30 September 2014

(1968)

What are you talking about? Guy's eyes are normal!
-Rosemary
In retrospect it would seem that Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby was cursed from its, uh,....conception. Mia Farrow was served with divorce papers by her then husband Frank Sinatra's lawyer, which probably added to her harrowing performance in the latter half of the film.

A year after its release, Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate was gruesomely murdered in their home by followers of Charles Manson. In December of 1980, John Lennon was killed outside of the Dakota, the building where he lived, and where Rosemary's Baby had been filmed.

Polanski had won acclaim for Repulsion, a psychological horror film par excellence. He cast Farrow, who couldn't have been any more different from Catherine Denueve. The actress had been well-known for her role on the TV hit Peyton Place, as well as her notorious marriage to Sinatra (he was old enough to be her father).

A young, attractive Manhattan couple, Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her actor husband Guy (John Cassevetes) are looking for an apartment. A realtor takes them to see one in a huge gothic apartment building called the Bramford.

When he asks Guy what he's acted in, Guy seems embarrassed to tell him. Rosemary pipes in, saying he's done "a lot of televison plays and commercials."

Although the units are big, many of them were actually larger and broken up into smaller apartments. When asked if they have children, Rosemary says they plan to.

The previous tenant died after having been in a coma for weeks. The apartment is filled with the old woman's belongings, including all kinds of herbs she was growing. The realtor notices a huge dresser blocking a closet and asks Guy to help him move it. It seems odd because the piece weighs a ton and the closet has linen and a vacuum cleaner stored in it.

Rosemary loves the apartment because of its size and location. She wants to take it and Guy says he'll see if they can get out of their lease.

Their landlord is a good friend named Hutch (Maurice Evans) and he's aware of the Bramford's reputation. He tells them of strange occurances that took place in the building around the turn of the century.

Stories such as that of two Victorian sisters, who cooked and ate several children including a niece...and Adrian Marcato, who lived there and practiced witchcraft in the 1890s. He claimed to have conjured up the living devil and was attacked and nearly killed in the lobby by people who believed him.

After World War II, the building became popular again - although it was known as the "black Bramford." In 1959, a dead infant was found in the basement wrapped in newspaper. Despite all that, the couple decides to live there anyway.

Guy and Rosemary move in and can hear the neighbors through the walls. During their first night in the empty apartment, they make love on the floor of the living room.

Rosemary livens up the place by having it painted and putting wallpaper on the closet shelves. She's excited and takes time out to watch a commerical her husband is in.

The laundry room is in the basement of the building. Rosemary makes her first friend there one night. The young woman's name is Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian) and she's staying with an old childless couple, the Castevets...who live next door to the Woodhouses. In fact, the apartments were once connected.

The two women are creeped out by the basement and agree to do their laundry together from now on. "I have a good luck charm - it might work for both of us," Terry tells Rosemary. Mrs. Castevet gave it to her and Rosemary notices the herb inside of it has an odd smell.

Terry tells her new friend she was starving and on dope - and the old couple literally picked her off the sidewalk. She says they're like real grandparents and she would be dead or in jail if it weren't for them. The only family she has is a brother in the Navy.

At night, Rosemary and Guy hear Mrs. Castevet's voice...and also strange noises coming from their neighbors' apartment which sounds like chanting.

After being out on the town one evening...the Woodhouses return home and see a large crowd gathered around the entrance to the Bramford. When they get closer, they see Terry's body in a pool of blood. The charm is still around her neck.

She appears to have jumped out of a window. Just then, the elderly couple arrive. Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) are questioned by the police.

Roman says the girl suffered from depression and he knew this would happen. Minnie thinks she might have been cleaning the windows and perhaps had an accident.

The police ask if the dead girl had any next of kin and Minnie tells them she didn't. Rosemary overhears and mentions that Terry had a brother. She tells the Castevets that Terry said wonderful things about them and offers her condolences.

That evening, Rosemary has dreams about her Catholic upbringing - as Minnie's voice once again can be heard through the wall. Talking to her husband, Minnie says, "if you listened to me, we wouldn't have had to do this. We would have been all set to go now instead of having to start from scratch! I told you not tell her in advance. I told you she wouldn't be open-minded!"

Soon after, Minnie stops by Rosemary's place and tells her she's thankful for her genorosity the night Terry's body was found. The old woman takes a tour around the apartment and Rosemary points out a room that's going to be a nursery. "You pregnant?" Minnie asks. "Not yet," Rosemary answers...adding that they hope to have three children.

