ANNE HEYWOOD.....Evelyn Wyckoff
DONALD PLEASENCE.....Dr. Steiner
ROBERT VAUGHN.....Dr. Neal
JOHN LAFAYETTE.....Rafe Collins
Directed by MARVIN CHOMSKY
Written by POLLY PLATT
Produced by RAYMOND STROSS
REVIEW BY KEVIN THOMAS
About two-thirds through the perfectly dreadful Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff, adapted from a William Inge novel, an attractive but virginal 35-year-old spinster high school Latin teacher (Anne Heywood) in the small town of Freedom, Kan., in 1954 is raped by a muscular young black custodian (John Lafayette)---and becomes his submissive lover in a relationship heavy with sadomasochistic overtones. Inge was ever the poet of the desperately lonely and the cruelly oppressed victims of small-town hypocrisy, but the way this entire episode is presented is enough to set back women's liberation and its antirape campaign---not to mention race relations---about a century.
Up to the rape sequence the film ploddingly depicts the sex-starved teacher's attempts to come to terms with her longings, via a Wichita psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence), then abruptly stages the rape and subsequent love scenes with an explicitness and kinkiness just this side of an X rating. The effect is sensational and exploitative, to say the least. And when the film resumes its flat tone and trite dialogue, it becomes laughably ludicrous.
In their literalness, Polly Platt's script and Marvin Chomsky's direction compound each other disastrously. Heywood, who's also presented as a civil liberties heroine in this dark McCarthy era, always has been an earnest rather than inspired actress, and she comes across as a foolish type with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of platitudes. Lafayette has presence, but is not much of an actor.
Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (MPAA-rated: R) expresses familiar truths about the painful conflict of the individual and society---but with a persistent sense of falseness and an utter lack of style.