Written by Roman Polanski, based on the novel by Ira Levin
Directed by Roman Polanski
Mia Farrow: Rosemary Woodhouse
John Cassavetes: Guy Woodhouse
Ruth Gordon: Minnie Castavet
Sidney Blackmer: Roman Castavet
Elisha Cook, Jr.: Mr. Nicklas
A shockingly young Charles Grodin: Dr. Hill
And WILLIAM CASTLE in an uncredited role as "Man by Pay Phone"
The world will never know what the hell William Castle's version of this material would have been. I imagine a nurse out front in every theater (or at least a woman in a nurse costume), possibly free gimmick pregnancy tests given out to all the women buying tickets and a creepy horrible puppet at the end. I don't think he'd have gone full-out into PERCEPTO! in order to entrance the audience, because God knows what kind of gimmick you'd install into theater seats for a movie about a woman getting pregnant with an evil spawn. We'll never know, and for every reason that that's a good thing, I can probably think of one that we're a little poor in spirit all the same.
The late Ira Levin had a gift for coming up with stories that spoke to women's anxiety in the middle of the Cold War--in addition to the novel that was the basis for this film, he came up with the twice-filmed The Stepford Wives (about non-compliant women in a Small Town With A Secret(TM) being killed by a cabal of men and replaced with robots that could fuck). For that matter, he also wrote The Boys from Brazil, about a group of Nazis with a plan to clone Adolf Hitler--and that book had the scientific plausibility down, as I recall. The clones aged in real time, so the people pulling the strings behind the conspiracy tried to duplicate Hitler's upbringing as much as they could to hopefully trigger the creation of at least one new model Fuehrer thanks to the right adoptive parents and the right traumas going on in their lives at the right times. He put some thought into the outlandish concepts, is what I'm saying. They might not be realistic, but the reactions of his characters to bizarre situations would be as grounded and real as he could make them.
And given that this was Roman Polanski apparently didn't know that he'd be allowed to change things if he wanted while adapting the novel into a film (it was his first adaptation as a director), much of Levin's gift for real people in unreal situations made it to the screen. And given that the subject matter is lurid and disreputable, it's telling that the Criterion collection put the film out on DVD and blu-ray last year. 1968 was a big year for horror (it's when George Romero single-handedly set up the rules for a sub genre with Night of the Living Dead; additionally Hammer had Christopher Lee's iconic Dracula over in England while Vincent Price's best performance in The Witchfinder General was seen on screens the same year) and this movie was another big part of why. As a religious horror movie taking place in the present day, this movie paved the way for The Exorcist and The Omen and all their various ripoffs (and movies influenced by them).
And let's think on this one for a moment from a sociocultural standpoint. The film was released five years before Roe vs. Wade settled the issue of legal abortion permanently, other than a forty-plus year campaign of domestic terrorism aimed at abortion providers, up to and including murder. So any film about a woman carrying a baby in 1968 has to be viewed with an eye towards what was going on in the country at that point. The Cold War (which was going to be the focus of this blog when I started it two years ago before I got bored with that and branched out into general cult cinema) wasn't just a time of tension and strife between two superpowers who subscribed to different economic theories. There was plenty of tension back home in the States--1968 was also the year of the Chicago police riot during the Democratic National Convention. The year both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. The year George Wallace ran on a Presidential campaign promising that racial segregation in America would never end. Protests in the streets as young people tried to influence foreign policy with an eye towards not being shipped off to die in Vietnam. The country was at a boil, is what I'm saying. Things were tense. When things are tense, artists communicate that tension through their art.
It does my heart proud to see "A William Castle Production" as the first words on the screen as the camera pans over Manhattan (this is the still largely functional New York City of the late Sixties, not the terrifying, filthy, scabrous urban disaster zone of the following decade). On the soundtrack, a woman croons a wordless lullaby--vocals provided by the top-billed Mia Farrow--and a gentle chiming nursery rhyme tinkles merrily away on a harpsichord. The cast is listed (in bright pink) in a font I like to think of as "lipstick cursive", and the general impression is one of femininity and peace. Well, it's a horror movie so we all know that isn't going to last long. That's why we're here. It's great to listen along and try to pick out when someone's going to go for the minor chords on the soundtrack, and anticipating this is a lot of fun while still being suspenseful.
