Movie Name: Rosemary’s Baby
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date(s): June 12, 1968
MPAA Rating: R
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) should be having the time of her life. She’s pregnant, her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) is finding success in his acting, and they have a brand new apartment. Rosemary knows something wrong. The invasive old neighbors who live next door Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) have strange parties with odd music, and Rosemary can hear chanting. Visions of a strange ceremony and nail marks on her back preceded the pregnancy but Rosemary is told that she is imagining things. Plus, why when she should be getting healthier is she feeling weaker and how can recent deaths be explained? Rosemary is about to find the truth about her baby and the plans for it.
Directed by Roman Polanski (who also adapted the screenplay), Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological horror film based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin. The film was released to critical acclaim and Ruth Gordon received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress with another nomination for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Roman Polanski’s script. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film Gallery by the Library of Congress in 2014 and also received a remastered Criterion edition (Criterion #630).
Rosemary’s Baby is one of those movies that you can’t look away from. Though aspects of it border on the absurd, the movie creates an atmosphere that keeps ratcheting up the horror. The final scene is both horrific and funny…something that is not easy to pull off. Rosemary’s Baby is a classic.
The story does a good job balancing this humor and horror while at the same time being an extremely smart psychological thriller. Rosemary is in a no-win situation. The audience knows that the baby was spawned by Satan, and Rosemary suspects it, but there is nothing she can do. While she believes it is going to be a sacrifice, she must protect it. The joke is that by saving the baby, she can bring about the apocalypse. Satan worshippers want her to save the baby…they are not trying to kill it as she believes.
Mia Farrow is perfect as the waifish Rosemary. Her naturally slender figure combines with smart make-up to make her gaunt appearance during the pregnancy shocking, but she also carries a nice soft motherly touch to the role. The supporting cast is also strong from her dismissive husband played by John Cassavetes to the harpy neighbors from Hell (somewhat literally) played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. Maurice Evans plays the voice of reason as Hutch and Ralph Bellamy plays the esteemed Dr. Sapirstein who has his own secrets.
Visually the movie is also strong. From the drug induced Satan rape scene to scenes involving the Scrabble pieces, Polanski shows his skill as a director. The movie has a sense of urgency that never lets up and Polanski manages to keep it going through the visuals. The whole tone of the movie revolves around the last scenes…and Polanski nails it with Farrow’s famous moaning about her baby’s eyes.
Rosemary’s Baby was at the start of the Satanic Panic which popped up in cinema. Followed by big screen movies, The Exorcist and The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby kind of set the tone for the whole “can a child be evil” period of the cinema. The movie in general is a “what would you do” type of story that does not really have an answer. Rosemary’s Baby was followed by a TV sequel Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby in 1976 with Patty Duke taking over for Mia Farrow and a TV remake with Zoe Saldana in 2014.