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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though I think Rosemary's Baby is a fantastic film, I wouldn't
really class it as particularly scary. If anything it's more of a dark
comedy. Pregnancy is the joke and giving birth to the child of Satan is
the punch line.
But that's not to say that the film doesn't have its moments. The dreams are certainly creepy. Indeed, the way that Polanski films Satan having sex with Farrow with a bunch old Satanists watching would probably put the willies up most expectant mothers (so to speak). But then again, maybe that's my problem as regards finding the film scary. I'm never going to be giving birth, so I'll never know what it's like to be in that position.
However, the film does do an excellent job of portraying the helplessness of pregnancy and the paranoia that can come about with no longer having control of your own body. Rosemary starts the film as an able woman, a woman who can choose an apartment and make decisions, but once she's pregnant she's ruled by doctors, nosey neighbours and her husband. Suddenly she's passive and suddenly her own importance is downgraded. It's as if she's a mere incubator.
I'm sure that's something a lot of women must feel when they're pregnant. They must feel like conduits. But Rosemary's Baby takes that idea and takes it to extremes.
One of the most amusing things about Rosemary's Baby is its Satanists. Here you have a coven populated mainly by wrinklies and old codgers. Never before have old people been so evil. But then again, are they really that evil? I mean, Rosemary's neighbours provide her with chocolate moose and herb drinks. What's wrong with that? Well, I guess there's a bit of a moral failing when the moose knocks Rosemary out so that Beelzebub can rape her. And I suppose Satan could have at least been a gentleman and date-raped her the old-fashioned way - with a drink and some Rohypnol. But they're mere formalities. And besides, the result would have been the same. But I do like the way that Rosemary doesn't eat all the knockout moose and is partially aware of having sex with the Devil. It adds to the weird helplessness of the scene. The whole thing is like a night terror. Indeed, despite thinking it's real while experiencing it, she puts it down to a dream. After all, it's too crazy to be true, isn't it?
Watching the film again it's fun seeing how the conspiracy works. I mean, when you first watch it, you're not sure whether Rosemary is just going insane. You don't know whether it's mere paranoia. But while the weird chanting through the walls stuck out during the first viewing, when I watched it again I noticed how Rosemary's husband goes off to meet alone with their Satanist neighbours. He's obviously being seduced. Then there's the offhand way that Minnie (one of the neighbours) asks whether Rosemary wants children. It's done in such a light way Minnie herself doesn't even seem interested in the answer that when you first view it, you kind of miss this obsessive interest. But you've also got the herb drink, the doctor, the moose, the way that her husband runs off to tell the neighbours about the pregnancy and the way that one of her friends, an old man who is the only voice of dissent when it comes how the pregnancy is handled, goes into a coma and dies. Rosemary is right to be paranoid. Things are going on behind her back.
And that's part of the film's genius, especially in the way it's directed. Rosemary is the focus of everything. She's in every scene and everything is from her viewpoint. Therefore you can never be sure, when you first watch it, whether it's just a fantasy. And Mia Farrow is a big factor in the film's success. Among some actresses there could be a tendency to overplay things, but she plays it as a woman desperately trying to keep control. Only when things go absolutely insane does she resort to hysterics. Consequently, you like her and you want everything to work out for her. And it's also quite winning the way that she gets her haircut during her pregnancy to try and reaffirm her identity and importance, and the way that she talks to her baby when she starts to seriously loose it. She's a woman pushed to the limit, but she's a woman who fights it admirably.
And that likability works for the ending. When she finally sees her baby and what it is, you wonder what she's going to do and you actually care. And the fact that she doesn't kill it and that she begins to embrace it (by rocking the crib with an almost misty look on her face) makes it rather sad. But when you think about it, it's not too absurd that she'd become a mother to Satan's child. I mean, just look at some kids today. Would this kid really be much worse? And I'm sure that being Satan's concubine must have certain perks. But seriously, how often do you hear, "he's got a face only a mother can love"? And people always speak of 'little devils'. The maternal instinct is strong.
But although the ending is creepy and sad, at the same time I find it funny. Just take the way that all the old fogies start shouting, "Hail Satan!" Or the way that the oriental guy snaps photos. Then there's the woman rocking the crib and fact that the scheming neighbour says that the baby has his father's eyes. There's a lot of dark humour in the film and the ending is where it comes through strongest. But that doesn't mean that the joke is funny for poor Rosemary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Honestly, one cannot ask more from a horror movie. Sans any special
effects, it's all up to the story, acting, and directing to pull it all
off, and they all work perfectly together to appropriate the correct
Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, an aspiring actor, move into a new apartment to start their future off... the apartment is near to where the husband must go to get work, and it's big enough that they may have room for children. Their initial excitement eventually leads to her becoming impregnated, though under suspicious circumstance. Eventually the pregnancy becomes less than welcome as physical pain and continually untrustworthiness of surrounding people start hemming Rosemary in...just as she begins to feel they are plotting against her baby.