When the narrative kicks in, it's prospective renters Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse being shown around an apartment by the superintendent, Mr. Nicklas. Guy is a struggling actor (who is better known and better paid for starring in commercials than any of his work on the stage or screen) and his wife stays at home taking care of their place. Mr. Nicklas tells them about the baffling history of the original huge apartment that was partitioned into a smaller one with bigger rooms in the elevator ride up (and the Branford Building is swank enough to have a uniformed elevator operator). He also asks if the couple has any children, and Rosemary says that's the plan. Though the building is elegant, there's chipped tiles in the hall and a squeaky gate on the elevator--one assumes, like New York City itself, the building has seen better days. The Woodhouses are coming into possession of the apartment because the previous tenant, a little old lady, died recently--not in the actual apartment, Nicklas hastens to clarify. She went out in a coma in a hospital. Still, it's a stroke of luck that someone in the city will take advantage of if they don't.
The previous tenant had an indoor herb garden (for cooking, not smoking) and a law library. Rosemary pokes around a little and reads a draft of some correspondance while Mr. Nicklas continues to extol the virtues of the kitchen, bathroom, view and other aspects of the urban experience in his building. The study (with a working fireplace) is what really wins Rosemary over and before anyone can sign any papers Nicklas and Guy work to drag a recently moved heavy wooden secretary away from a closet door. It's a minor mystery (the closet only has towels and a vacuum cleaner in it), but certainly nothing that would put the couple off wanting to take possession of the place. Mr. Nicklas also implies that he's legally not able to raise the rent--some aspect of the baffling rent control laws New York City is known for. Don't ask me how that all works out--I'm a file clerk with a degree in film studies.
The Woodhouses tell their current landlord that they're moving out and he wishes them all the best. They're possibly going to need it, to hear him tell it over dinner--the Bradford has a reputation that makes me wonder if the architect's name was Evo Shandor. Rumors and genuine acts of cannibalism, demon summoning, infanticide, insanity and jaywalking abound. If half of what the landlord says is true they would do well to bring holy water and silver bullets along to the new place. But a good deal on a place with a great location is hard to turn down, so the couple move in, having been duly forewarned.
When they're moving in, the now-empty apartment looks foreboding Deep pools of shadow wrap every room while the Woodhouses are waiting for the furniture to arrive. Takeout meals serve when there's no dishes or table available and the hard wood floor of the study is a perfectly serviceable bed when Rosemary tells her husband she wants to make love (in a sight gag, he silently turns off the one lamp in the center of the room seconds after his wife makes the suggestion). They have to be careful not to make too much noise, because the walls are thin enough that they've heard an elderly neighbor talking to her husband when they first moved in. And as furniture and paint make the place look more livable, Rosemary winds up taking a quick break when she hears a Yamaha commercial come on the television co-starring her husband. It's nice to see that she's interested and proud--I mean, it's a commercial for motorcycles, not a Broadway sensation. Of course, every Hollywood superstar had to start somewhere.
At first it's the little things that seem slightly off-putting. The laundry room in the basement is creepy and dank in the way only an underground utility room in New York City can manage. Thankfully, Rosemary meets another young woman down there, Terry. They hit it off with each other instantly and both of them dislike the dimly lit basement, so they decide to schedule their laundry days to keep each other company. Terry's wearing a good-luck pendant that she got from the Castavets, the Woodhouses' previously heard but unseen next-door neighbors. It's an intricately worked metal sphere filled with some kind of unpleasant-smelling herb, but it looks good enough that Terry doesn't let the smell bother her. She says the Castavets literally brought her in off the street; she was homeless, starving, "on dope" for whatever the 1968 value of that was (I suspect something life-wrecking like heroin rather than pot) and well on her way to becoming one of the big city stories that ends tragically. The Castavets brought her in and gave her a place to live, being elderly, childless and unwilling to see her wind up splattered on the windshield of the Big Apple. Terry thinks they view her as the granddaughter they never had.
Both Guy and Rosemary find it more endearing than irritating when they can hear the Bronx intonations through their bedroom wall from Minnie Castavet when she's talking, but both of them get a little weirded out when they hear a group of people chanting something that they can't quite make out. It sounds like Latin to me, but what they're actually saying was impossible for me to make out. And some time shortly after that, Guy and Rosemary come home to find that Terry has jumped from the Castavets' apartment to her death, still wearing that charm. We get to meet the Castavets as they walk up to the homicide scene; Roman and Minnie are an elderly couple dressed in the finest of awful fashions (or maybe it was haute couture that has aged amazingly badly). Rosemary offers her condolences to the other couple and does what she can--which isn't that much--to assist the police with their inquiries.
