#26) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

rosemarys_baby

#26) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

OR “Mama Mia”

Directed & Written by Roman Polanski. Based on the novel by Ira Levin.

Class of 2014

The film’s very ’60s trailer

The Plot: Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into an apartment building in New York City. While still settling in, a tenant commits suicide, and while gathered around the body Rosemary & Guy meet their neighbors, the elderly couple Roman & Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer & Ruth Gordon). Shortly afterwards, Rosemary learns she is pregnant, and the Castevets start getting very nosy about the baby. As the months go on, Rosemary starts to figure out what’s happening in the apartment building, and the paranoia sets in. To say anything more would be, well let’s just say, a sin.

Why It Matters: The NFR hails it as “a masterpiece of the horror-film genre” and praises Polanski and the cast.

But Does It Really?: So I don’t usually do horror movies, but I was literally on the edge of my seat with this one. It takes its time to get started, but when it does, “Rosemary’s Baby” is quite the ride. Mia Farrow is pretty much flawless, and she and Polanski keep you in suspense the whole time. As with any great horror film, it’s not about what they show, but rather what they don’t show that creates terrific suspense.

Everybody Gets One: Amazingly, despite a nearly 50-year career in film, this is Mia Farrow’s only appearance on the Registry. And although he will appear many times as a writer and director, this film marks John Cassavetes’ single acting appearance on the list. Also noteworthy is an early film appearance by Charles Grodin (Though I expect “Beethoven” will show up sooner or later).

Wow, That’s Dated: Well that party Rosemary throws with her friends is pure 1966. Also very dated is the idea that a struggling actor and a housewife could afford a spacious Manhattan apartment.

Seriously, Oscars?: The film only received one Oscar: Best Supporting Actress for Ruth Gordon (Presented to her by Donald Baumgart himself!). As much a lifetime achievement award as it was for her performance, Ms. Gordon gave the ceremony one of its best acceptance speeches. Roman Polanski was snubbed for directing but did get an Adapted Screenplay nomination, losing to “The Lion in Winter”. Perhaps because she was Hollywood’s latest pretty young thing, Mia Farrow’s performance was overlooked. She has yet to be nominated. I’d also like to give special mention to Sidney Blackmer, whose performance should have made it to Best Supporting Actor.

Other notes

  • Rosemary mentions that Guy appeared on Broadway in “Luther” and “Nobody Loves an Albatross”, two actual plays from the early ‘60s that played around the same time. Also in the cast of the latter was Phil Leeds, who plays Dr. Shand in this film. It’s a conspiracy!
  • Why is everyone in the first 10 minutes dubbed? I understand for the on-location shots, but in the apartment too? If they’re going for unsettling, they did it.
  • This film partially takes place during Pope Paul VI’s visit to New York. It’s fun to think that this film is happening at the same time as “The House of Blue Leaves”.
  • Mia Farrow is excellent in this, and I can’t help but think that if her career had gone a slightly different way, she would have made a great Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • That dream sequence is amazing. It perfectly conveys that stream of consciousness feeling as you drift in and out of sleep. A+ to everyone involved.
  • It’s also fun to think that at one point in 1968, you could see Maurice Evans in this film as Hutch, and at the same time go see him play a giant talking orangutan.
  • Speaking of the cast, it’s nice to see Ralph Bellamy in a role where he’s not losing his girlfriend or fiancée to Cary Grant.
  • I hope that this film did for Scrabble what “E.T.” did for Reese’s Pieces.
  • I appreciate that most of this film, especially the end, is shot from Rosemary’s point of view. Most horror films today do more shots towards the victim, giving everything a voyeuristic lens. Having it all be from Rosemary’s perspective is much more satisfying.
  • There’s only one Japanese character in the whole film and all he does is take pictures? Oy.
  • After doing some research on the film’s production, all I can say is “Fuck you, Sinatra”.

Legacy

  • Two unrelated sequels; a sequel to the book that negates everything from the original, and a TV movie sequel to the film that no one asked for.
  • “Rosemary’s Baby” is responsible for the rise in The Devil’s acting career; from “The Exorcist” to “The Omen” to that comedy album he did with Flip Wilson.
  • The first season of “American Horror Story” definitely took a thing or two from this film.
  • Don’t worry; they remade this for TV with Zoe Saldana.
  • The completely unconnected but identically titled episode of “30 Rock”. (That’s twice I’ve referenced that specific episode on this blog. It’s that good!)
  • Writer Ira Levin wrote several other novels and plays that circled around Gothic Horror, but none that were as successful as this one (though some would make a case for “The Stepford Wives”). I personally have a soft spot for his play “Deathtrap”.
  • And after the release of this film, everything worked out A-OK for Roman Polanski.

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