Minnie and the previous tenant were good friends and she marvels at how much brighter the apartment looks. She stays for the afternoon and as she's leaving, she invites Rosemary and her husband over for supper that night.

Guy returns home and is upset because he's lost another acting job. "It's a bad play anyway," Rosemary tells him. She calls Minnie the nosiest person she's ever seen and tells Guy about the dinner invitation. Guy is reluctant but agrees - if just for this one night.

Roman serves them drinks before the meal and charms them with his travel stories. During the meal, Rosemary becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the conversation when Roman expresses his bias towards the Pope and organized religion.

As it turns out, Mr. Castevet is familiar with Guy's work. "You have a most interesting inner quality. It should take you a long way indeed, provided of course that you get those initial breaks," he tells Guy.

Later, while the women are in the kitchen washing dishes, the men engage in a private conversation in the next room.

Back in their apartment, Rosemary and Guy laugh at the old couple's eccentricities. Guy says he found Roman's stories "pretty damn interesting" and Rosemary is taken aback when he tells her he intends to visit them again the next night. Although they had a date planned with other friends, Guy would rather spend more time with Roman.

Rosemary wonders why the Castevets took their pictures down. She tells Guy she noticed the hooks on the wall where they should have been hanging - but he says he wasn't aware of anything unusual.

Rosemary plans to spend an afternoon by herself, relaxing and listening to music. Minnie stops by unexpectedly again...this time bringing along another neighbor named Laura-Louise (Patsy Kelly). The women are overbearing, much to Rosemary's annoyance.

As a gift, Minnie gives her a good luck charm necklace made with tannis root (the same one worn by Terry). "You'll get used to the smell before you know it," Laura-Louise tells her.

She shows the charm to Guy that night. Although she doesn't care for the herb's odor, he tells her she ought to wear it. At that moment, a call comes in from a producer offering Guy the part he was passed over for. He's told that the actor who had the role has suddenly gone blind.

Rosemary visits Hutch and tells him that the offers are pouring in for Guy and he's suddenly very hot. Her friend can see she's not too happy with this development since it means they'll be spending less time together. He tells her he heard about the suicide at the Bramford and seems bemused by it.

When Rosemary returns home, she finds flowers in the kitchen. Guy tells her he wants to have a baby right away. They relax by the fireplace and then have dinner. Minnie interrupts them to bring dessert - two cups of chocolate mousse. Rosemary starts to eat it but says it has a "chalky undertaste." Guy encourages her to finish it because "the old bat slaved over it all day."

As the evening wears on, Rosemary becomes drowsy and Guy puts her to bed. She has a dream she's floating on a mattress in the middle of the ocean. Then she sees herself on a yacht in which Hutch is the captain.

Simultaneously, Guy is taking her clothing off and she can't distinguish her dream from reality. Her naked neighbors surround her while chanting and she is strapped down onto the bed with her legs bound. Suddenly, Rosemary is mounted by someone. "This is no dream, this is really happening!" she screams.

She wakes up the next day with scratches all over her back - while her husband behaves indifferently towards her. She tells Guy, "I dreamed someone was raping me. I think it was someone inhuman."

Rosemary returns the cups to Minnie and later confronts Guy, asking why he doesn't look at her anymore. He denies it and apologizes for being preoccupied with his rehearsals.

A few weeks later, Rosemary goes to see Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin) for a pregnancy test. He calls her at home and tells her that she's indeed pregnant. He advises her to take some vitamin pills he's prescribed and asks her to come in for another blood test.

She tells Guy and he rushes to let Minnie and Roman aware of the news. The Castevets are thrilled and come over immediately to congratulate Rosemary and recommend an obstetrician friend of theirs named Abraham Sapirstein. Minnie goes into the bedroom and calls the doctor herself. She makes Rosemary an appointment for the next morning.

Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) tells Rosemary to avoid all baby books and disregard any advice from her friends. He advises her not to take the pills from Dr. Hill and that instead...she should regularly take an herb drink that Minnie will make for her throughout the pregnancy.

When Rosemary has her first glass, she wonders what the contents are. Minnie tells her it contains raw egg, gellatin and herbs, among other things. Of course, tannis root is in it as well.

To go with her new condition, Rosemary gets a short modern haircut - which Guy doesn't approve of. In fact, he's downright rude...calling it the worst mistake she's ever made. Rosemary complains of having pains and he tells her to go see her doctor.