The next day Minnie comes over to thank Rosemary for the kind words and to peek around at the apartment (she's snooping, yes, but in a weirdly charming way, and she did know the previous tenant so she's bound to be curious about the new layout). Over lunch Minnie invites Rosemary and her husband over for dinner and leaves like a four-foot-nine tornado. When Guy comes home from a day of auditioning he drops the news that he didn't get the part he was trying for; Rosemary is sympathetic but there's no getting through her husband's funk at least for the time being. Guy talks himself into the dinner invitation as a deposit in the good karma bank.
Roman and Minnie turn out to be rather charming hosts, much to Guy and Rosemary's surprise. And when the subject of hypocrisy in organized religion turns out to bother Rosemary Roman switches gears and compliments Guy on his performance in a play that he was in. It can't hurt to tell the actor that he's got an inner quality that destines him for stardom. And while washing dishes, Minnie pries delicately into Rosemary's family life--she's from a Catholic family: five siblings, sixteen nieces and nephews, and remember what I said earlier about 1968 being five years abortion was a Constitutional right? Well, it wasn't until 1972 that the Supreme Court said unmarried people were legally allowed to buy birth control. Anyway, Rosemary's a lapsed Catholic--sort of the black sheep in her large and massively fertile family. And while Minnie's asking her about this, Roman and Guy are hitting it off--the older man has been all over the planet for his job and for pleasure, and he's got stories upon stories about everywhere he's been. When the couple returns back to their own apartment they discuss the oddball neighbors and it turns out that Guy enjoyed the stories well enough to want to return the following night and chew the fat with them some more. Rosemary was considerably less charmed and will be staying in her apartment, thank you very much. Maybe she wanted to listen to light classical music and read a book anyway (swap out the tunes and I would do just that).
Rosemary's too polite to kick Minnie out when she shows up with another friend to hang out and do knitting or needlepoint. And while she's here anyway, Minnie offers Rosemary that good luck charm that Terry the suicide was wearing earlier. It's got a lump of something called "tannis root" inside it to ward off ill fortune and Minnie claims that the pendant is 300 years old. Hopefully there's a way to swap out the tannis root every so often; otherwise, that's going to be one rank chunk of vegetation. When Guy comes back from the Roman Castavet Story Hour he's had a lovely time, while Rosemary's evening could best be described as "okay". Rosemary puts the jewelry in a box in her dresser (perhaps she's not thrilled to be wearing jewelry that was in a pool of her new acquaintance's blood or maybe it's just the tannis root's odor that bothers her). Right after that happens, Guy gets a phone call that sounds like horrible news based on his reaction. Well, at first things sound awful but then he mentions to the other party that they need to talk to his agent about something.
When Rosemary asks him what's going on, Guy says that the actor who beat him out for a part woke up blind and obviously won't be able to do anything on the stage because of it. The doctors are utterly mystified as to what's going on. And speaking of things going on, the show must do that. There's a proverb and everything. Guy can't quite bring himself to enjoy getting the part if it means that it was in such a bizarre manner, and goes for a walk in the nice fresh air (in New York City before they took the lead out of gasoline) to clear his head. While he's having a crisis of conscience (he hates himself for worrying that the other actor is going to start seeing again because it'll damage his career) Rosemary talks to Hutch, their old landlord--who is another older white dude in her life. I'm starting to think that other than her husband she doesn't know anyone under sixty.
After Guy gets his shit together mentally, he brings back a gigantic bouquet of roses for his wife and in a scene that must have played out differently in 1968, declares that it's time for the couple to have a baby. He's even worked out the days that Rosemary is likeliest to be fertile and has them circled on the calendar. The news is so good that it brings his wife to tears and on date night they have a fire going in the fireplace, cocktails and a home-cooked candlelit dinner, and then Minnie shows up with chocolate mousse and for once, retreats once the dessert has been dropped off. There's something in the dessert that tastes chalky (according to Rosemary), but once Guy gripes at her about finding faults in everything. She eats as much of it as she can, but it seems like her serving tastes weird while Guy's was perfectly normal (hmmmm....). Rosemary starts to feel woozy and stumbles out to the living room while Guy watches a Papal visit to Yankee Stadium and catches her before she can collapse completely. He winds up having to carry her into the bedroom where she has disturbing dreams of her husband taking her clothes off--including her wedding ring--then being tied down on a bed in the Castavets' apartment surrounded by chanting naked figures. Somewhere in there Guy mentions that it's only Catholics allowed in her dream. ("Dream". Right. Sure.) The dream also contains lots of nautical imagery including rich people on a yacht, which goes from smooth sailing to stormy waters.
