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A truly magnificent shocker which does not require blood or bullets to make your spine tingle. The old dark Gothic building with its rickety lift and heavy furnishings only lends to the atmosphere but conversely, evil can also be sensed in the most banal of places, eg Rosemary's lemony coloured kitchen and freshly painted nursery. Cassavetes' Faustian Guy with his cynical wisecracking leaves you uneasy and Ruth Gordon is superb as the colourful, eccentric, annoying old neighbour. ("Buzz me when you get back" -Would you really want a neighbour who makes you account for your movements?)The various middle aged women who float in and out of the scenario seem like certain harpy teachers from my convent school in the sixties(maybe there were certain things I didn't know then!)You really feel for Rosemary and her increasing fear and isolation as small events and signs take on fresh significance -or is she just a lonely, slightly neurotic young bride who needs more chicknights with les girls? The lullaby, hummed so sweetly by Mia Farrow at the start and end, seems to convey the film's image -haunting, sorrowful and ultimately helpless. If this film reached under your skin, the tune will haunt you forever.
Anyone else play with the name "Ira Levin" and come up with "Evil
"Rosemarie's Baby" is so clever and audacious a film, it makes you want to come up with your own twists on its tightly-knotted storyline, a tale of a young woman named Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) who finds her idyllic Manhattan lifestyle shaken by a series of strange goings-on, not least of which involves her expected baby. Director Roman Polanski channels the best of Hitchcock and French New Wave cinema to come up with a new, ever-so-perverse, retelling of the Greatest Story Ever Told.
That Rosemarie's baby has something to do with Evil Incarnate is what everyone knows about this film going in. But as so many reviewers here note quite well, the film is not your conventional horror flick, but something quite different, that uses atmosphere and mood to weave an eerie spell to stay with you long after the film is over.
Seeing the film once is enough, but seeing it again really brings out the humor and pathos in this strange tale. Lines like the one Rosemarie says to her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), when she feels her baby kicking and notices he's shy about putting his hand on her belly: "Don't be scared, it won't bite." Or the strange girl Rosemary meets in the laundry room of the "Black Bram," full of gratitude to the couple that took her in. "Real grandparents," the girl calls them. "They picked me up off the sidewalk." The sidewalk is where she ends up, though, a few minutes later, one of the first signs something's wrong.
Minutely faithful to Ira Levin's novel, Polanski nevertheless frames his film in such an imaginative way as to make it feel alive, and thus more chilling as it goes on, with its attention to Upper East Side decor, summer dresses that resemble paisley sofa covers, and of course the baroque architecture of the Bramford, i.e. the real-life Dakota apartments, whose own unhappy history give this film a guilty kick.
That's too bad, because the film would stand up as well without any tragic real-life subtext. Farrow's performance (shades of Jean Seberg) is an amazing display of an actress in complete control as her character spins farther out of it. Though she was deprived of so much as an Oscar nomination (at least the Golden Globes weren't as asleep at the wheel), Ruth Gordon did win an Oscar playing a neighbor whose amiable kookiness conceals nasty depth, the best of a supporting cast that doesn't miss a trick, whether it be Ralph Bellamy as an unorthodox obstetrician or Elisha Cook as a fey doorman.
The only performance many have caveats about is Cassavetes. Would not Robert Redford had worked better in the role of the struggling, amoral actor? Yet I find myself liking Cassavetes better the more I watch this film, his guilty laughter as he urges Rosemary to finish her chocolate "mouse" and wear her smelly charm. He really nails a deeper sense of evil on offer, with his callous comments to Rosemary and his nasty way with a joke, at peace with a world that can ask, on the cover of Time magazine: "Is God Dead?" Existential dread is at the heart of this film, and Guy presents a post-Christian figure that Cassavetes nails down from beginning to end.
Polanski and Farrow give the best work. He frames every shot with the kind of depth and focus that reminds you of Hitchcock at his peak, while she, eerily resembling Twiggy, sets a standard for '60s glamour and acting prowess that makes you wonder how she failed to find worthy projects in the next decade. It wasn't really until the 1980s, as Woody Allen's muse, that she had the opportunity to develop a real body of work. It's like this film had some kind of curse on it.
Of course, talking about curses and "Rosemary's Baby" makes you realize Mia got off rather lightly in comparison. My random music machine just played selections from John Lennon and Frank Sinatra in tandem, and now I really have the creeps. So will you, when you give this a chance. Creepiness is a harder trick to pull off in movies than raw shock, and here is a film that sets a standard few, if any, have come close to matching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie was pretty good. The tone and mood is set soon as the credits
start with an eery lullaby. It starts off farely normal Guy and
Rosemary Woodhouse are looking for a new place and find it. The
residents seem like nice elderly people. It is after the rape by Satan
nightmare however that things begin to get chilling. Rosemary switches
doctor by recommendation by her elderly neighbors (who have befriended
her husband more then her) She begins to experience complications such
as pain, and nautiosness. Her friend Hutch realises something is amiss
right off the bat and points it out to her. That friend goes into acoma
the next day and dies later on. However it is because of this friend
that Rosemary unravels the plot set against her. She is ultimately
betrayed by those she trust. It's at this point that Farrow shines
beyond all belief.
