marvin Chomsky, the man who made Roots, Good Luck Miss Wyckoff is set in the 1950s and introduces us to Evelyn Wyckoff (played by former Miss Great Britain winner Anne Heywood), a high school Latin teacher in the town of Freedom, Kansas. She lives a simple life, focusing on her job and socializing with fellow teachers Beth (Carolyn Jones), Betsey (Ronee Blakely) and Marie (Doris Roberts) and renting a room in a boardinghouse nearby.

    Her life takes a strange turn when she starts to have breakdowns brought on by bouts of severe depression. Her doctor (Robert Vaughn), who knows she is still a virgin, notes that her biological clock is ticking and recommends she see a psychiatrist named Doctor Steiner (Donald Pleasance) in Wichita, a short bus ride away. A flirtation begins with the married bus driver and her sessions with Steiner do seem to be making some headway. Though she’s still nervous and reserved she gains the self-confidence to buy some lingerie. All of this comes crashing down one afternoon after school, however, when a black scholarship student named Rafe (John Lafayette) who works in the building as a janitor makes an advance on her. Not taking no for an answer, he rapes her on the desk in her classroom, which sets into motion the beginnings of a bizarre relationship in which the submissive Evelyn Wyckoff begins to want Rafe to take her. As she remains silent about their transgressions, Rafe takes advantage of her and takes things to twisted extremes.

    Based on the novel of the same name by author William Inge, the film was re-released in a considerably shortened version under the alternate title of The Sin (and then on VHS as The Shaming and as Secret Yearnings) but appears here on Blu-ray in its full strength version including some footage not even scene in its original theatrical run. As the film begins, you’ll wonder to yourself why it was slapped with an R-rating. Spinsterish school teachers discuss how attractive Marlon Brando might be and Evelyn and Steiner discuss the implications of her childhood and the relationship that existed between her mother and father but it’s all very tame – almost dull, really. We like Evelyn enough. She stands up for civil rights issues and speaks up in defense of a fellow teacher (who may or may not be a homosexual) accused of promoting communism but despite the fact that she’s attractive enough, she’s not the most exciting character to ever grace the silver screen.
    With that said, from the opening shot, in which we see 'MISS WYCKOFF FUCKS NIGGERS' written out in front of her house in white chalk, we know where things are headed.

    And then Rafe enters the picture, at which point, the movie does a massive tonal shift wherein it approaches X-rated territory with some graphic and joltingly rough sex scenes between a middle aged white woman and a young black man. Rafe is almost fetishized by the camera. When he unzips his work suit the camera leers at his body and he gets more full frontal time in front of the camera than Heywood does. He is not gentle with her. He forces himself on her and she grows to like it, as the movie sends a twisted and decidedly mixed message about all of this and shifts its focus to some seriously sleazy set pieces.

    The performances are decent here. Heywood is… nice. She’s confused and unsure of herself but she’s pretty and if maybe a little hard to buy as a spinster type, she does play the part rather well. When she breaks down we feel for her and as she suffers the repercussions of her transgressions with Rafe, made all the more severe given that the story predates the Civil Rights movement, we don’t want her to suffer. Donald Pleasance is an odd choice to play a Jewish psychiatrist but he’s fine in the role and as his character picks Evelyn’s brain during a few key scenes we learn some interesting details about her background that you could interpret as having an effect on her reasoning later in the movie. Supporting roles by Robert Vaughn, Carolyn Jones (looking nothing like Morticia Addams here), Ronee Blakely and Delores Roberts (looking every bit like Ray Romano’s mother here!) are all fine.

    John Lafayette, who appears in a feature film for the first time after a few TV roles, is also good. He has all the confidence in the world when he approaches Evelyn, asking her (knowing full well that she stood up for black students previously) point blank how much she really like black folk before slapping her around and raping her. His role is more physical than anything else but malice and disdain drip from his voice when he delivers his condescending dialogue. As he threatens to boast to the other young black men on the football team about ‘what a good piece of ass you are, Miss Wyckoff’ we know he sees her as nothing more than a piece of meat and that he’s basically using her as a grudge fuck. When she becomes not only accepting of this but a willing participant herself, we know it’s only a matter of time before, right or wrong, this comes back to harm her. Racial issues aside, it’s only common sense to figure any teacher having sex in the classroom is going to run into trouble, and rightly so. Throw in the taboo that interracial sex carried with it during this period in American history and then couple that with the fact that there’s obvious degradation involved and it seems obvious our poor Miss Wyckoff is damned from the very start.

    A strange, misguided and vicious mix of melodrama and trashy exploitation, Good Luck Miss Wyckoff is a nasty, vitriolic picture that deals in harsh stereotypes. It’s also fairly compelling and surprisingly raw in its honest depictions of human relations.


    Vinegar Syndrome’s transfer of Good Luck Miss Wyckoff is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks great. Detail is generally very strong and while some minor print damage shows up here and there, it’s really only tiny specks, no serious nasty scratches or anything like that while the film’s grain structure is left completely intact and untinkered with. Colors look nice and natural, skin tones too, while black levels remain solid throughout. Texture looks good, there are no issues with noise reduction, artificial sharpening or edge enhancement and the end result is a nice, film like transfer that translates very nicely to Blu-ray.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 track and aside from a few scenes with some minor hiss, the quality is fine. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and the levels are nicely balanced. The score sounds good and there’s a decent bit of depth here at times.

    The main extra on the DVD (all of the extras are on the DVD, the Blu-ray contains only the movie) is the re-release version of the movie that played under the alternate title of The Sin. The main difference between this cut and the original version? Pretty much all of the sex scenes that take place between Rafe and Evelyn are cut. The initial rape scene shows Rafe approaching her and then shows her afterwards on the desk. The radiator scene is pretty much completely missing. It’s a very different, completely neutered experience compared to the stronger and considerably harsher original, uncut version.

    The DVD also contains a six minute featurette entitled Thoughts On William Inge With Actress Shirley Knight. This is basically Knight reminiscing about how she got to know Inge and then go on to work with him. It’s an interesting look back at the author from someone who knew him and obviously had some affection for him.

    Rounding out the extras are theatrical trailers Good Luck Miss Wyckoff and The Sin, a few television spots and a still gallery. Menus and chapter selection are included on both discs. A third disc in the set also contains the movie’s original soundtrack CD, which is a nice touch.

    The Final Word:

    Good Luck Miss Wyckoff is a surprisingly vicious, mean spirited film, a picture that creates a legitimately sympathetic lead character for us to latch on to and then puts her through Hell. It’s a shockingly grueling watch, especially in its full strength version as presented here. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray is a good one, offering up the movie in very nice shape and with a few choice extras as well. Don’t let this one pass you by.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Strange film.