October 16, 2012

Rosemary's Baby (1968)



"A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbours and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life."

Day 16 of my "Hallowe'en Countdown" brings us "Rosemary"s Baby". Why? Because the story begins in October, and it's full of witches, that's why. Hallowe'en is, after all, still one of the most important of the witches' sabbats whether a new name was slapped on top of the old pagan festival or not.

Although Rosemary is impregnated on the October 4th, 1965 according to her calendar and tells her husband the good news on the 29th, with a further blood test scheduled for November 1st, we can all assume that the witches had a little something extra to celebrate during their Hallowe'en weekend. Bizarrely, no Samhain festivities are shown.

At first, it's surprising that Roman Polanski didn't utilize the obvious cliché, but upon further reflection, maybe not. Even the most superficial searches of the internet reveal many conspiracy theories surrounding Roman Polanski, Satanism and the setting of the movie itself. For those of us who hadn't even been born when the events were going down in real life, it all makes fascinating reading which goes beyond mere coincidence. Did Roman Polanski sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for success or did he get involved with the "pseudo-Illuminati", who knows? If he did either, surely putting a warning message about secret societies into a movie wasn't the brightest idea.

But who even cares about any of that behind the scenes nonsense? We all know that movie people are strange and have pretty messed up lives anyway. If it adds to the appreciation of Polanksi's study of paranoia in "Rosemary's Baby" (which is based on Ira Levin's novel from the year before), so be it. I've always found "Rosemary's Baby" interesting for far less occult reasons.

Longer hair suits her more than a Vidal Sassoon bob.

As shallow as it may be, the main reason I like "Rosemary's Baby' is because Mia Farrow looks pretty in it, and she gets nude several times. I don't like her acting and could cheerfully strangle her character, but this is the only film I've ever seen her in where she looks attractive. Maybe not so much in the picture above, but for a very skinny and almost skeletal girl, Mia Farrow has several moments where the camera really loves her.

Rosemary Woodhouse is a very well written character and suits Mia Farrow perfectly. Having watched "The Haunting of Julia" (1977) only a couple of months ago and noted the lack of her development as an actress, it's clear that Mia Farrow really only played herself anyway. All that nervousness and neuroses are unlikely to be a product of simply being typecast.

As for supporting characters in "Rosemary's Baby", I loathe them all to different degrees which, obviously, is their raison d'ĂȘtre. From the controlling Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) treating his wife like a child to the excessively irritating Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) pushing the nosy neighbour stereotype to breaking point, they are all shown to be horrible people. If there's a warning in this film, it's never move to New York city.

It's pronounced "moose" not "mouse", you old bag!

Ruth Gordon does a fantastic (and Oscar winning) job as the ultimate "neighbour from Hell", but I could never tolerate much of her as an actress. Her voice, her face, and the way she delivers her lines just makes me think of the "kill it with fire" meme. Why Rosemary doesn't just deliver a deluge of the expletives which would fall so easily out of my own mouth to someone as pushy as that is one of the weakest parts of "Rosemary's Baby" for me. No matter how naive Rosemary is supposed to be, Americans are generally not so backward in coming forward when something annoys them. It's all part of the sinister plot though.

Since "Rosemary's Baby" is regarded as a classic movie by the majority of critics (not only by horror fans), I'm not going to make myself look foolish by picking any more holes in it. For one thing, I can't really find anything wrong other than how it never delivers the punchline of actually showing the baby. Bearing in mind that it was released during the Summer of 1968, and the effects for the brief appearance by the Devil himself were the best that could be done, it was a wise decision not to show an infant with glowing eyes, cloven hooves, horns, or a long, pointy tail.

If you've never seen "Rosemary's Baby" before, I've no doubt spoiled a lot of it for you. It's nearly 45 years old now though so you've had plenty of time to watch it. With the number of times it's been shown on television across the world, its almost impossible that anyone doesn't already know the story inside and out. The chances are that you haven't put in on for a while though so plonk it in your DVD player tonight and give it another whirl.

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