Good Luck, Miss Wycoff
social drama was considered so daring in 1979 that
it required 27 minutes of cuts to get an R rating
from the MPAA. That means that a film which was
intended to run 106 minutes actually ran 79 in
some versions, thus removing many of the necessary
logical transitions between scenes and rendering
the plot nonsensical. Oddly enough, the first hour
of the uncut version could have been rated PG in
1979, when there was no PG-13 rating. It is not
until the midway point that the film became edgy.
1954. A virginal high school Latin teacher in a
small Kansas town starts to have an emotional
breakdown. She starts crying for no reason, and
she exhibits other signs of severe depression,
some of which are physically dangerous, such as
attacking her mirror violently. Her doctor (ol'
Napoleon Solo, the man from UNCLE himself) reveals
her to be the victim of premature menopause.
I'm only 35," she retorts.
that's why they use the word 'premature,'" he
Doc From UNCLE tells her that she needs to start
getting enough sleep and, more important by far,
she needs to get laid. He hedges his diagnosis by
saying, "Of course, I might be wrong. Talk to a
shrink convinces her to take charge of her life,
so she goes on the prowl in her own spinsterly
way. The guy who transports her to her shrink in
Wichita hits on her. She demurs because he's
married, but slowly changes her mind because he
seems to be a sincere guy who never lied to her
about his situation. By the time she decides to
get herself some bus driver dick, the motorman has
moved on to another part of the country, having
left his wife. Opportunity squandered.
next attempt at a meaningful sexual relationship
turns out to be disastrous, as the object of her
desires turns out to be an accused communist (this
is the era when Tail Gunner Joe ran roughshod over
America's liberal establishment), but that's the
least of her worries. More relevant to her own
situation, he also turns out to have no interest
minutes of the film have now passed and things are
looking bad for her.
they get worse.
film takes a sudden shift in tone and we now come
to the part that qualified the uncut version for a
possible X rating.
is subjected to the ultimate humiliation of being
raped by the handsome black man who cleans her
classroom. She tells nobody, and is such a
desperate, self-destructive person that she
actually makes herself available to the rapist. At
first that almost seems like a decent idea,
because their second sexual encounter is tender
and romantic, but she soon discovers that the man
is only manipulating her to gain control. He hates
all white people, and takes out his anger in
subsequent encounters by humiliating her and even
hurting her physically.
During one of their trysts, the man's anger turns
fiery and he takes her brutally from behind while
shoving her breasts into a scalding-hot radiator
in her own classroom after hours. She screams in
agony, and two students respond to the situation,
only to find their presumably innocent schoolmarm
stark naked and having sex with a very sexy young
story then takes kind of a weird twist. Had I been
one of those two students, given the severe burns
on her body and the screams the boys had heard, I
would have assumed that Miss Wycoff was being
raped, but they make no such assumption. They
simply walk away, and eventually tell everyone in
the small town that she is a promiscuous woman who
prefers dark meat. This, of course, is not the
path for her to make friends and enhance her
reputation in a small Midwestern town in 1954, so
she ends up losing her friends, her apartment, and
her job. She considers suicide, but ends up doing
something even worse - moving to New Jersey.
somebody watching this film in 2015, the
motivations and reactions of the characters are
impossible to understand, and every situation
seems melodramatic beyond the level of
credibility, so that the entire project seems like
a corny made-for-TV film on the Oxygen Network, if
such films could have graphic sex scenes. On the
other hand, perhaps the characterizations
accurately reflected the various attitudes toward
sex and race that people had in 1954. It does seem
to have a Tennessee Williams kind of tone to it
and it was, after all, written by William Inge,
the noteworthy playwright and novelist who, in a
famous play and movie, Picnic, so accurately and
poignantly captured the difference between the
trap of humdrum reality and the baseless optimism
of some Midwestern lives in the 50s.
I don't recommend it.
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