the Thinking Chicks Guide to Movies

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Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Reviewed on 2006 November 25

Rosemary’s Baby is one of those films that still manages to kick you in the stomach, even though it’s almost forty years old.

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse (John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow) are a young New York couple trying to find a decent apartment and further Guy’s acting career. They accomplish the first task pretty easily — they get an amazing apartment at the Bramford, a creepy building with a dark history and a beautiful yet sinister exterior. Neither the creepy tales about the place nor the fragment of a disturbing note left behind by the previous tenant (deceased) can dissuade Rosemary. Any qualms are pushed out of her mind when she sees how airy the place can be and spots a bedroom that would make a perfect nursery. They snap it up.

The only downfall to their new home seems to be the garrelous neighbors that come along with the views and floor space. Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) start insinuating their way into the Woodhouses’ lives, but they do seem very sweet, even if they should have their picture in an encyclopedia under “nosy”. They have the Woodhouses over for dinner one night and Guy and Rosemary wind up enjoying themselves. Roman is a great story-teller and Minnie is quite maternal to Rosemary.

Could life be better? Nice neighbors, check. Huge yet affordable apartment, check. And Guy’s career starts peaking! Why not start that family? Rosemary gets pregnant and promptly starts losing weight and having unbelievable pain, the kind of pain mean-spirited women like to talk about to scare women carrying their first child. And all this in the first trimester! With Guy’s career taking off he’s not really around to offer much help either. All Rosemary knows is that something is wrong, but nobody seems to believe her. And why do terrible things keep happening to the few people who are trying to help her?

Don’t get me wrong: I think Roman Polanski is a vile creature, and I want him to serve time for what he did. The movie is still outstanding, and when you’re lucky it’s on cable late at night, so you can enjoy it without lining his pockets. He took Ira Levin’s book and spun it into a dark fairy tale. It works so well because it never does tip its hand until the very end. We don’t know with certainty what’s happening or who’s in on it. The younger people in the movie just seem like urbane New Yorkers, and the elderly crew look like they should be cranking out doilies and home-made cookies. Everything seems so mundane on the surface that makes it even nastier when Rosemary realizes what she’s up against. The acting is top-flight and the music is very effective. I wish all movies aged as well as this one.

Four chocolate morsels and a shot of Kurpiowski Royal Mead (or any other Polish honey wine). Just get it yourself — don't let anyone pour it for you!


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