See Halloween Month off with a bang, I thought. Let’s watch a classic and see how it stands up in today’s modern landscape, I thought. Well, that was about all the thought I put into this week’s choice. I mean, it was this or Halloween (1978) and the latter seemed too obvious. Plus, I wouldn’t want to slag off that masterpiece, I’m sure on close examination it would be flawless (lol).
Anyway, this made the grade because I’ve only seen it once, a long ago but remember being blown away by the interiors and gripped by the unsteady hand of paranoia throughout. It reminds me of the films I fell in love with decades ago, when I got my first TV set in my bedroom. My self-education, if you will.
I’ll let you know my thoughts below.
As always *spoilers*
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
IMDB Synopsis: A young couple move into an apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.
Shiny happy couple, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse fall in love with an impossibly gorgeous apartment in downtown NYC and hastily slap their deposit down before really looking into it like most normal people would. Guy is an actor (though I’m not sure what he’s been in, Rosemary, any idea?), while Ro is a professional waif and cushion fluffer.
They’re very sweet and in love, with their whole future ahead of them – this is going to be a happy ending right? Riiiiiiight. I can promise you that someone will be happy by the time the credits roll but that’s all I’m giving you.
Just before they move in, their lovely friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) tells them the bloody history of the building, which includes witchcraft and cannibalism. This doesn’t phase the couple though and they move in. There’s even a redecorating montage which I live for, I really do.
While Guy pops off on auditions and films commercials, Rosemary makes sure the apartment is perfect. She greets her husband with a pint of beer and plate of sandwiches on his return every night (!) and they make love with good frequency. One evening Rosemary meets her neighbour, Terry (Victoria Vetri) who stays with the Castevet’s on the 7th floor (which is the same floor as the Woodhouse’s and right next door).
Terry tells Ro the story of how the Castevet’s took her in off the streets and treat her as the daughter they never had. Terry shows off a pongy lucky charm she wears around her neck, which Ro admires/turns her nose up at in equal measure. The girls never quite get to cement their new friendship however, as a few days later the Woodhouse’s return to their building to find Terry has thrown herself from the window and is pretty fucking dead.
(There’s claret everywhere and I have to say the first time in a film where I remember seeing this. Usually when someone jumps off a building all you get is a delicate pool of the red stuff by their head. In this scene it is all over the surrounding cars, sidewalk, road, in the cops hair, etc).
It’s over Terry’s broken corpse that we, and the Woodhouses, first meet the Castevets, Minnie and Roman (Sidney Blackmer). They are gloriously oddball and Minnie rocks the exact aesthetic I intend to in 30 years time (20). From this evening on the Woodhouses can’t shake the Castevets despite this being the very thing they had hoped to avoid.
Guy seems more taken with the new friendship than Rosemary is, spending hours in Roman’s company talking about whatever it is they talk about, I forget. Meanwhile, Minnie is a domineering so-and-so who drops in unexpectedly all the fucking time (told you this was a HORROR), sometimes dragging her mate, Laura Louise (Patsy Kelly) with her. Minnie also gives Rosemary the exact same ‘Good Luck’ pendant that Terry wore. Oooooh!
Rosemary quickly begins to back away from her neighbours and is a little baffled by the fact Guy doesn’t feel the same. However, they don’t really have the time to discuss it as they decide to start trying for a baby. From here Guy takes control of Rosemary’s menstrual cycle and maps the prime days for baby making, keeps track of her period and basically treats her like a prize cow.
One night early into Project Baby, Rosemary passes out after dinner (moral of story: if your neighbour drops off chocolate mousse and it tastes chalky, don’t eat it, even if your husband bullies you into it). While out cold, Ro has some disturbing dreams (that are pretty much exactly the same as the ones I have most nights but with more nudity) and when she wakes up, she’s covered in scratches. Guy admits that he hadn’t wanted to miss ‘Baby Night’ so had gone right ahead without her. Presumably while Blurred Lines played softly in the background.
(I’m sorry but that’s just horrific, right there. Fuck you, Guy. FUCK YOU.)
This review is going to go on forever if I don’t break it down for you (the movie is over 2 hours long), but the result of Baby Night is that Rosemary falls preggo. To celebrate she visits Vidal Sassoon and has a pixie cut. Guy is very rude about her new look and one can only assume it’s because she’s asserted some independence, a big no-no in this marriage apparently.
Alarm bells are ringing even before we get a whiff of Satanism but Ro is so sick in her first stages of pregnancy that she is naturally compliant. This makes it easy for the Castevets to railroad her into seeing their doctor and drinking the herbal goodies Minnie rustles up on his recommendation.
One afternoon, Hutch pops round and is shocked to the core at how rubbish Rosemary looks (she does look bad, having lost heaps of weight from her already gazelle-like frame). By chance Hutch meets Roman Castevets and senses something fishy. He arranges to meet Rosemary in the city a day later to tell her something.
Hutch never makes it though as he falls into a sudden coma (from which he never wakens, dying shortly afterwards). Ro is devastated of course, while Guy doesn’t seem all that bothered.
Just as Rosemary is about to get a second opinion on all the pain she’s been suffering so far in her pregnancy (as advised by her female friends who tell her it is definitely not normal), the pain shifts and she starts to glow. Up to that point she’d started to throw away Minnie’s secret pregnancy milkshakes believing them to be poisoned.
Let’s cut to the chase here and say at Hutch’s funeral, one of Hutch’s friends passes on a book about witchcraft with some clues underlined inside. This is what Hutch had wanted to tell Ro and she gradually works out that Roman is the son of a very evil man witch who’d resided in the building a long time before, and had a high old time doing the Devil’s work.
After this, Rosemary realises that all her paranoia has weight and she’s less pliable. She seeks assistance from a second doctor who lets her down spectacularly (fucker) and ends up being held hostage by her so-called husband and Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) for the remainder of her pregnancy, which tragically results in a still birth.
Or does it?
I’m parking this up here. But not before I ask a few questions, obvs.
So… what will become of Rosemary and, of course, her wee baby? Will Guy Woodhouse come through for his wife in the end and what’s in this plot for him? Why didn’t Rosemary just tell those horrible Castevets to butt out?
Should I have a pixie cut myself? And finally, is this really just a cautionary tale about letting your neighbours get too close? *Deadlocks the front door and battens down all hatches, whatever those are*.
This is a great film, if excruciatingly long. Polanski knows how to spin a tale and he also knows how to build suspense so I can’t criticise him (for that, anyway). The whole film has an air of discomfort and paranoia builds quickly, despite Rosemary’s picture perfect lifestyle.
It helps I think that Mia Farrow is a living doll, all delicate lines and babydoll dresses, lending her a unique fragility. I just wanted her to be happy really. I also watched this movie and imagined that she got away and lived that happy life devoid of devil babies and annoying elderly companions. Alas.
There’s plenty here to take the piss out of, of course but as a classic, it’s pretty excellent. Maybe it’s not balls out scary but it takes you to a very creepy place and presents Rosemary’s situation as almost normal. For the most part the danger is very subtle and realistic. Too late does she even realise how far she’s fallen into this web of evil, and that the one person she should be able to count on has sold his soul (and their baby) for fame and fortune.
Which is a theme that would fit perfectly today, even more so perhaps in these reality TV obsessed times. I would recommend that this film needs to be seen, it’s an absolute classic up there with some of the greats, including a couple of my favourites, Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Omen (1976).
My Rating: 4.5/5