Roman Polanski said of the book, "At first I thought it was a soap opera, and then I found myself reading it at four in the morning with my eyes burning." So the directing goes. Mia Farrow's acting is of young innocence that seems rather childish in some parts, but profoundly adult in others: she is a young woman with hopes and dreams and worst of all, fears. Rosemary's concern is never for herself, even as she discovers the plot against her; it's for her child.
Better, the audience is never really sure she's not insane. As the plot thickens away from cheery city life towards claustrophobic fear of entrapment, even as we sympathize with Rosemary her angst, her outward worry is not sympathetic to a world where everyone acts as if all is normal. For all we know, nothing could be wrong at all.
Then we find ourselves at the end, the coup de grace of horror movie design, where she makes a decision that is sure to shock even the most blase of viewers.
The cinematography in this film is amazing. At one point she's looking at a clock and it seems to warp in space and grow further away from her, fitting her insecurity expressionistically perfectly. Simple things like doorways are shown as if there's no mystery behind them at all, yet as they are opened they become foreboding.
For horror fans, there is little better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Already a best-selling book when this film was made, the title has now become a pop-culture touchstone and this is regarded as one of the top psychological thrillers of all time. It all starts off nicely enough as married couple Cassavetes and Farrow move into an old, but richly appointed apartment building in New York. Farrow works overtime to transform it from a dark and old-fashioned place into a bright, sunny place to live...the perfect place to have a baby. When Cassavetes is handed a plum stage role, they decide to concentrate on conceiving a child, with the curious encouragement of their oddball, elderly neighbors Blackmer and Gordon. Still recovering from the apparent suicide of their border, the older couple takes a shine to the younger couple and soon have insinuated themselves into their lives. On the night that Farrow is most fertile and the pair had planned to attempt conception, she passes out and experiences a horrific extended dream in which she is raped by a demonic man as onlookers stare determinedly. Or did it actually happen? She finds herself with child, but her pregnancy is a monumentally difficult one, even with all the added attention and nourishment provided by Gordon and her pricey doctor Bellamy. Soon, Farrow realizes that there is far more at work in her life than just prenatal discomfort, but she has a hard time convincing anyone of it. Director Polanski is an absolute master of mood, tension and general unease. He expertly builds the paranoia in this film to an extraordinary level. Farrow (who, in the early sequences of this film is quite possibly at her highest level of attractiveness and appeal) gives an astonishing performance. Though she wasn't initially the actress Polanski wanted (which was Tuesday Weld), it's hard to picture anyone else in the part (none more so than Patty Duke, who appeared in a dire TV sequel in 1976!) She gives the part everything it needs and more: amiability, freshness, sexuality, warmth and most of all vulnerability. She is transformed from a lovely, happy woman into a wraith-like, ghostly stick-figure. (However, in one minor misstep, the makeup people whitened her face, but left her ears tan!) Cassavetes is strong as well, but perhaps overplays his hand a little. He does a decent enough job, but in some ways he isn't right for the part at all. His aspiring actor character is pushing forty and he is sixteen years Farrow's senior. A younger actor (like first choice Robert Redford) may have aided the mystery of the film a little more. Gordon, of course, steals every scene she's in with her brash, fussy ways and her distinctive voice. She was truly a force unto herself and seems to exist in her own atmosphere. Many familiar veteran actors turn up in supporting roles. In some cases, their previously benign personas are given a sick, darkly comic twist. Grodin is shown in one of his very earliest roles as one of Farrow's doctors. Farrow's female friends at her cocktail party are enacted by a trio of interesting actresses. One was Dr. Bellows' wife on "I Dream of Jeannie", one was confidant and secretary to "The Green Hornet" and the other was a "Hee Haw" honey and Mrs. Kenny Rogers! Made prior to the MTV era in which everything must be spelled out, explained and shown in gory detail, this is a deliberately paced chiller that is far more focused on mood and audience manipulation. By the time Farrow is stuck in a phone booth (with famed producer William Castle making a cameo appearance) and frantically seeking assistance, the audience is desperate for her to find some way out of her predicament. It's top notch in all departments and has been cribbed from countless times since. Farrow, who was undergoing unbelievable pressure and personal trauma at the time due to her crumbling marriage to Frank Sinatra was inexplicably left out of the Oscar race that year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rosemary and Guy are newlyweds who move into a new apartment in an old
building. They meet and befriend the elderly couple next door, the
Castevet's, who are very friendly and make them both feel welcome.