All in all the movie is chilling mainly because of the performance by Farrow. I am not so sure it lived up to the hype but reguardless it was worth the two hours.
Rosemary's Baby is one of the most controversial films of our time. I can't stop thinking about how sweet and nice Ruth Gordon was in her Academy award winning role. I loved her as Minnie even though she proved that even appearances can be truly deceiving. Who would ever thought that you lived next door to Satanists in New YOrk City. I felt sorry for Mia Farrow's character, Rosemary, but she does give the performance of her career. The haircut by Vidal Sassoon has been etched in my memory since I saw it on television. THe conception of her baby was hard to swallow and not for the squeamish like myself. John Cassavetes also gives a memorable, unforgettable performance as her husband willing to sell his wife out for a successful acting career. You never really like the character because of his immoral actions. As Rosemary comes closer to the truth, we are equally horrified by her discovery of her husband's new allegiance and the satanists who look so ordinary like Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith Show. You never see them as anything but ordinary and that proves that the nicest, kindest neighbors can fool you. Ruth Gordon's performance as Minnie is well chilling. I won't give away the ending but I bet everybody knows it. A Satanist was consulted on the film and he was connected to Charles Manson whose gang murdered the director's wife. It's more horrifying than the film itself. While I get goosebumps about this story, it won't just leave you. You will always wondered what happened to that baby. Polanski who survived the holocaust as a child always knows how to remind you that people even the sweetest looking people in the world can be evil too.
For its genre, and really, for any genre, this film is a perfect film. Why is it so perfect? In my humble opinion, it is all in the absolutely superb storytelling. All of the dialog that slowly ensues throughout the movie offers the audience little clues bit by bit, unbeknownst to us, however. Unless you believe Rosemary from the outset at the point at which she begins to suspect what's happening to her, you really need to wait until the end of the film to see what was in store all along. And once you're at the end of the film, if you take a moment and think back of all the dialog served up by all the principles and key supporting players throughout the film...the Castevets ("my work takes me all over the world"), Hutch, Dr. Saperstein, Dr. Hill ("I need to take a blood sample from you...uhhh, a blood test"), and the sudden professional luck of Guy Woodhouse, it all becomes eerily plausible, and a perfectly (and sick, of course) planned scenario. I never read the book, but, I wonder if there are even more characters in on the whole plot. At any rate, this film presents a masterpiece of suspenseful and perfectly metered storytelling, and for this reason, I call it a perfect film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Rosemary's Baby" rules. One of Ira Levin's best stories makes an
effortless translation to the big screen thanks to a script that sticks
very close to the source, a stellar cast, and the craft of Roman
The weird thing about "Rosemary's Baby" is that it's generally considered to be a horror movie, and yet there is very little of the supernatural in it. Sure it involves a coven of witches who conspire to impregnate Rosemary with child of the devil himself, but aside from one hallucinatory scene where the devil may actually manifest, "Rosemary's Baby" is really a conspiracy film. The horror is not in the fact that Rosemary is going to give birth to the Devil's child; we already know this going into the film. What's scary about it is how Rosemary is completely unaware that something terrible has happened to her, and that her husband has sold her out. Even after she begins to catch on that something weird is happening, she doesn't realize how bad it really is. It's not that the witches want her baby, it's that they already *have* her baby. The baby's father is, literally, Satan.
It's compelling to see the way Rosemary is deceived throughout the film. One of the most chilling scenes is when Rosemary finds someone she thinks she can confide in and then finds that they, too, have turned her over to the people that intend to exploit her. It's as if, in all of New York, she can't find a single person who isn't in on it. The ones that aren't in on it...die.
Mia Farrow is the best thing about this movie, although everyone else is good, too. Farrow looks so delicate and vulnerable that you can't help but want to shield her somehow from what's going on. Watch the way the film portrays the coven, too. They're sinister, but other than their wicked intentions and the fact that they worship Satan, they're only a bunch of daffy old people.
I find that many people are put off by their own expectations of the film. They go into it as if they're going to see a devil baby in it, which is simply a footnote in the film. By the time Rosemary sees the result of her unholy pregnancy, the horror has already happened to her. She doesn't realize she's been a victim until it's all over.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are spoilers in this review.
Rosemary's Baby sits on the cusp of changing Hollywood filmmaking; abandoning the corny westerns and drawing-room banter of 1950s films that basically mimic stage performances, it explodes into the 1960s like some crazy psychedelic dream. The Miracle Worker, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke: the 1960s were a movie renaissance for the American public. It must have been a very exciting time if you were a moviegoer, and Rosemary's Baby belongs in the same vein of exciting films.
