Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Genre: Supernatural Horror Running Time: 2 hrs. 16 min.

Release Date: June 12th, 1968 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Roman Polanski Actors: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin

 


 

R

oman Polanski’s terrifying masterpiece of mood and atmosphere makes use of unconventional scare tactics and perceptive casting to flesh out a bizarre tale of paranoia and witchcraft. A wonderfully foreboding setup, innovative cinematography, and an utterly shocking conclusion make this film a staple of the horror genre, and one whose influence has impacted nearly every psychological thriller to come. The ideas of abandonment and perfidy in marriage, friendships, and finally one’s own body are genuinely frightening concepts, presented here with an authenticity that transcends the cinematic, occult happenings of demonic cultists.

Set in New York in 1965, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her struggling actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment shrouded by mystery. Her neighbors Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sydney Blackmer) are chief contributors, possessing an undeniable aura of eccentricity and strangeness. The previous tenant’s supposed senility and an ill-fated recovering drug addict’s (Victoria Vetri, credited as Angela Dorian) untimely demise are also suspicious occurrences.

As Guy begins to spend less and less time with Rosemary, the couple must coordinate a specific time to attempt to conceive a child. When Rosemary falls asleep prematurely on their special night, she dreams of being raped by something not entirely human. The following morning, Guy informs her that he didn’t want to miss the opportunity and the planning for that specific evening and so had sex with her, despite her unconscious state. But that doesn’t explain the scratches on Rosemary’s torso. Nevertheless, she does become pregnant and is catered to by the overly attentive Castevets (Gordon’s pampering is particularly cringe-worthy), as well as the doctor they recommend, Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy). As her pregnancy progresses, she grows continually weaker, loses weight and color, and experiences unnatural pains. And she’s further hindered by the unexplained coma that befalls her only remaining, genuinely concerned friend Hutch (Maurice Evans), who determinedly manages to warn Rosemary that there may be something very wrong with her unborn child.

The film opens with an eerily mellow tune hummed by star Farrow, which perfectly sets the tone for this diabolical frightener. Foreshadowing occurs instantly with the introduction of puzzling situations in the Woodhouse’s new home: a secretary has been moved to cover a doorway inside a closet and a tenant who had lived with the neighbors kills herself just hours after Rosemary meets her. Making sensational use of misdirection, ambiguity, and general distrust, the film stays incredibly taut, even without gore and violence. Every time Rosemary finds herself in a place of solace, or a comfort zone for the viewer, it’s brutally shattered by catastrophic events – as if to jolt audiences out of even the briefest relaxing of nerves.

The cinematography is astounding, featuring abrupt cuts from scene to scene with almost no transition – a jilting style of editing that is essentially nonexistent in modern filmmaking. Doorway shots frequently frame portions of subjects with a glimpse of their backs, creating an uncanny disconnect or the insinuation that viewers aren’t meant to witness the conversation, while a ticking clock disturbingly seems to separate dream sequences from reality. The mood and presentation are all about shock and anticipation as a creeping dread permanently surrounds Rosemary’s pregnancy, effectively allaying the natural incredulity of Satanist references. While the conclusion is anything but a Hollywood ending, “Rosemary’s Baby” certainly deserves credit for the jaw-dropping audacity and innovation to betray the audience’s morals and satisfaction for the lead characters – a subversiveness that ties into the ultimate treachery of Rosemary’s mind and body.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10