After Guy's acting career suddenly turns around and he lands quite a
big role (due to the original actor going blind suddenly) the couple
decide to try for a baby. They plan the night that they will try on
both Rosemary gets drunk and passes out, dreaming of some weird
rape-like attack. She awakes the next morning to find that Guy had just
been drunk and had had sex with her anyway but she forgives him when
she finds she is pregnant. However with both Guy and the Castevet's
acting strangely it appears that something strange is going on, or is
it just a frustrated Rosemary's over imagination?
Of course, many of us know the answer to this question; even those who have not seen the film will know that things are not just in Rosemary's head, however what makes the film so creepy and enjoyable is the fact that Polanski doesn't seem to want to make his mind up either and plays it right down the middle. As such the simple plot sees lots of ambiguity in the story for much of the story, although we are pretty sure something is going on the director never comes right out and says it, instead he continually suggests it while also pointing to Rosemary's mental instability. It is the confusion in Rosemary that makes this so creepy and engaging she herself goes between disregarding her fears and embracing them and it is very effect in building the tension even if we know what is the truth (or else there wouldn't be a film!). However, even though we know what is coming, the end is still very creepy and I was surprised just how effective it was even on a second viewing.
The story builds a nice conspiracy well and sustains a real creepy atmosphere all the way through to good effect. The performances are also key in pulling off Polanksi's trick. Farrow is suitable unbalanced and we feel her fear and suspicion growing during the film. Her performance is really good and the fact that she manages to balance her own doubt for most of the film is very effective. Cassavetes is also excellent, all at once he is friendly, cheerful, menacing and mysterious; he also plays a big part in creating the sense of doubt that drives the film's tension. Ruth Gordon is a nightmare neighbour and overplays very well even if her character is a bit of a cliché I certainly would not want her for my neighbour, but she is never so creepy that we know for sure, only overbearing in a normal yet weird manner. Likewise Blackmer is effective as the potential head of the coven and is never too obvious to blow the tension. The support cast are all good and echo the performances of Blackmer and Gordon.
Overall this is a great horror thriller. Another review on this site has rightly pointed out that too many modern films in this loose genre will have a vague tension over poor dialogue delivered by a 'teen-friendly' cast and then tonnes of expensive effects. Happily Polanski is smarter than that here and he uses doubt, tension and atmosphere blended with good dialogue and some fine characters to create a film that is never really scary so much as it is just creepy. Even though I know it inside out it is still effective and it doesn't bode well for modern films that rely on effects instead of these qualities.
During the past centuries, the Santanic rituals of the Black mass have been updated so often, it has caused many a coven to rewrite their purpose. Servants of the Black arts are no longer bound by cannon law. Indeed, modern films depict followers with a definite role and their agenda empowers women to believe they are the foundation of man's ultimate fate. Case in point. " Rosemary's Baby " written by Ira Levin in 1967 was adapted for the screen in 1968. The story is of a young couple who move into a New York Apartment called 'the Bramford' a building with a haunting past. There, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse (John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow) are befriended by Mr. and Mrs Castevet,(Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) an elderly couple who take an abiding interest in their new neighbors. Guy is a struggling actor who's stage career instantly improves with their help. Rosemary is interested in having children but suddenly discovers, Mrs. Castevet has invaded her life with intrusive advice and puzzling instructions. Eventually she evolves into a surrogate Mother-in-law. Following a nightmarish rape during a Satanic ritual, Rosemary becomes pregnant. There after the selected mother to be is smothered with attention and begins to doubt whether the attention is directed at anything but her child. Frightening in it's approach, the movie lays the foundation for a terrifying ordeal and the cast which includes Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy and Elisha Cook Jr. does a terrific take on the original novel. Written and directed by Roman Polanski, this film has become a dark Classic and a surprising cult movie. ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roman Polanski's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel follows very closely
to the book (About 95%, I think)and he does a wonderful job in doing
Rosemary (Mia Farrow)and Guy (John Cassavetes)are a young married couple. Guy is a struggling actor, always looking for a good break, but Rosemary is supportive. An apartment opens up at the Bramford (Or known as The Bram) and they decide to take it, even though their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans)tries to talk them out of it. Seems that The Bram has a rather black history in which strange occurrences happened, including a man named Adrian Marcato, who claimed to have conjured up Satan. Of course, being young people, they tend to ignore his advice.