Where do I begin? The fundamental strength of this film is its believability, and it accomplishes it with flow. This film effortlessly captures the natural flow between man and wife, in a way that no film prior to it ever did. Cassavettes's smoldering expression and smoky observations as Guy play so easily against Farrow's waifish, wide-eyed Rosemary that it's easy to imagine they might have been married in real life. It is so easy to see these people as real characters, because we are given their strengths and faults, we see them quarrelling and kissing, just like real life. It is this strength of reality that pulls along the rest of the film; when things turn unreal, that's when the real terror begins. Polanski brilliantly takes this sense of unreality to the limit.
Polanski's genius lies in taking Hollywood cliches and putting a contemporary spin on them: witches no longer wear long black clothes and pointy hats, they are an annoying old woman and a pie-faced old man living in a run-down gothic apartment building in New York. The creepy Dakota apartment building is the iconic haunted house of everyone's collective subconscious, brought into contemporary 1960s city living. The building is at first serene but becomes more sinister as the film progresses. Guy and Rosemary renovate their new flat, brightening it with gallons of white paint and pre-Martha Stewart white linens, but like MS herself, there is something odd lingering underneath the surface.
Ruth Gordon steals the movie. She nails the part of Minnie Castevet with such self-assured manic demeanor that it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role. She gleefully destroys the cliche of the Halloween-style Margaret Hamilton witch, and instead gives us a witch who looks like a train wreck. Dressed like a clown with too much makeup, forcing her nutrition drinks down Rosemary's throat, barging into Rosemary's apartment, displaying terrible table manners, and doing her best to meddle in every detail of Rosemary's life, she is at once annoying and fascinating; who would ever think a witch could actually be irritating?
By the end of the film, Cassavettes's ambitious actor Guy Woodhouse is a pathetic, soulless automaton, clearly the film's villain for selling his wife's body to the witches in order to advance his career. His deception is laid bare for all the world to see, and made all the more abject with his inability to see anything wrong with the unholy agreement. I wonder how many other actors would do the same thing.
There is more fear in the unknown than in the known; special effects can only do so much to capture the fear that we all share, but Rosemary's Baby, much like the Exorcist and the Blair Witch Project, uses huge doses of suggestion rather than relying solely on special effects. The truly frightening things are left to the imagination, for instance when Rosemary looks at the baby and shrieks `What have you done to his eyes?', we don't need to see them, we know they're frightening because of her reaction.
After watching this film, it's easy to see where The Exorcist gained most of its inspiration, although Rosemary's European director gives us an ending that is perfectly chilling and uncompromisingly pessimistic, while the Exorcist continues as though nothing ever happened.
This is a must-see film.
There are lots and lots of films on that list, but somehow this masterpiece of modern cinema, that has influenced more than any film on its genre, has not even scratched the surface of it. Why is this? How unfair! I wonder...
Poor young Rosemary! She doesn't have an opinion she can really call her own; lives through the impending success of her stage-actor husband, Guy Woodhouse, fills her empty days alone in their new, creepy "Standard Eight" apartment, picking shelf paper, designing the nursery (is there any other color on the primary wheel than yellow, egads!); and, ultimately, is seemingly betrayed by the whole of Manhattan. Ok, I've already given you more than an appetizer, if you're the last person on Earth that hasn't seen it or read Ira Levin's book on which this Polanski chiller is based. It is the first "Serious Horror" film, and set the precedent for subsequent films and novels on Urban Paranoia, borderline Cultisms, and whatever else shamelessly borrows from this, Levin's Opus Magnum. Don't expect to see much blood or post natal puppets; This film's not about that, so grow up. "Rosemary's Baby" is about our reactions to horror, and not the horrors themselves. Jot this down and, should you ever enter the Bramford Apartment Building, make sure you make those corridor turns wide... you might finally get a clear glimpse of the eponymous gargoyle.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Obligatory SPOILER WARNING
What would you do if you woke up not long after believing you're child had died at birth, only to find a group of mean old witches sitting around a baby cradle chanting "All hail Adrian, son of the devil"? Well, that's a predicament that Rosemary Woodhouse has to face at the end of this movie.
Rosemary's Baby is a true classic of the horror/chiller genre, I think it's a film that's going to appeal more to women or men with children, because it taps into the fears and anxieties of childbirth. The ending of the film is a metaphor, because Adrian is the son of the Devil, it becomes a play on deformity, and Rosemary has to come to the conclusion weather or not she can still love him unconditionally.
This is timeless stuff here, and people who say it isn't scary obviously should go and rent a cheap slasher movie or something along the lines of Friday the 13th, this is chilling psychological horror at it's most subtle. Polanski's direction goes in for that sixties feel, lots of colour and no-nonsense angles, it does make the film seem a little dated, but it also gives a very creepy atmosphere to the apartment (a la Repulsion).
The performances are also good, the main standouts being Farrow as the innocent Rosemary, and Cassavetes is good as the scheming Guy, but all acting plaudits would go to the excellent Ruth Gordon (remember her from Harold & Maude) as the Woodhouse's nosey neighbour. This is serious and intelligent horror from one of cinemas sadly forgotten directors that I would recommend to anyone.
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