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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was 1968. Director Roman Polanski made his American debut in cinema
with this film which would turn out to be his best and the most
frightening horror movie ever made. For Polanski, cynicism and a bleak
world view became a trademark. He had lost his parents in the horrors
of World War II concentration camps. His wife Sharon Tate, pregnant in
the summer of 1969 (exactly a year after this movie's release) was
brutally killed by the crazed Charles Manson cult. Prior to Rosemary's
Baby, Polanski had tackled horror films with "Repulsion" starring
Catherine Deneuve and the slightly more comedic "Fearless Vampire
Killers". So what makes Rosemary's Baby so frightening ? If you're a
Christian/Catholic the credibility of this film is extremely
disturbing, even blasphemous. The theme of the film is that evil wins
over good, that Satan triumphs with the birth of his Son, and that God
is dead. "Is God Dead ?" reads a headline in Time Magazine which
Rosemary picks up while waiting at the doctor's office. In the late
60's, with the Vietnam war beginning to rage, and with the outbreak of
violence and racial riots of the Civil Rights Movement and trouble at
home and abroad, (at home women were rebelling and becoming
independent, the pill was out, abortion was rampant) this film seems to
be a symbolic/horror manifestation of the time period. Nowadays, it
seems tame, and sure enough horror films influenced by this one would
emerge in the 70's- The Exorcist and The Omen Series.
This film put Mia Farrow on the map. As Rosemary, the heroine in Ira Levin's novel, she is vulnerable, headstrong and ultimately tragic. It is her maternal instincts that win out in the end. Rather than killing Satan's baby, she opts to "mother" it and let it live. This is in an ironic twist a way of saying women should always be the "mother" even in the worst case scenario. Remember Rosemary believes, even at the end, that her child is not that bad, that it has a human side and that it could be "saved". She rebels against her husband, cuts her hair very short, and wants to get her own doctor. Rosemary represents the modern woman of the late 60's, looking hopeful toward the future. The past, with its mystery, evil ignorance and darkness, is represented by the ambiguous characters of the next door neighbors Roman and Minnie (Ruth Gordon). Are they well-meaning neighbors or are they really Satanic worshipers ? So many nightmarish, surreal elements make us believe it's all some kind of drug-induced hallucination. Rosemary's dream, in which she is aboard a ship with the Presidential couple J.F.K. and Jackie, where a monstrous Devil appears to rape and impregnate her, is so frightening, so confusing, we don't know what's what. What exactly happened to Rosemary ? We could analyze the film for hours. The idea that this could be real is what makes this film, which is otherwise slow-paced, mannered, so frightening. Its horror lies in its psychology and philosophy. John Cassevetes is doing a terrific job as the selfish, materialistic and greedy actor who makes a deal with the Devil. Poor Rosemary. We believe her. We know she is trapped in the evil cult. It is the despair, the futility of escape that makes us most frightened and uneasy. For Polanski, this movie was his emergence into mainstream, American cinema, while at the same time an expression of his own torment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A blockbuster of a movie that still holds tremendous power today,
ROSEMARY'S BABY is, along with THE EXORCIST, one of the most compelling
and memorable horror films in movie history. Roman Polanski's subtle
direction and the naturalistic performances are enough alone to
recommend this scary ride.
The plot concerns a young, naive woman (Mia Farrow, in her signature and best early performance) and her ambitious, struggling actor husband (the late John Cassevettes, ruthlessly brilliant) who rent an apartment in a Victorian building in good old New York, New York. It begins on a somewhat light note, but if you go back and look at it again, you will notice small hints that Polanski dropped. Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse become friendly with seemingly well-meaning but nosy elderly neighbors(the priceless Ruth Gordon and the courtly Sidney Blackmer). Rosemary has a violent nightmare in which she is ravished by a horned creature, on the same night (gasp) she and Guy planned to start trying to conceive a baby (coincidence? I think not). Her pregnancy does not seem to be progressing normally, and her close friends become concerned. Around this time, her husband seems to be getting his big break, and increasingly becomes less sensitive to her feelings and needs. Anyone who appears to be really worried about her or who is in Guy's way of success, becomes beset by mysterious ailments and injuries, even death. She does some detective work and learns more about her strange neighbors and her husband than she cares to know. As she attempts to escape, hoping to deliver and protect her baby, it is apparent that she can't trust anyone, not even the "dream boy" doctor. She learns a horrible, incomprehensible truth: she is to bear Satan's child!!!!!!
