Directed by Roman Polanski and adapted from a novel by Ira Levin, ROSEMARY’S BABY is a sophisticated, urbane horror fable for the modern age.
Dealing with paranoia, urban isolation and the schism between old world beliefs and the skeptical modern age, ROSEMARY’S BABY brought the devil back into horror films in a big way, a trend that would be followed in the 70s by such films as THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN.
By playing up on fears about pregnancy, the film may be the forerunner to the sub-genre known today as “body horror.”
The story is simple. Struggling actor Guy Woodhouse and his wife, Rosemary, movie into a handsome Gothic edifice on Central Park West, the Bramford. (Manhattan landmark the Dakota, home to such luminaries as Boris Karloff and John Lennon, was used for exterior shots.)
Some weirdo neighbors, fronted by busy-body Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon), befriend the young couple. Turns out Minnie and her husband Roman (Sydney Blackmer), are part of a ring of Satanists, who quickly enlist Guy into their ranks by promising to help with his acting career.
The price for this help? Rosemary is drugged one night and seemingly raped by a demonic figure as her husband and his new satanic buddies look on.
Rosemary has suffered the ultimate violation, since even her body is no longer her own.
It’s not hard to figure out who the baby daddy really is. When Rosemary is shown her newborn son, she recoils in horror, saying: “What have you done to its eyes?”
Roman Castavet replies: “He has his father’s eyes.”
If you’re looking for gore and senseless violence, this film is not for you.
Instead ROSEMARY’S BABY is an elegant horror film, offering sincere performances in a realistic setting, slowly ratcheting up the sense of unease and paranoia as we come to realize Rosemary has been betrayed even by her husband and is trapped in a nightmare with no one to turn to. (Even the earnest young doctor played by Charles Grodin turns out to be no help.)
In the final shot, as Rosemary gazes at the thing she has given birth to, we’re left with the question: Can maternal love overcome moral revulsion? The smile playing on Rosemary’s lips would seem to give us our answer.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”