Guy is one of the people chanting in whatever language that is during the dream, and Rosemary's sleeping brain comes up with her husband worried that she's awake and Minnie saying the "mouse" she ate will keep her paralyzed and insensible. Even in her subconscious Rosemary is a woman used to expecting thinks to work out well and she refuses to make a fuss--even when someone paints runes on her body with a thick red liquid and Guy starts scratching down her naked form. Her subconscious must be worried about something in her dream, because her husband is replaced with some kind of hideous shaggy beast that copulates with her in his place.
The next morning Rosemary just wants to sleep for fifteen or sixteen hours, and Guy has to leave for acting stuff. He probably wishes he could have gotten out the door before his wife woke up and saw the scratches all over her body. Guy claims he didn't want to miss "baby night" and that he's already trimmed and filed his nails down. Rosemary thinks back to her dream and realizes that the reason she thought a monster was raping her was that her husband was doing the same in real life. That doesn't explain the yacht, of course. By the way, if you want to have your feelings hurt, bear in mind that marital rape wasn't a crime in America until the mid 1970s, and that Oklahoma and North Carolina were the last two holdouts claiming that legally, it was impossible for a husband to rape his wife. They saw the light in 1993, after a Supreme Court decision. Guy says he was a little drunk and that Rosemary was utterly smashed and that one thing just led to another. There isn't even argument about this--and not even something you could call a "discussion" in 2015. Both spouses just sort of shrug and move on with their lives. It's creepier and more off-putting than the chanting cultists in the dream.
In fact, the next thing Rosemary talks to Guy about is that she doesn't think he's been attracted to her since the incident. At her next checkup, Rosemary talks to her usual doctor and later gets a phone call that she's in a family way. That same call has her doctor telling her to stop by again because the nurse didn't take enough blood the last time (!) and that they need to run some diagnostic blood work to make sure that the pregnancy goes well. That's another 1968 detail, as it turns out, because there weren't any home pregancy tests until 1978. Think of it as the pharmaceutical equivalent of plots that wouldn't work at all if the characters had cell phones. Guy is overjoyed at the good news, and heartily agrees that he and Rosemary should be more open, communicative, caring and loving towards each other now. He blames his actor's ego, and won't let his wife take any of the blame for their distance. What a great guy. He also wants to go tell Minnie and Roman the good news, and promises to be back in minutes rather than hours. He is back, but with the Castavets in tow. Roman brought wine, which is probably not the best idea in the world for Rosemary to be drinking, and Minnie says she's put in a good word with Dr. Abe Sapirstein, the obstetrician who does all the high society deliveries--in fact, she asks where the Woodhouses' phone is and leaves to do that this very second. Like so many other things when Minnie is involved, she steamrolls over the doctor and gets an appointment for Rosemary the following morning. Everyone drinks to the health of the new baby, which might not be the smartest thing in the world for Rosemary to do.
Dr. Sapirstein tells Rosemary not to listen to other doctors or read up on pregnancy in books; rather, she's to listen to him and call with any questions, day or night. A more suspicious person would wonder why he's telling his newest patient not to listen to any other sources of information but him, but I figure he's just that good an obstetrician. Instead of taking vitamins, Dr. Sapirstein tells Rosemary to drink an herbal health drink that Minnie's going to be whipping up thanks to her herb garden. Turns out, as we all guessed, that tannis root is one of the main ingredients in that mulch. Time presses onward and while Guy works on his dialogue for the play (it's a showy part because he'll be using crutches on stage, and that means working out how to do that and not fall over or smack the other performers while doing so), Rosemary comes home with a brand new haircut and a brand new abdominal pain; Dr. Sapirstein tells her she can get by with aspirin for her pelvic pain and orders her to throw her pregnancy guide away. But something keeps gnawing at the back of her mind, and that something is obvious to the audience long before she gets even the slightest bit suspicious.