Producer Robert Evans called this picture, "a horror movie that has no horror in it, and it still scares the hell out of you." Truer words were never spoken. The performances are all right on target. But several unnerving and disturbing coincidences and events have made viewing the film somewhat uneasy. The now infamous Dakota apartment building (referred to as "The Black Bramford" in the film), is where former Beatle and musician John Lennon was gunned down and killed by a deranged fan. Anton Le Vey, the High Priest Of The Church Of Satan, was reputed to have played Old Scratch in the famous dream sequence, when in actuality it is Cassevettes' face the viewer sees in the close-up shot. It still is extremely creepy, as one of Le Vey's congregation members was Susan Atkins, who assisted murdering Polanski's pregnant wife, the beautiful actress Sharon Tate, in 1969 (she supposedly can be spotted briefly during a party scene in Rosemary's apartment, but I have yet to have catch a glimpse of her). The phone voice of Donald Bomgart, the actor who went blind after winning a role that Guy had auditioned for, was Tony Curtis, who worked with Sharon Tate in the 1967 film "Don't Make Waves" and who was a client of Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring, who was also murdered that night in 1969.
The DVD release has only improved the movie, and the featurettes are very revealing. It's also a treat to see so many veteran Hollywood actors (Gordon, Ralph Bellamy,Maurice Evans, Elisha Cooke Jr., Patsy Kelly, Phillip Leeds and Hope Summer) in such great roles. Charles Grodin is excellent in an early role as the cold Dr. Hill. As a Catholic, this movie struck a very responsive chord in me. Without a doubt, one of Polanski's best! Don't pass it up, but don't forget to pray for Rosemary's little Andy or Jenny!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this film disturbingly scary on a level I'd compare to "The
Exorcist." It won't affect everyone the same way--I've yet to see a decent
horror film that didn't terrify one viewer and humorously amuse another with
indifference. But this one should affect anyone with an active imagination.
Imagination is what makes this film so disturbing. I know it is a cliche to say that "less is more," and that scenes of horror that are "implied" are more successful than those that show it explicitly. But "Rosemary's Baby" does more than that--it almost displays everything that is happening in front of us in a banal way, so that we accept it at face value, without shock, until it is too late.
The story starts out rather happily, and non-threatening. A young, attractive couple is searching for an apartment in New York City. They meet an old, eccentric couple living in the apartment above them who seem rather intrusive and annoying, but we accept these characteristics as the affects of aging and loneliness. A series of strange events occur, some of them involving deaths. But we are not frightened by any of them yet. They accelerate rapidly until the now pregnant Rosemary is obviously in great danger, and so is her unborn baby. There is a conspiracy against her, but it still is not clear exactly who is involved, who she can trust, and who is leading it. The answers are right in front of us the whole time, with a final twist that is as disturbing as those from the "great shockers" of recent films, including "The Sixth Sense," "Fight Club," and "The Others," yet it is not as abrupt. This is because the story builds to the climax without really hiding much, for the film uses our assumptions against us. The elderly couple CAN'T be poisoning Rosemary could they? Rosemary's husband HAS to be the one person she can rely on, right? Rosemary's nightmare that seemed "so real" was just a nightmare, wasn't it?