Soon, Rosemary meets her neighbors, The Castevets. Minnie (Ruth Gordon)is incredibly nosy and Roman (Sidney Blackmer)is warm and caring. Guy soon takes a liking to them. Rosemary however finds them to be a bit smothering, especially since a young girl that stayed with them leaped to her death. Then, Guy gets the break that he wants when the actor that beat him for a starring role goes blind. He then tells Rosemary that they should have a baby. Rosemary loves this idea, considering that she always wanted a child.
On "baby night," Rosemary passes out after having dinner (With dessert by Minnie). She then has a nightmarish dream in which her neighbors are chanting and she is being raped by the devil.
From this point on, Rosemary's Baby takes an interesting turn.
Soon after finding out she is pregnant, The Castevet's recommend Dr. Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy). Later, she starts having pains that increase and she is eating raw meat. Her friend Hutch falls into a mysterious coma after looking into info about her helpful neighbors, and Guy seems to not look at her.
She also begins to suspect that her smothering neighbors are a little too interested in her baby. And soon she finds out that her neighbors are witches. Are her fears genuine, or are they caused by what Guy calls "Prepartum Crazies?" All of the performances are stellar, especially Gordon (Who won an Oscar). I guess my only beef with the film involves actually seeing Rosemary's Baby (If you've read the book, then you get a really nice description), but maybe some things are best left to the viewer's vivid imagination.
In an age of over the top visual and sound effects it's a real treat to look back on this one for an example of a horror flick built around great story telling, excellent direction and attention to detail, where implied horror is much more powerful than anything that could be shown on the screen. An expecting mother is one of the most vulnerable states of the human condition already filled with worries, doubts and insecurities and this film plays on that to the hilt. The dream, drugged scenes leading up to the encounter with Satan himself are an excellent depiction of the subconscious mind and this movie itself has a way of slowly seeping into the subconscious and getting under the skin. This one uses the technique of beginning in the most common and pleasant of situations and then slowly descending into a paranoid nightmare as well as it has ever been done. John Cassavetes does one of the best husbands as jerk roles that you'll see. Everyone in the film is excellent in their roles, Ruth Gordon almost steals the show and Mia Farrow's delivery is perfect at conveying her emotional state with the inflections of her voice in the delivery of every line. This is a must see film and well worth a revisit if it's been some time since you've seen it. One of Polanski's very best with a nod of course to the obvious Hitchcock influence.
I had heard a lot about this movie for a long time but I had not had the
chance to see it until recently. And I must say that at first I wasn't that
impressed. For the first 30-40 minutes not a lot of stuff seemed to happen,
but after the truly horrifying rape scene (a great depiction of
"was-it-a-dream or reality") I was bolted to my couch watching the
enchanting Mia Farrow grow more and more into the frenzy of thinking she is
impregnated with the child of Satan himself. I am now convinced that I
should go see this movie again to catch all the details director Roman
Polanski must have put in those first 30-40 minutes.
Like in other movies in Polanski's early work (i.e. Knife In The Water) this was so well-paced that as a watcher you are lured into this false sense of security just like Rosemary is, but underneath horrible things are happening to her that are unspeakable.
Another thing about this film was the feel to it. I was convinced that this movie was made in 1978 or something but later on I checked my Maltin guide and read that it was actually from 1968! How's that for a surprise. This looks and feels like a seventies film but it's not!
The role of Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castavet was played to perfection to once again give the audience that feeling that such nice neighbours would not be capable of doing something so horrible and give us the dilemma in which we are driven to thinking that it is Rosemary who is dillusional and is making all this up. A deserved Oscar for this lady.
Sheer brilliance, a definite must have on DVD.
(There are Spoilers) One of the best horror movies ever made with
almost no blood or splatters scenes at all with the exception of Terry,
Victoria Vetri, jumping, off camera, to her death form the seventh
floor of the Bramford Building. "Rosemary' Baby" has to do with the
most darkest fears one can conjure up in a movie book as well as in
one's own mind; The return of Satan-the Devil-on earth and everything
that goes along with him.
It's early October 1965 and the Pope, Pope Paul VI, has made a historical visit to the US and is in the process of giving a sermon, to some 60,000 people, at New York's Yankee Stadium. It's also the time designated by a coven of Devil worshiping witches for the Devil's offspring, to be named Adrian, to be conceived by the unsuspecting and Catholic observant Rosemary Woodhouse, Mia Farrow.
