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Rosemary's Baby (1968 - R)
After Rosemary Woodhouse and her actor husband Guy decide to move into a new upscale apartment in New York City the couple is quickly befriended by their nosy albeit allegedly harmless neighbors, the Castavets. But when Rosemary's new friend, an acquaintance of the Castavets, suddenly commits suicide it seems perhaps the notorious rumors surrounding the history of their apartment may in fact be true. With Rosemary's new baby on the way, Rosemary will face the difficulty of attempting to expose a conspiracy without risking the life of her child, or her sanity.
Written by: Ira Levin (novel) and Roman Polanski (screenplay).
Directed by: Roman Polanski.
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Psychological, Drama.
"The answer lies in the name…" "You are its mother aren't you?"
Rated: Tagline: A landmark in horror film-making!
Set in contemporary time, the film portrays American culture on the dawn of the 1970's. Happily married newlyweds Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) Woodhouse are eagerly apartment shopping through the side streets of New York City. After falling in love with an unexpected vacancy in an infamous apartment complex, the two quickly set up house. With a few coats of white paint and a few new furnishings and the Woodhouses quickly make their new grandiose apartment a comfy, albeit extravagant place to call home.
During her first visit from longtime friend 'Hutch' (Maurice Evans) Rosemary and her husband soon learn rumors surrounding the history of their new home: from random deaths, to witchery, to dead babies in the basement, still the Woodhouses insist that their new apartment is a safe and comfy abode. Comfy, that is, until their nosy neighbors quickly begin to immerse themselves in the everyday trappings of the Woodhouses' lives. Between Minnie's (Ruth Gordon) incessant diatribes and inquiries on all things fashion and culinary and her husband Roman Castavet's (Sidney Blackmer) instant rapport with husband Guy, Rosemary suddenly finds herself the odd-man out. Suddenly Rosemary is in want of attention, both intimate and socially as her husband continually whisks himself off to work (or goes out looking for work as a coming-of-age actor) or to the Castavets for nightly cocktails and discourse. Of course all the while Rosemary is tending to domestic fixer-uppers her husband is conveniently forgetting her dreams to literally play house via starting a family.
Still suddenly Guy proposes that it's due time to get the family on the way. But a sudden acid-based montage as provoked by a mysterious chocolate mousse seems to interrupt things, that is, the mousse and the equally mysterious claw marks running down the length of Rosemary's baby. All the same, several weeks later Rosemary goes to see a doctor who confirms her greatest dreams; she will have a baby.
While Guy makes good with the Castavets, Rosemary does her best to deal with her interminable "pregnancy pains"-relying on the 'au natural and Castavet aided treatments via the instructions of Rosemary's doctor, Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy). Green herbal drinks, and mysterious charms are supposed to bring a good health and luck respectively, still, Rosemary seems to be withering away. She's losing weight, color, and character and her friends begin taking concern with her health.
Still, meddling has never been accepted by those whom feel the inquiries of meddling minds and when Hutch begins to investigate the material incessantly censored from Rosemary he suddenly winds up in a mysteriously incidental coma. In deed it seems as if many of Rosemary's fellow acquaintances have suddenly fallen either deathly ill or injured. Attending her dear late friend Hutch's funeral she comes in contact with a particularly interesting book that seems to hold the clue to the many mysteries surrounding her life. As 'Hutch' implies: the answer lies in the name- "the name is an anagram". In deed as Rosemary's life, and coincidentally her babies become in grave danger it seems as if the secret, and Rosemary's fate lies in unscrambling the mystery behind a certain name, a name that may be a bit too familiar for comfort…
"Rosemary's Baby" is the paradoxically ultimate non-horror horror film. The film is intensely horrifying on a psychological level without ever drifting into the unrealistic and the sensational, save for perhaps the potentially "unrealistic" aspect of the plot (that is, unless you believe in those sorts of things, and in deed some do). Some critics have marked it the "landmark film" for the horror genre and it certainly seems justified as the beginnings of one of America's biggest cinematic cult genres can be witnessed in flickers throughout the film. As one critic argues, "Rosemary's Baby" isn't the type of film "to scare the pants off you with a series of sensational jolts. This isn't the shallow, gimmicky kind of horror movie of [contemporary pop culture]… and it isn't the traditional old-fashioned horror film of an earlier era". In short this transitional film begs recognition for its innovative style and unique vision that arguably still stands superior to even its mega-budget successors: ""Rosemary's Baby" is a more sophisticated, less elegant thriller of the kind that Alfred Hitchcock patented, but it displays much more class and intelligence than the horror movies that would come out in its wake".
What's also important to recognize is the echoes and/or beginnings of major horror conventions; plotline and effect alike, which emerge in "Rosemary's Baby" effortlessly, and successfully. In deed "Rosemary's Baby" is a precedent for uber horror hallmarks like "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" where the nuance has been replaced by latent horror. Still, "Rosemary's Baby" more naturalistic and as such, realistic depiction of the world that is and that could be still works just as, if not more successfully than some of the more contemporary methods of horror film; with "Rosemary's Baby" all crassness and vulgarity are spared for pure psychological terror.
As such much credit is due to the film's director, the controversially infamous Roman Polanski whose innovative directing methods captures the aura of nuance and manipulate perception into new modes of observation. Likewise Mia Farrow was unparalleled in her performance as Rosemary Woodhouse; rivaling, if not conquering greats like Audrey Hepburn and her performance in "Wait Until Dark". Likewise Ruth Gordon is brilliant in her role as Minnie Castavet, a performance so undeniably candid that she was awarded with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The ambiguous ending of the story, and Polanski's canny depiction and manipulation of the ending as such, is imperative in provoking much of the fear and "horror" that is invited for audience participation. As viewers watch the normal urban Manhattan turn into a conspiracy theory Polanski instrumentally assists the audience to position themselves as speculative critic interpreting the "eerie events of the story as either reality or a depiction of an isolated woman's decent into madness". Just as much as the film posits horror conventions however, so too can the film be seen as a satirical, albeit a black comedy (though perhaps "comedy" is a bit too exaggerated a word here), on the exploitation of contemporary male fears of the urbanization of the female, and/or the metamorphosis of the pregnant woman. Still, as one critic notes, "through subtle cinematic techniques [Polanski] get[s] an audience to actually believe that the hysterical, fantastic ravings of the heroine could be true. It is this tour de force exercise in suspension of disbelief that makes the film a classic… this deliberately paced film reminds us of how much better it is to leave things to the imagination of the viewer".
"Rosemary's Baby" was the proud recipient of an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon). Additionally the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing/Best Adapted Screenplay (Roman Polanski). "Rosemary's Baby" also received another 8 critical film association nominations including 3 Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture Actress (Mia Farrow), Best Original Score (Krzysztof Komeda), and Best Screenplay (Roman Polanski). The film also garnered 9 awards including the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon).
Mia Farrow plays Rosemary Woodhouse, the hapless victim of an evil joke.
John Cassavetes plays Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary's actor husband.
Ruth Gordon plays Minnie Castavet, Rosemary's nosy neighbor.
Sidney Blackmer plays Roman Castavet, Minnie's sharp-eyed husband.
Maurice Evans plays Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins, Rosemary's ill-fated friend.
Ralph Bellamy plays Dr. Abraham Sapirstein, Rosemary's obstetrician.