An excellent cast combined with the provocative idea of witchcraft yields a top-notch thriller under Polish director Roman Polanski’s deft handling in this, his US film debut.
Waif-like Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her overly ambitious husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a Gothic apartment block in Manhattan and naively become involved with their flamboyant elderly neighbours – Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer).
The seemingly kindly old couple are actually Satanists and Rosemary is raped – with her husband’s complicity – by the Devil, and then bears his child. The baby vanishes and is reported dead.
Hearing a baby cry beyond her bedroom wall, Rosemary breaks into the apartment next door, where she finds her husband, neighbours, doctor and the child; Satan Reborn, amidst festivities and happy cries of “God is dead!”.
But though Rosemary is carrying a fine sharp carving knife, she does nothing with it. When asked to shush and rock the blasphemous child, she does so. Fade out. The end.
What??! Nonsense. Also balderdash. On a purely paranoid level, the woman would have to kill someone: her husband, a neighbour who poisoned her, a doctor who lied to her, or maybe even the baby itself.
Based on the novel by Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby tells the story from Rosemary’s point of view, so that the audience shares the growing realisation on her part that there is something horribly wrong with her pregnancy and that the twittering, vulgar Minnie and the courtly Roman are not all that they seem.
Shot on location in the creepy Dakota apartment building on Central Park West in New York City (the same building John Lennon was murdered outside in 1980) the film cleverly mingles the mundane and the macabre to suspend our disbelief in witchcraft and give the film’s coven a terrible plausibility.
Ruth Gordon (pictured above) won a deserved Oscar for her busybody portrayal of eccentric menace.
Elisha Cook Jr
Girl at party