Ira Levin (novel), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse
Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet
Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet
Maurice Evans as Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins
Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Abraham Sapirstein
Rosemary’s Baby, based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin in 1967, comes from the golden era of classic horror. Rumored to have been originally offered to Alfred Hitchcock, Rosemary’s Baby was ultimately directed by scandal-ridden Roman Polanski.
The story in Rosemary’s Baby revolves around Rosemary and Guy (Farrow and Cassivetes), a young couple who move in to a wonderful New York apartment, previously inhabited by a well known female attorney who has passed away. The building, large and gothic, has the dubious reputation of having been the home of a coven of witches years ago.
Husband Guy is an actor, and not a terribly successful one. He just can’t seem to get his break…until he is befriended by the elderly couple that lives next door (Gordon and Blackmer). Suddenly his luck turns around…his competition for key roles suddenly take blind, studios call and stardom is looming. Things turn around for Rosemary as well when she finds out that she is finally going to have a baby.
The elderly neighbors, however, seem to be getting a bit TOO friendly. Smothering in fact, and taking an unnatural interest in Rosemary’s pregnancy. Rosemary starts to have a series of doubts: How is it that her husband is suddenly so successful? What are those strange chanting noises coming from their elderly neighbor’s apartment? Who are these neighbors, really?
Rosemarys Baby is classic largely because of the film’s ability to draw in the viewer to tell a spine-chilling tale. Much of the fear factor is psychological, and there are no overt visuals or particularly gory scenes. It wasn’t necessary. Alfred Hitchcock knew that the anticipation of an event, and then the suggestion of that event’s occurrence were much more frightening when it wasn’t laid out in Technicolor. Roman Polanski understood this as well.
Ruth Gordon won an Academy award for her performance as the nosy elderly neighbor Minnie Castevet. There were several other nominations outside of the Oscars for writing as well as the performance of Mia Farrow as Rosemary.
The rumors and trivia associated with Rosemarys Baby are almost as much fun as the movie itself. My favorite is the “seven degrees of separation” connection. Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the followers of Charles Manson, who called their death spree “Helter Skelter” after the 1968 song by the Beatles…The Beatles leader John Lennon was murdered in a New York apartment building called The Dakota…which is where Rosemarys Baby was filmed. Creepy.
Horror that does not rely on gore or startling effects, but instead on the imaginings of the viewer, may be a thing of the past. Thankfully we can still experience this artistry through classic films likeRosemarys Baby. Yes, this one really is as good as they say.