Dr. Sapirstein says the pains are natural and tells her to take aspirin. She takes to eating her steaks raw. When Hutch visits, he's alarmed at her physical state. Rosemary looks anemic. Roman stops by and she introduces him to Hutch.

Hutch is suspicious when he finds out that the Castevets are giving Rosemary drinks with tannis root. Rosemary shows him the charm and he finds it odd that the herb is in that as well. He says it looks more like a mold or fungus and plans to look it up in an encyclopedia. When Roman leaves, Rosemary tells Hutch she just noticed her neighbor has pierced ears. "Pierced ears and piercing eyes" is Hutch's observation.

Hutch spends the rest of the afternoon with Rosemary. She tells him how close Guy is to the Castevets but feels the couple have become TOO friendly and helpful. Guy comes home early and Hutch doesn't stay much longer. As he's putting on his coat, he finds that one of his gloves is missing.

Rosemary gets a call from Hutch telling her he urgently wants to meet her the next morning. She tells Minnie she's going to miss her daily drink and heads out to the Time & Life building.

When Hutch doesn't show up, she calls him at home. His friend Grace answers and tells her that Hutch became ill the night before and is now in a deep coma. The doctors have no idea what's wrong with him. Rosemary is shaken and runs into Minnie, who takes her back to their building.

At a New Year's Eve party, Roman, Minnie and their elderly friends make a toast to the new year, calling it "year one." Rosemary's eating habits are becoming more bizarre. She develops a taste for raw liver and becomes ill when she catches a reflection of herself eating it.

Rosemary misses her young friends and plans a party, to which the Castevets and "anyone over 60" are not invited. Guy doesn't think it's a good idea. Minnie stops by and sees Rosemary making preparations. Rosemary refuses to drink her daily remedy and quickly gets rid of her neighbor - and then pours the drink down the drain.

At the party, she tells the guests that she's expecting a child and her friends are all happy for her. Her appearance doesn't go unnoticed and one of them tells her she "looks like a piece of chalk."

Rosemary's pain returns and a few of her girlfriends tell her that what she's experiencing isn't natural. They say she should get a second opinion from another doctor and Rosemary tells Guy she's going to see Dr. Hill again.

She also confesses to not having taken Minnie's drink for the last three days. Guy is furious and blames her friends, calling them "bitches." During an argument, Rosemary begins to feel the baby move.

With the knowledge that her child is okay, Rosemary sets up the nursery and starts taking Minnie's drinks again. Her happiness is interrupted when she gets a call from Hutch's friend Grace telling her that Hutch has died. She shows up at the cemetery and Grace (Hanna Landy) gives her a package with a book that he left for her.

Rosemary is told that her dead friend's last quote was something about a name being an anagram. When she gets home, she opens the package and finds that the book is called All of Them Witches.

Inside is a chapter on Adrian Marcato, the witch who lived in the Bramford a century ago. She reads that he was attacked by a mob outside the building, not inside the lobby as Hutch believed.

Using her Scrabble game, Rosemary tries to find an anagram for the name of the book. She has no luck so she looks inside again and sees that the name of Adrian Marcato's son Steven is underlined. Finally, she realizes "Steven Marcato" is an anagram for Roman Castevet.

When Guy comes home that night, she tells him that Roman is actually Adrian's son. She shows him Hutch's book and he laughs it off. Rosemary tells him about what she read in the book, which includes details such as Marcato's followers using the blood and flesh of babies for their rituals.

Rosemary vows not to let anyone in the building get near her baby - including Roman and Minnie. She tells Dr. Sapirstein about the revelation and he acts surprised. When she says she's not going to take Minnie's drinks anymore, he prescribes some pills for her. He also says that Roman is terminally ill and he and his wife are planning on taking a long trip together.

Rosemary and Guy see the old couple off, as they head out to the airport. When Rosemary can't find the book Hutch gave her, Guy tells her he threw it out. She gets another book on witchcraft, which reveals that spells cannot be cast without a possession of the victim.

Rosemary calls the actor whom Guy replaced in the show (the voice of Tony Curtis!) and finds out that her husband had gone for drinks with him before his misfortune. More importantly, he tells her that he lost his tie that evening.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, Rosemary packs a bag and goes to see Dr. Sapirstein. While she waits, she picks up an issue of Time Magazine with its sensational headline "Is God Dead?"