Since Rosemary and her actor husband Guy, John Cassavetes, moved into the creepy Bramford Building they've become very friendly with the elderly couple who lives next door to their apartment Roman and Minnie Castevet, Sidney Blackman & Ruth Roman. Even though Rosemary is not that taken in by the Castevets eccentric and somewhat wired behaviors her husband Guy is. Guy a struggling actor was desperately trying to get a part in a play that the far more talented Donald Baumgart, Tony Curtis, got. After Guy's involvement with the Castevets Baumgart suddenly lost his sight opening the door for another actor to replace him: Guy Woodhouse!
The movie starts to grow and accelerate, together with Rosemary's pregnancy, in both tension as well as curiosity as she becomes very frail and sickly as the day of the "blessed event", June 28, 1966, is soon to arrive. Feeling that something just isn't right Rosmary has been haunted since her night of conception, October 5/6 1965, it that she feels that it's wasn't Guy who fathered her now soon to be born child but the Devil or Satan,played by Clay Tanner, himself!
Despite the movie's many subplots, all centered around Rosemary's pregnancy and birth to her child, the film is never confusing in that they, the subplots, all come together in the film's final and shocking ten or so minutes! The Woodhouse's at first had no idea to what evil existed right at their front doorsteps! Soon they would become in their associations with the Castevets the very central, and rotten, core of it!
It was family friend Edward "Hutch" Hutchins, Maurice Evens, who knew not only the history of the eerie Bramford Building but that of one of its infamous tenants Steven Marcato. It was also that knowledge that lead to Hutch falling into a deep coma that he never came out of!
****SPOILER ALERT**** It was Marcato who was killed by an angry New York mob some 80 years ago for secretly practicing witchcraft! It was also Marcato who had a son who had since changed, or rearranged, his name and became a man of the world as well as, in his many travels, secretly gotten himself involved with the occult like his father did! That person is non other then the Woodhouse's kindly and harmless looking next door neighbor Roman Castevet himself!
Making a pact with the Devil has its price and the price that Guy Woodhouse paid for bringing him, in Guy allowing Satan to rape his wife Rosemary, out of the depths of Hell and into the unsuspecting world above was more that it was worth. Guy's career in both TV and the movies, as well as the theater, took off like a shot but in reality he ended up damned for all eternity. As for poor Rosemany in the end after seeing what her new born son really looked like, and what he represented, it was both her goodness, in Rosemary's Christian beliefs, and maternal instincts that eventually overrode her horror and revulsion in what she was forced, by her husband Guy and the Castevets, to unknowingly participate in. As the movie ends Rosemary is heard humming the lullaby theme of the movie as she's gently and tenderly rocking the "cute" little Devil, her son Adrian, to sleep!
People seem to approach this as being a horror movie. Well, I guess
it's not. And certainly not in days where the genre has been fully
occupied by more or less brain dead slasher flicks.
So to be perfectly clear, this movie is more or less typical Polanski style apartment suspense stuff, with the usual, well balanced mixture of paranoia and sarcasm. And as such it's outstandingly playful, entertaining and well crafted.
Most notable of course are the character portrayals, and those many special moments one immediately realizes were created not to drive the story, further the potential success of the movie or the fame of anybody involved, but to plainly create atmosphere and entertain us.
Just take the suicide sequence, the outfits in which Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer come strolling down the street and the following dialog about cleaning windows at night, all in face of a dead body. If I ever saw sarcasm working on screen, I'd say it was here.
And the shot of Gordon holding her spectacles up to further inspect that young women who might know more about the relations of the deceased than herself - this potentially being a threat of course. Clearly, this stuff borders on being cartoonish, but Polanski - and Gordon - truly walk the line here.
Also a favorite of mine, their first dinner and Farrow's looking back into the dining room while helping out in the kitchen - all just quiescence, only the tobacco smoke hinting at people sitting around the corner and maybe talking about what? Ample space for our fantasy to fill in, deliberately given to us.
Gordon's performance here as house invading, chit chatting ever inquisitive elderly lady is a blast anyway. To me, one of the most memorable captured on screen, ever. Very much notable also Cassavetes, extending the evasiveness of his character to almost avoiding the camera. Rarely seen amongst actors I'd say, and giving a nice opaqueness to his performance.
I could go on of course, likely for hours and without even mentioning classics like the phone booth sequence. To me, this, Chinatown and Le Locataire comprise Polanski's classic period, and are ample evidence of what a really exceptional Hollywood studio director he was and could further have been - if he hadn't blown it himself. Very regrettable, really.
Highly recommended, to the true film fan.
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