The vague glimpses of Satan himself fornicating with the heroine are not evident to us until much later. When we see a group of elderly, seemingly innocuous nude people gathering around and commenting on what is happening, we at first refuse to take it at face value. After all, it is not just these weird people we see, Rosemary's husband is there (John Cassavettes, "Franco," from "The Dirty Dozen.") Cassavettes actually turns out to be, in my opinion, the most evil character here--so self-serving that he actually sells his wife's womb just to further his career.
The final scene is somewhat campy, but isn't any less frightening. It is also interesting to see that the people involved in this cult of witches ("All of them Witches") are really, at heart, "normal" elderly people, who knit, tell lots of boring stories, enjoy having visitors out of loneliness, etc.--they just worship Satan!
In general, I think this film is definitely worth seeing. How one will react to it is a different story. I found the grainy film, toned-down special effects (the snake-eyes were very effective), the leisurely pace, and the old-fashioned style of directing by Roman Polansky to be the key factors in the success of this film as a horror movie, or "thriller." All of these elements make us think and force us to use our imagination, and then shudder with revulsion, and the end result seems very real. If you agree on the success of these elements, watch the film, but be cautious, after all, I again admit that at 28, I had nightmares after seeing it... Grade: A.
Rosemary's Baby was a shocker in 1968 when it was released. Recently
screening the film with my wife, I see it still can impart a huge
psychological impact today.
My wife did not find it particularly frightening. It is true, there are no CG demons flying around cutting people's heads off ala End of Days. It's from an age of film when people actually watched and thought about what was on the screen instead of just being wowed by eye-candy. As such, it calls upon the viewer to be drawn into Rosemary's plight and paranoia. And at this, it still succeeds.
I was struck by the fact that, even though there are some telltale signs of it's age (guys readily smoke around the pregnant Rosemary while handing her drinks, etc.), the film holds up so well and appears even today to be remarkably contemporary. The characters, so well acted, are timeless types of horror: The nosey old lady (Ruth Gordon) who eventually grows on you and, even after you find out what she's all about, you can't help but find her funny; the benign grandfatherly figure (Sidney Blackmer) and the trusted doctor (Ralph Bellemy) who surely wouldn't harm a fly; and the innocent Rosemary who becomes victim to a justified paranoia. At the end, my wife asked whether the second doctor (Charles Grodin) was "in" on the plot. That's the whole point in a nutshell... you never know.
Rosemary's Baby was a daring precursor to many films to follow including the Omen and The Exorcist. While those films use gallons of pea soup and shocking special effects, neither works so hard on your mind as this one. Unlike so many of it's contemporaries, Rosemary's Baby has aged well and can still chill! 8 out 10
One of Roman Polanski's best (along with Cul-de-Sac and Repulsion) that is
truly a contemporary horror classic. Mia Farrow should have won an Oscar
(she wasn't even nominated) for her role as a loving bride, trusting soul,
and baby-protector. Cassavetes is great as the sly and ambitious husband,
Ruth Gordon is perfection as the nosy neighbor who babbles about everything,
and Elisha Cook, Jr. has a nice bit near the beginning. The music is
creepy. This is very much a women's-lib film of the best kind and Polanski
seemed to really have a grip on things as he often does.
A 9 out of 10; Best performance = Mia Farrow. Filmed at the Dakota on the Upper West side of Manhattan, this film should make you consider birth control if you're considering parenthood. Brilliant stuff!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always been a horror movie fan. I enjoy horror movies for their
imaginative takes on the darker aspects of reality, the sh*t that
everyone knows but never talks about like places where tragic events
have happened inviting bad spirits, death, etc. I enjoy them, but they
usually don't scare me.
See, the creepy feeling that I could be possessed, like in Exorcist, is a fear that typically doesn't live outside of dreams and late-night contemplation. Getting killed by Freddy, ditto. Getting murdered by a stranger, like Jason Voorhees, is about as likely as getting hit by lightning, as long as I stay out of the wrong neighborhoods.
But this movie... This is a different kind of fear, one that isn't fun. It's not that there's a secret coven of devil-worshipers victimizing people and doing terrible things. It's that the movie is so incredibly well-directed that it convinces me that such things really ARE abroad in the world, and could be anywhere. And why not? There's not a lot here that's implausible.
