Good Luck, Miss Wycoff


by Greg Wroblewski, aka Uncle Scoopy, aka Johnny Web

This 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.

It's 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.

"But I'm only 35," she retorts.

"Yeah, that's why they use the word 'premature,'" he answers bluntly.

The 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."

The 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.

Her 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 in girls.

55 minutes of the film have now passed and things are looking bad for her.

But they get worse. 

The film takes a sudden shift in tone and we now come to the part that qualified the uncut version for a possible X rating.

She 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 black man. 

The 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. 

To 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.


But I don't recommend it.



The rape and humiliation scenes in this movie are brutal and nearly impossible to watch without flinching, especially when the teacher gets thrust into the radiator.

There is full frontal and rear nudity from Anne Heywood as Miss Wycoff, although the rear exposure is very brief.

On the male side, super hunk John Lafayette, with a six pack that seems to have been sculpted, shows the full monty as her rapist.

The Critics Vote ...

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Perfectly dreadful. Polly Platt's script and Marvin Chomsky's direction compound each other disastrously. Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff 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." Full review.

TV Guide was equally scornful: "A normally fine cast is utterly wasted in this pile of racist garbage, which is only further marred by Chomsky's grotesque television style. Not surprisingly, the film never found a distributor, was peddled by the producers, and ended up being known as THE SIN in order to reach a less discriminating market."

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D, a clumsy movie which seems false and it interesting only as a curio of a different era of filmmaking within a society with different attitudes.

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