I mean, one of her food cravings is barely-cooked beef. And even with that protein and fat in her system she's been sleeping terribly and losing weight (Mia Farrow looks amazingly ghoulish, pale and cadaverous at this point). And she trusts what Dr. Sapirstein completely, so when he says it's perfectly natural for someone to lose a little weight at the start of her pregnancy she has no reason to doubt him. When her old landlord Hutch stops by for a visit he's stunned by how different she looks (part of his reaction is due to the iconic pixie cut created by Vidal Sassoon for the film personally, but part of it is her pallor and thinness). Roman drops by and sounds perfectly reasonable as he objects to the use of vitamin pills and speaks in favor of Minnie's herbal-goop drinks.
Hutch is a little startled when he hears tannis root is in the drinks, and asks Roman if there's any other name for the plant. He says he'll have to look it up when he gets a chance, and then Roman leaves, promising to see them both again. Another one of those "hey, it's 1968" moment occurs when Guy drops off a carton of Pall Malls in celebration of Rosemary's pregnancy. He prepares to light up instantly when he gets there, and when Hutch prepares to leave he's got only one glove in his coat pocket. That's probably going to be important later, I bet. Guy takes a phone call from Hutch for Rosemary shortly thereafter, who tells her that he needs to talk to her the next morning about something important, but that he won't tell her about over the phone. They make a brunch date for the next day as Guy decides to go out and grab an ice cream cone. He sure does seem to be leaving frequently, and I'm not sure why he stopped by the Castavets on the way out.
Rosemary gets stood up for her brunch date (and it's the first time in at least forty minutes or so that the action hasn't taken place in an apartment or a doctor's office, so it's a reminder to the audience and Rosemary that there's a big bright beautiful world out there. When she calls Hutch to ask what's going on, someone whose voice she doesn't recognize says the man is in a coma at a hospital, completely unresponsive. The affliction hit him absolutely out of the blue and the doctors are baffled, at least for now. Which means it's time for Rosemary to look around at the Christmas displays in the shop windows until Minnie just happens to run into her and informs her that she needs to go back to the apartment now. Ah, well, it was a nice brief taste of freedom while it lasted.
Time passes (there's a brief look at the New Year's Eve party where 1965's odometer rolls over to 1966), and the next thing we see is Rosemary eating raw chicken liver in the kitchen while preparing dinner. I should have been praising Mia Farrow's performance earlier, but watching her realize what she's doing (in the reflection of a chrome-shiny toaster) and then decide to stop consuming raw chicken organs is utterly authentic top to bottom. That's apparently a moment of clarity for Rosemary because she starts planning a dinner party for some old friends--or rather, friends her and Guy's own age that they've known for a long time. She pointedly says that the Castavets or any of the other senior citizens that have infiltrated their social circle are not going to be invited, and of course Guy tells her to run it by Dr. Sapirstein first. It takes several refusals before Minnie realizes that she's not invited, and Rosemary pours out the herbal health concoction into the sink after the older woman leaves her apartment.
The party is the first time music recorded in the contemporary decade gets played on the Woodhouses' turntable, and the first time the screen's filled with people under fifty. Everyone's delighted to hear the good news about Rosemary's pregnancy and some walking buzzkill is telling people about the cannibals who used to live in the Branford. Other party gossip lets the audience know that the actor who went blind and vacated the part that Guy lucked into hasn't regained his sight yet, and a couple of the guests remark about how pale, sick, tired and thin Rosemary looks. It's when the different faces and different voices show up in Rosemary's life that she starts to realize how fucked up her situation is--when she's crying in the kitchen about how difficult her pregnancy has been it turns out she's been feeling pain for three solid months and every time she talks to Dr. Sapirstein he says it'll go away in a day or two. Well, obviously that's not the case, and it takes a fresh voice (or three) to tell Rosemary that she needs to go talk to someone else. She also, through her tears, tells her friends that an abortion is out of the question (more sexual politics of 1968--I'm guessing that the topic was absolutely not one that was discussed openly, but Rosemary is in so much pain that the topic comes up while talking things over with her friends); none of the women offering moral and emotional support suggest it.
After the party (thanks for dropping cigarette butts on the floor, everyone) Rosemary tells her husband that she's going to her original doctor the following week--she also puts her foot down about drinking that tannis root swill that Minnie keeps making for her and generally displays a great deal more backbone than we've seen from her over the entire narrative. And good for her, honestly. It's only when Rosemary says that she's been pouring Minnie's drink out for a few days that Guy really reacts, and he absolutely blows his stack. It's almost as if he's not willing to listen to his wife's lived experiences when considering what she should be doing with and about her own body while carrying his child. No, wait, it's not almost like that, it's exactly like that. It's amazing how much resistance Guy puts up just at the mere suggestion of his wife getting a second medical opinion. But during the argument the pain actually stops, which stuns Rosemary into silence and immobility.