That's the problem with this movie, it's brilliant but it leaves me feeling paranoid.
Rosemary's Baby is the story of Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and Guy
(John Cassavettes), a young couple who just moved into a New York City
apartment. They have two elderly neighbors who appear to be friendly
but a bit too friendly, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney
Blackmer). Rosemary eventually gets pregnant after they try to and this
leads to the hysteria of the film as she can't trust anyone around her.
She hasn't an idea of what is going on, who has done what to her, or
who's side anyone is on. It's complete confusion for her. It's hard to
completely describe this film without giving things away, so that's
about all I'll talk about plot wise.
The wonderful thing about this movie is you feel like Rosemary's character, you have no idea what the truth is, who the people around her are for sure, and up until the very end, you still aren't. The movie will make you think one way and then completely flip it the other way around. It isn't so much a horror movie as it is a psychological thriller depicting hysteria of witchcraft and what's real or isn't. And it works is the amazing part, many times films like this where they try to keep you guessing are unsuccessful where as I found this one to work nearly all of the time.
Sometimes though, Rosemary is much too naïve, it can be a bit much but it's a kind of a suspension of disbelief thing where it needs to be there for the plot to progress although, Mia Farrow does a good job of playing it as well as playing hysterics. The movie is well-shot especially the simple opening credits sequence with the haunting music played over it. In addition, the ending was an interesting one, it will leave you thinking, and it left me unsure of what to think but I think I liked the way it ended because it wasn't the thing I expected which made it more interesting. Overall, this is a unique film especially considering I went into it thinking it would be Exorcist/Possession esque movie but its more of smart movie about who/what to believe.
This movie is an amazing accomplishment - it manages to get under your skin and give you sleepless nights with almost no display of gore (there is one slightly gory scene), violence (there is one rape scene, but it is not very disturbing due to its implausibility) or pale ghosts with long hair. When the movie started, I was a bit underwhelmed because it seemed like just an ordinary drama. This was intentional I suppose - the director was shooting for a gradual build up of the feeling of dread. I wasn't prepared for how disturbing the movie would eventually get. As Rosemary's sense of paranoia and feelings of despair increased, I found myself empathizing with her. The tragic culmination was absolutely perfectly done, and I felt a sense hopelessness for Rosemary's situation, almost like she was a family member or a close friend. Not many psychological thrillers / horror movies have had this effect on me, and for this reason, I highly recommend it to people who are looking for horror movies that deliver more than just a few scares.
Gotta be one of the creepiest films ever made! Even though I have seen this film time and again it still has me sitting at the edge of my seat chomping on my finger nails. And some scenes even had the hair on my neck standing up. Wow! This film is scary. Mia Farrow is shatteringly good, bringing you squarely into our orbit as the tortured wife married to the creep of all time. How any actor could survive the husband's part is anyone's guess but John Cassavetes manages it seems since his career apparently was helped by this showy part. But it is Mia Farrow's film alone and she is utterly captivating and utterly ravishing. You cannot take your eyes off her. She demands your attention in every single scene. The supporting cast is also very strong with Ruth Gordon being so annoying you really want to bag her. You know she's up to no good yet there's nothing poor Mia can do about it. It's like you want to scream at her, slug the bitch!
A young couple moves into a New York City apartment, where strange things start happening. Making his first American film, Polanski expertly creates a suspenseful atmosphere where tension builds slowly but surely in this influential supernatural thriller, helped by a haunting score. As with his earlier "Repulsion," the director conveys horror not so much by what is shown as what is suggested. As a young woman undergoing a difficult pregnancy, to put it mildly, Farrow is terrific in a star-making turn. Cassavetes may be miscast as her husband, but Gordon and Blackmer are quite effective as nosy neighbors. The cast features such familiar faces as Bellamy, Cook, Henry, and Grodin.
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