Rosemary’s Baby (1968 USA)

This post is dedicated to those who were slaughtered (Sharon Tate & John Lennon) or raped (Samantha Geimer) so Roman Polanski could enjoy a successful movie career, untold wealth and women to satisfy his carnal lusts. The devil certainly looks after his own…

RB was a real landmark that helped keep the genre alive by pushing the occult (something fairly taboo back then, and not fully explored in cinema since the days of the silents) to the fore. Also, the restrained atmospheric horror was extremely influential. It inspired many, but has rarely been bettered. Not as scary as The Exorcist, which is more sick and nasty but Rosemary’s Baby is superior in its intricate plotting, which drives the icicles up the viewer’s spine in a fit of paranoia. Its almost as if an innocent Catholic girl became victim of the real Illuminati. And she has. Oppressive control by shady forces seems all too real in our world. This gives Rosemary’s Baby an authenticity lacking in the usual horror/fantasy genre.

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 bastard of a 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 city, she can’t find a single person who isn’t in on it. The ones that aren’t in on it…die. Talk about a conspiracy to die for!

The mood of this film is set perfectly from the very start when we hear the creepiest piece of discordant music (a lullaby) played over the opening credits to jangle your nerves right away. It is creepy how director Polanski gives this film a tone within its story that doesn’t seem very fictional. Mia Farrow plays the title character with a frightening, twisted emotion. Her character even seems a little eerie at times when she begins to go too far with her accusations, shrieking as if she has been on a torture rack. John Cassavetes is unpredictable, his character unreadable. But he does give a solid performance that probably angers many modern day viewers in this age of feminism–he really is a domineering male chauvinist. As for Ruth Gordon, in her Oscar-winning portrayal of Minnie Castevet, she brings an earthy carefreeness to this concoction, brewing a mix of nosiness and hilarity to her character.

The production design and cinematography are off-kilter in ways you can’t quite define. A favourite scene of mine is the young couple’s first dinner: Farrow is 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. Because every element of the film comes together so well, this supernatural tale feels as realistic as it could possibly be. One feels that if there is indeed such a thing as the coming of an Anti-Christ, it would happen something like this tragedy. The performances are so good, with John Cassavetes superbly slimy as the grinning, wolfish, treacherous husband; Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, as the Jewish grandma and grandpa from Hell (literally); Ralph Bellamy as the smooth, crooked doctor and; most effectively, Maurice Evans (Dr Zaius himself!) as poor Rosemary’s only ally.

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Comments

  1. Agreed, this film (and Mia Farrow’s performance) is phenomenal and an important landmark in the horror genre.

    Liked by 1 person

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