The nurse tells Rosemary that she smells good and says it's an improvement over what she used to wear. Rosemary tells her it was a good luck charm and the nurse says she hopes the doctor will follow her example. Realizing that Dr. Sapirstein is in on the plot, she rushes out of his office.

Now feeling completely alone and paranoid, Rosemary calls Dr. Hill from a payphone and tells him she wants to see him immediately. She explains her distrust of Sapirstein and says she wants him (Dr. Hill) to deliver the baby, which is due in a couple of days.

When she gets to Dr. Hills' office, she explains further. She says that Guy is in on it and tells him that her husband now sleeps in pajamas, probably to cover the mark a person gets when they join the coven. "They gave him success and he promised them our baby," she says.

After listening to her, the doctor offers to help. Rosemary is thrilled that someone believes her and is even more excited at the possibility of checking into a hospital that day.

Dr. Hill goes into another room only to return with Dr. Sapirstein and Guy. Sapirstein warns her to go with them quietly. He says, "don't argue or make a scene because if you say anymore about witches or witchcraft, we're gonna be forced to take you to a mental hospital."

They bring her back to the Bramford but Rosemary manages to make a run for it. She locks herself in her apartment and calls her best friend, who unfortunately is out. She doesn't see that Guy, Dr. Sapirstein and several other tenants have snuck into the apartment through a secret entrance.

She's apprehended and drugged...and the struggle causes her to go into labor. When she awakes, she's told that the baby (a boy) is fine. But the story changes and Dr. Sapirstein tells her there were complications and that the infant is dead. She screams and is drugged again.

After calming down, Guy tells her they'll have more babies and that he's got more acting offers. She asks to see his shoulders but there are no visible marks on him.

Laura-Louise attends to Rosemary, bringing her food and some strange pills. Rosemary's breast milk is also collected daily. When she asks what is done with her milk (since she's been told her baby has died) Laura-Louise tells her they throw it away.

While sitting in bed and watching television, Rosemary hears a baby crying. She refuses to take the pills that are brought into her room and hides them. Guy tells her some new tenants moved in and Rosemary asks if the baby belongs to them. He says it does.

When Guy leaves the room, she gets up and goes into the closet - and proceeds to remove the shelves. Rosemary sees that there's a secret doorway into the Castevets' apartment.

She picks up a large carving knife and walks into Minnie and Roman's living room where the witches are assembled. The elderly couple are there as well. She sees a black crib and walks over to it...and is horrified to see that the baby's eyes are not human.

Rosemary screams and Roman tells her that "Satan is his father, not Guy" - as cries of "hail Satan" fill the room. Guy tries to comfort her and she spits in his face.

Distraught, she settles down and the baby starts to cry. Laura-Louise is rocking the crib too quickly. Rosemary walks over and rocks it gently, as she slowly begins to accept the situation. She IS the child's mother after all...

Rosemary's Baby is a modern classic. It was based on the novel by Ira Levin and was the first movie directed by Roman Polanski that was not an original idea of his. His screenplay adaptation received an Oscar nomination.

Interestingly, this film was produced by William Castle, known for directing gimmicky low budget thrillers and who also intended to direct it.

Paramount Production Chief Robert Evans declined his services because he felt that the film needed a more sophisticated approach than Castle's wellknown overwrought techniques.

A fan of the Rosemary's Baby story, Stephen King says it "was written and published at the time the God-is-dead tempest was whirling around in the teapot of the 1960s, and the book deals with questions of faith in an unpretentious but thoughtful and intriguing way."

The movie itself is strong on atmosphere, from the setting (the Dakota is CREEPY), to the music (the child-like theme is sung by Mia Farrow). The cast is brilliant. Mia completely suggests a healthy woman who becomes sickly while under the influence of her neighbors. And Ruth Gordon adds a wonderful touch of humor to her role of Minnie, which deservedly won her an Academy Award.

One of the three Polanski paranoia masterpieces (Repulsion and The Tenant round out the director's thematic trilogy), this film is in most ways the most mainstream and unusually effective entry.

Rarely has a film displayed such an uncompromising portrait of betrayal as this one. Guy sacrifices his wife and baby for his career, which is unimaginable. This is truly psychological terror at its best and the film is widely remembered for its wonderfully dark ending, in which evil triumphs over good.

A modern masterpiece and a permanent reason alone to respect Polanski's output.

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