For the second time in one evening Rosemary is brought to tears, but this time it's out of joy that she can feel her baby kicking rather than frustration, pain and worry. Significantly, Guy is too worried to touch her abdomen and backs away, even when his wife says their kid won't bite. One jump cut later and they're redecorating the room that will be their child's nursery, and domestic harmony appears to be completely restored. Time slips forward again and we've got Rosemary packing a suitcase with clothes for the hospital, though Guy says she's got almost a month to go before the baby is due. And just when things are looking so positive, Rosemary gets a phone call to tell her that Hutch has died in the hospital. And he never did get his glove back.
At the funeral, Rosemary gives her condolences to Hutch's children. One of the mourners says that Hutch came out of his coma for a few brief moments before his death, and that he thought it was crucial that Rosemary get a particular book. He also said "the name is an anagram" before he died, whatever that means. Minnie tries to snag the book but Rosemary gets it back from her, and finds out that it's called All of Them Witches. The book looks like biographical sketches of people who were accused of consorting with the devil in historical old-timey America and Europeland. If the book title is supposed to be an anagram, let's hope the secret message was "Low Filth Machetes".
A passage about an herb called "The devil's pepper" is underlined, and the section on a Scottish occultist named Adrian Marcato, who was attacked by a mob outside the very apartment building that Rosemary and Guy live in, has margin notes scribbled on it as well. Rosemary tells herself that witches don't really exist (though people who think someone's a witch and then try to beat them to a pulp) certainly do. Then she busts out the Scrabble set and works on the title to see what she can produce. How Alchemist Felt doesn't show up, unfortunately. Nor does Low Thematic Shelf. But hey, it turns out that Steven Marcato (Adrian's son) can rearrange the letters in his name to spell "Roman Castavet". When Guy comes home from a shopping trip Rosemary tells him all the stuff she's put together about anagrams of names and elderly occultists and secret conspiracies to get her pregnant and...yeah, it doesn't sound any more sane when Mia Farrow is telling it to her husband, either.
According to the book, witches and warlocks use the flesh and blood of infants in their Satanic rituals, and Rosemary isn't going to let Minnie or Roman into her apartment any more, now that she's decided she knows what their deal is. Guy actually sounds reasonable when he says that's a ridiculous accusation to throw at someone. Guy thinks it's very extreme to say you're going to sublet the apartment and move away just because you read part of a book and you're worried. When Rosemary goes to Dr. Sapirstein with her concerns he seems stunned, not having known anything about the secret life of Roman Castavet. He also tells the expectant mother that she can forgo the herbal drinks and cakes that Minnie's made for her, and writes a prescription for pills that she can take instead for the last three weeks or so of her pregnancy. Sapirstein pisses all over doctor-patient confidentiality by telling Rosemary that the older man is terminally ill and wants to travel to some of his favorite spots in the two months or so that he's got remaining. Which puts Rosemary's mind at ease, because you can't use her baby's blood in some blasphemous rite in New York City if you're in Dubrovnik.
Guy doesn't want Rosemary worrying her pretty little head about witchcraft any more, and tells his wife that he threw her book away (which, as far as I'm concerned, is grounds for divorce and the guillotine). Thankfully, New York City is packed to the rafters with used book stores that are themselves packed to the rafters and she puts together a beginner's library of witch detection after tossing her tannis root charm into the sewer. In the cab ride back to her apartment she reads a passage that says witches can do all kinds of wicked shit to people by tapping their sorcerous powers. Blinding, paralyzing and killing are all specifically listed in the text. But the real moment where the penny drops is when Rosemary reads that the coven won't be able to throw a hex at just anyone--for the curse to work, the witch (or warlock) needs some kind of personal belonging from the person that's going to feel their sorcerous wrath. Like, oh, I dunno...a glove.
That means that Rosemary needs to call that actor who went blind (voiced by an uncredited Tony Curtis), expressing her sympathy to the poor son of a bitch. She manages to push the conversation into revealing that when Guy met the other actor for drinks, he swapped neckties with him. Which means that Rosemary goes from thinking of her husband as a jerk who wants the best for his little lady to an active conspirator in whatever the hell is going on. The occult books go in the Samsonite and Rosemary goes out the front door to Dr. Sapirstein's office, come hell or high water (and without an appointment). A chance conversation with the nurse lets her know that Dr. Sapirstein often wears tannis root cologne or some damned thing, and it certainly looks like everywhere she goes she's going to see evidence of some occult conspiracy. Frankly, it's about time.
