Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#236. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Directed By: Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

Tag line: "Pray for Rosemary's Baby"

Trivia:  It was on the set of this film that Mia Farrow received divorce papers from then-husband Frank Sinatra.

We watch from the end of a long hallway as a couple moves into a new apartment. There's no light, and the two have little choice but to transport their belongings in the dark. There's also no sound, save the echo of their own footsteps and the rustling of a few paper bags. Then, suddenly, a harsh voice emanates from the apartment next door, that of an elderly woman calling for her husband to bring her a root beer.

It's with this meager opening that one of the most thrilling pictures of the '60s is set into motion.

Struggling actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) and his wife, Rosemary (Mia Farrow), have just moved into the Bramford, a posh New York apartment building. Because the Bramford caters almost exclusively to the elderly, Guy and Rosemary feel a bit out of place in their new surroundings, but new neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castavet (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon), do what they can to make the young couple feel at home. In fact, it isn't long after meeting the Castavets that things start going extraordinarily well for Guy, who's handed the lead in an upcoming play (after the original lead was mysteriously stricken blind). Over the course of a few weeks, Guy has growb very close to the Castavets, whereas Rosemary can’t shake the uneasiness she feels whenever she's around them. Shortly after a nightmare in which she’s raped by a wild beast, Rosemary discovers she’s pregnant. What's more, the Castavets have taken a keen interest in this new-found pregnancy, and Rosemary wants to know why.

With Rosemary’s Baby, director Roman Polanski sets an ominous tone right from the get-go, throwing out clues early on that Guy and Rosemary’s new home is not the safe haven they hoped it would be. One evening, while preparing for bed, they hear Minnie's voice bellowing from next door. Then, quite unexpectedly, it's replaced by the sound of chanting, as if a religious ceremony had just commenced. The first time we see the Castavets, they're walking (or should I say marching) down the street, heading home after a night on the town. Upon their arrival at the Bramford, the two are greeted by the police. It seems a young woman named Terry (Angela Dorian), who was living with the Castavets, has just committed suicide, jumping from the apartment to the sidewalk below. Polanski masterfully squeezes all of this into the film's first 20 minutes, preparing us for the chaos that lies ahead. Yet even with such advanced warning, it’s impossible to fully brace oneself for the insanity soon to follow.

From its fast start to its startling conclusion, Rosemary’s Baby flows along effortlessly, aided in large part by Ruth Gordon’s Oscar-winning performance as Minnie, the batty old broad whose humorous mannerisms eventually take on a horrifying edge. Yet, ultimately, the credit for the film’s success must be given to Polanski: the director’s pacing never once falters, building such a vivid, fascinating story that our eyes remain glued to the screen, no matter how strong the impulse to look away might be.


Anonymous said...

JUMPING JEHOSHAPHAT - The first line "Possibly the best horror film ever made" now I have been listening to you for 9 episodes and am startled at that statememt - It is a good horror movie but nowhere considered one of the best.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Brewboy - Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

The line you're referring to is not mine: that is the synopsis written on the back cover of the DVD (I try to change the font color to differentiate between the DVD synopsis and my own words). My thoughts begin with "We watch from the end of a long hallway". Obviously, whoever wrote that synopsis was trying to sell some DVDs.

That said, I was very impressed with ROSEMARY'S BABY the first time I saw it, and continue to enjoy the film. It had an edge that many Hollywood horror films of that time did not have. I also felt, regardless of genre, that it was an expertly acted, crisply directed film.

But, no...while I definitely consider it one of the most entertaining to come out of Hollywood, I would not personally rank it as the best horror movie of all time.

Thanks again for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Doctor that is confusing, maybe a short statement at the DVD Synospis line saying from back of cover. I mean that is just pure marketing every movie plays up there movie on the cover, heck I would too if I owned it. So not to confuse your readers thinking you made the statements. Just a thought. Or even write your own little synopsis.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Brewboy: You make a solid point.

I did mention in my ABOUT ME section that it's the synopsis from the back cover of the DVD, but that was pretty buried on the side menu (I've since moved it closer to the top). Actually, I've been contemplating doing away with the DVD synopsis altogether. Now that i know it's leading to confusion, I think I have to do that.

The reason I started it in the first place was because, when I first started this little project of mine, I was planning on writing up about 100-200 words per movie, which didn't leave much room for me to synopsize the film. Check out my earlier entries (like GINGER SNAPS and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and you'll see what I mean!

Well, I'm now writing an average of 500 words per movie, INCLUDING my own synopsis. So the DVD Synopsis at the top is kinda pointless now. I'm thinking of replacing it with either a fun fact about the movie, or maybe even the film's tag line. Any thoughts?

Again, thanks Brewboy, for bringing the confusion to my attention. It's definitely time to make a change!

Anonymous said...

Hey Doc! Great show. Loved the Easter theme, and loved Cat People.

As for the synopses in green that you always do, I never was confused! I thought it was pretty obvious that came from the back of the disk. So you don't need to change it. I like reading what the dvd makers want you to think!


DVD Infatuation said...

@Steve: Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks also for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the show!

For me, the issue has gone beyond whether it's confusing or not (and to be honest, I see now where it might be confusing). Now, it's become the usefulness of the DVD synopsis. In the past 3-4 weeks, I've been writing my own synopsis for each movie, so I no longer see the need to have 2 summations of the film's story.

I was thinking of getting rid of this anyway, and today's comments were proof positive that I should. I think that space could be better served by something more interesting, such as trivia or tag lines for the film.

Thanks again for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Klaus said...

Rosemary's Baby - what a creepfest! I hadn't seen this film until relatively recently and was surprised at how well it stood up. It must have been pretty terrifying for its time.

My only disappointment was its depiction of witchcraft and satanism as somehow complementary practices. While I may be over analyzing a bit, a "real witch" doesn't recognize Christianity, and thus would have no interest in "Satan’s spawn".

DVD Infatuation said...

@Klaus: I agree that the film holds up pretty well, considering it's over 40 years old.

Not being familiar with either Witches or Satanists, it's interesting to hear the differences. Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Yes I do have a few suggestions that I think would be useful. Since you have many lines there how about the cast with links to there profile page. Or what extras are on the DVD, like featurettes, commentary, bloopers and the such. I like buying DVD's that have the extras so that would indeed be useful for readers.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Brewboy: Thanks for the suggestions.

My only concern with putting information from the DVD is that many movies often have several DVD versions out there (not to mention Blu-Ray releases). Also, I have a large number of readers from other countries, where the DVD's released are different than the ones in the US (which explains why my Amazon links have had zero activity!)

I do like the idea of the cast (though I may be limited on the links). I'm going to play around with it over the next few weeks, and see what works best.

Thanks so much for all your help with this. It is certainly appreciated.

SJHoneywell said...

This is a film that modern horror directors should watch at least once every week during filming. It's a constant reminder that less is more--that letting the audience decide for itself what something is or looks like is often far more terrifying (provided we've had a good build-up) than showing us a rubber monster. The Haunting pulled this off. Few movies (and fewer directors) have the cojones to try it.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Steve: Very well put! I couldn't have said it better.