31 Screams in October, #14: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy

As children, we are taught that we can’t blindly give away our trust to strange people, and with good cause. Trust should be earned. We have no idea what the old chatterbox across the street is really like behind closed doors. I’m not advocating that everyone should become xenophobes, but a little caution never hurt anybody. Despite all of this common sense that is laid out, there are still some whose naivety persists. For predators, that’s blood in the water. For worshipers of Satan, it provides a means by which to bring about a new era in which their master will supplant the Judeo-Christian god as the overseer of this world.

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) are a struggling couple who, when we first meet them, are moving into a new apartment with limited furniture. The old lady who used to live there left some of hers behind, like the big chest of drawers behind which there’s an extra closet. In no time, the Woodhouses are welcomed by their new neighors, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie Castavet, who are also caring for a sweet young woman whom Rosemary meets in the basement laundry room. Later, to Rosemary’s horror, the girl has apparently jumped to her death from seven stories up. To this point, she’s thought of the Castavets as nice enough people, but now Minnie’s hanging around a little too much for her comfort, and now Rosemary’s a little creeped out when Minnie presents her with the necklace that used to belong to the dead girl.

Guy, an aspiring actor whose meager TV and stage credits Rosemary always repeats word-for-word for anyone who asks (to the point where you’d think she’s the one regularly attending casting calls), suddenly gets a turn of luck when a role he had recently lost comes to him under most bizzare and unfortunate circumstances: the guy who originally got the part is now blind. Suddenly, Guy’s ready to conceive a child with Rosemary. They’ve got it all planned out, right down to a date on the calendar as to when they want to get busy. Minnie drops by with some chocolate mousse but, to Rosemary’s delight, doesn’t linger the way she usually does. After a few bites, Rosemary disposes of the rest, not finding the taste very agreeable. Soon after, she passes out, and Guy carries her into the bedroom.

What follows is my favorite scene in “Rosemary’s Baby.” All dream sequences are in some way jumbled, nonsensical and disorienting. But they can also feel very real at times, occasionally to a frightful degree. Rosemary’s “dream” is no exception because, mixed in with all of the pleasant imagery is that of a cult (including Guy) standing naked, surrounding her on a bed, and waiting for a figure with an inhuman visage to arrive and rape her. She seems certain whether this is a dream or not but, at least for now, there’s still room for doubt (although not as much ambiguity as in the original novel). Movies do not easily scare me, but Roman Polanski crafted this sequence so well that I wouldn’t blame anyone for being a little disturbed by it.

As Rosemary learns that she is pregnant, with a due date on the 28th of June, 1966 (or “666”), she finds the proverbial walls closing in around her. Minnie gives her some herbal drink made of she knows not what (yet she drinks it anyway), Guy continues to act strangely, and she’s mostly cut off from her other friends. Hutch (Maurice Evans) mysteriously dies just as he’s about to uncover something important regarding her situation, a mission he undertook after seeing that she’s actually losing weight and looking sickly pale. Becoming increasingly paranoid (and increasingly pregnant), Rosemary doesn’t know who to turn to… for everyone may be in on this conspiracy against her and her baby!

Contrary to popular opinion, I find nothing particularly remarkable about the performance of actress Ruth Gordon, at least not enough to warrant her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Too annoying for me, even though that was probably supposed to be the point. I thought that her turn as Maude in “Harold and Maude” was a much more interesting role for her. It’s nice to see Maurice Evans out of his “Planet of the Apes” makeup, and he’s another in a long line of British actors who are fun to watch in anything they do. He could read “The Canterbury Tales” and make it sound interesting for once, but even he’s not the best actor in this cast. In actuality, it’s John Cassavetes who most grabs my attention in “Rosemary’s Baby.” This movie marked my introduction to the actor when I first saw it some years ago, and I’ve never forgotten Cassavetes’ contribution. Cassavetes has played moustache-twirling villains in other movies, but the evil inside Guy is a lot more subtle. He’s not physically abusive to his wife, and does seem to have some kind of affection for her, but he’s also selfish enough to sell his soul, take advantage of the misery of others, and covertly aid in the death of another. On top of all that, he is also capable of mental abuse, allowing his own wife to wonder if in fact she is losing her mind.

The very first time I saw “Rosemary’s Baby,” I was put off by its ending. Years later, I still am, but for a completely different reason. Instead of wishing to see the story finish off by taking a different direction, I’m resolved that the conclusion is the correct one. However, now I find I am unable to conjure the emotions the ending demands of me. Instead of being horrified, the broad overacting in this final scene results only in a burst of laughter. That doesn’t diminish what comes before, because this is still a great horror movie, and the best film in the career of director Roman Polanski. What I can say in this ending’s favor is that the poster and video box art for “Rosemary’s Baby” provides truth in advertisement with the proclamation: “It’s not what you’re expecting.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s