Rosemary calls Dr. Hill from a phone booth but just gets his answering service and winds up hoping for a quick call back--then, talking to her child ("Andy or Jenny"), swears that she'll kill the entire coven before letting a single one of them lay a finger on her offspring. Remember, kids, this is what people had to do before cell phones, voice mail, answering machines or email when they needed to get in touch with someone really fast (although DARPANET, the precursor to the precursor to the internet, actually went live in 1968, but I think it was still classified at the time this movie came out). Although the communications technology of the 21st century is more convenient in a lot of ways, Superman has to find somewhere else to change now that phone booths are a thing of the distant and receding past.
Dr. Hill does call Rosemary back, and listens to her rant about a secret plot against her unborn child. It doesn't make a lot of sense but the sheer panic in her voice convinces the man to see her later that night (and when she leaves the phone booth, that's William Castle his own damn self waiting to make a call--he doesn't have a single word of dialogue, which means the production doesn't have to pay him as much as they would a speaking actor, and I like to think he found that charming). At Dr. Hill's office, Rosemary lays out what she's discovered (and finds out that Guy told Dr. Hill that they were moving to California as a way to keep a non-coven-affiliated doctor from expecting to ever see her again). Her surmise is that something horrible is going to happen to Jenny or Andy once she (or he) is born, and thinks that Guy was bought off with the promise of a successful acting career. She goes on at length about what her fears are, and Charles Grodin must have been cast on the basis of his world-class stone face in the reaction shot following the whole weird rambling speech. It turns out that Dr. Hill doesn't think witchcraft works, but he does know that New York City is full of crazy people who might want to hurt a baby. He tries to get Rosemary over to Mt. Sinai that very night and tells her to lie down in one of the examination rooms to get some rest.
Once her eyes close, it's time for a dream scene with people crowding around Rosemary as she relaxes in maternal bliss. She wakes to find that her husband and Dr. Sapirstein are there, and the obstetrician tells her that one more word about witches in the city will result in her giving birth in a mental hospital. He does promise that nobody in the coven wants to hurt Rosemary or her child, but it's time for her to go home and stop telling people not in the conspiracy about anything. Thanks a bunch, Dr. Hill. The scene of Rosemary going back to her apartment features the lullaby motif that's shown up from time to time played on a clavioline, which means it sounds like Joe Meek showed up for a few moments to make things creepy and off-putting. Yes, that does mean that even though I already rather liked the movie it just got bumped a letter grade up.
Everything looks SUPER OMINOUS at the Branford building and Rosemary fakes everyone out so she can take the elevator up to her floor sans operator. As she starts walking down the corridor the first contraction hits and it is not even the slightest bit comforting to her that the best obstetrician in the city is downstairs waiting to help. She holds them off at the apartment door and calls a friend for help but unfortunately she's out at the movies. The whole damned coven makes their way into the apartment and Dr. Sapirstein shoots Rosemary up with what he promises is a mild, safe sedative to knock her out. Then he notices that Rosemary is in labor and everyone has to assist with the delivery while Rosemary sobs and begs her child--Andy or Jenny--for forgiveness because she's positive that kid is going to wind up on a stone altar with its heart cut out seconds after the birth. The sedative kicks in and she passes out.
She wakes up with Guy promising her that everything turned out okay and that she's the mother of a baby boy now. Looks like it's Andy, then. When Rosemary asks one of Minnie's friends where her baby is, the woman is startled enough to drop her Reader's Digest and runs to get the doctor--who tells Rosemary that her baby died due to "complications". He also says that he would have been able to help Rosemary if he'd been in a hospital, but she was so unreasonable that things got away from everybody. I hope she's well enough to kick him in the balls soon. Guy promises that they can try for another one "very soon", which doesn't really sweeten the deal at all. But Rosemary's been lied to enough to tell when Sapirstein and her husband are continuing to snow her. She's not strong enough to fight the doctor off when he comes near her with another knockout shot, though, and wakes up later for Guy to lie to her some more as well.
While telling his wife that she had a prepartum psychotic break that made her believe Minnie and Roman and him and the doctor and everyone else that stopped by the Castavets' for drinks or dinner was part of a Satanic coven. Sounds legit. But he also lists a bunch of lucky breaks that are happening in his acting career, and damned if the audience--and his wife--don't start wondering if he sold his firstborn son out for a successful Hollywood career. She's so numb and believes him so little that her only response is to ask to see her husband's left shoulder (looking for a witch's mark), but he doesn't have one--or at least he doesn't have one there.
It's starting to look like Rosemary might have actually imagined the whole thing until she hears a baby crying through that notoriously thin wall separating her apartment from the Castavets' place. Her wardens--er, helpful friends of the Castavets assisting her in this rough time--take her breast milk away to be poured down the sink and offer her sedatives (which she palms when they aren't looking), apparently trying to keep her good and stuporous while she's recovering. She's learned the arts of subterfuge while figuring out what's what with her neighbors and sneaks out to determine why she keeps hearing a squalling infant from their place. Oh, and that secret closet from the very beginning of the movie? It's got a door in it that leads to the next apartment down, complete with an old-style keyhole perfect for peeping through.
You wouldn't think the waifish Mia Farrow could be a figure of menace, but give her a kitchen knife and a look of determination while sneaking around the Castavets' apartment and you've got someone that you genuinely can't predict what they'll do when they get to the coven meeting. There's a bassinet wrapped in black satin (with an inverted cross hanging down as a mobile) with Rosemary's baby in it--and here's the point where a filmmaker more subtle than William Castle really improves the material. Seeing a horrified reaction shot from Mia Farrow is so much more effective than whatever crazy-ass gimmick Castle would have wanted (spring-loaded Antichrist babies popping up from under some of the seats? Scent sprayers putting tannis root and burning goat hair into the theater? A single scene in 3-D? The world will never know, and that's almost certainly for the best).
Rosemary demands to know what the cultists have done to her child's eyes--which means that whatever she saw, she can tell at a literal glance that there's something catastrophically different. But Roman calmly tells her something worse than whatever she was imagining--that her baby has his Father's eyes. Rosemary's baby isn't the sacrifice, he's the Antichrist. Which leads to one heck of a screaming breakdown from Rosemary before she makes her way over to the bassinet again after Roman says they could really use some help raising the kid--she doesn't have to join the coven, but they do need a mother for little Adrian. Guy tries to give his wife the "I let a bunch of witches and warlocks use you as a brood mare for the Father of Lies but it all worked out pretty much okay in the end, didn't it?" speech that only a true bastard would deliver, and thank goodness Rosemary literally spits in his face partway through it. While various potentates show up to admire the newborn Antichrist he starts crying, and Rosemary's the only one who has enough love in her heart to try and comfort the poor thing. It turns out that she's got some sympathy for Adrian, who asked to be part of this awful, awful plan just as much as she did. And Father's eyes or not, Rosemary is a mother confronted with the sight and sound of her newborn baby in distress. Adrian's crying stops, and the forces of righteousness are all going to die when Adrian comes of age (which should have been around 1984, which is when RONALD WILSON REAGAN--count the letters in each of those names--was re-elected to the Presidency, making Adrian's best efforts largely superfluous).
Man, what a neat slow burner of an occult thriller. I imagine people who hadn't read the book in 1968 were probably fooled by more of the plot twists than people would be now; we've had four decades of ripoffs and works influenced by this one to think back on and the plot twists won't be nearly as effective because of that. But the influence of this one stretched on for decades. Without this religious-themed horror film we likely wouldn't have had The Omen or The Exorcist, and without them (especially the latter) there wouldn't have been any gory, violent, explicit horror films made by any major studios since 1974. Nobody wants to do anything in Hollywood so much as to be the second one to do something original, and it sure looks to me like this film spawned dozens of imitators from the well-crafted to the ridiculous. And it's an amazing time capsule of gender politics and social mores from the pre-Pill, pre-Roe v. Wade world. Much like Mad Men, it's as much a catalogue of societal information that a viewer in 2015 can wince at and be grateful that those days are gone as a film full of cool old cars and clothing.
And, of course, knowing what everyone knows about the director now, it seems he was a natural to make a movie about an innocent young woman who was slipped a mickey, raped by a monster and then victimized by the powerful. Because not every monster is safely trapped on the screen.
This review is part of the HubrisWeen blogaround that happens every October. Click on the banner to see what the other four reviewers selected for movie R.
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