Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Based on the novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Screenplay by Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer
After moving into a new apartment Rosemary (Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (Cassavetes) find themselves surrounded by peculiar neighbors. After Rosemary becomes pregnant she becomes increasingly paranoid over the safety of her unborn child.
Rosemary’s Baby is a classic psychological horror film based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin (The Boys from Brazil). Roman Polanski (The Pianist) adapted the novel, making it the second installment of his Apartment Trilogy. The other films in the series are Repulsion and The Tennant. This one features Mia Farrow (Hannah and Her Sisters) in the title role. She’s joined by John Cassavetes (The Dirty Dozen), Ruth Gordon (Adam’s Rib), and Sidney Blackmer (How to Murder Your Wife).
This is a very nicely written story, based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin. The film rights were purchased before the novel was even published after Paramount’s Robert Evans received an advance copy. Polanski quickly adapted the novel, staying very close to the source material. The result of his work is one of the best horror films of its era. The story opens on an idyllic scenario as two young people find the apartment of their dreams. This setup allows for a very gradual but evident decline into paranoia and suspense. The tiny clues left along the way are very nicely played, allowing the film to be unpredictable.
The movie also keeps things pretty simple, which is essential to stories like this. The characters in this movie are interesting and uniquely designed in ways that accentuate the eccentric nature of the story. The real success of this writing is the plausible nature of the scenario. Despite the supernatural elements of the story, the premise is far more common and easy to relate to. This helps to create a certain amount of frustration for the viewer as the story unfolds and it seems that the main characters are the only ones not in on the reality of the situation. For his work, Polanski was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The acting in this film is really wonderful. Mia Farrow takes on the title role with an impressive performance. She does a great job developing her character from happy housewife to paranoid mother-to-be. Her emotional performance not only makes her character feel more honest, but it also powers the suspense and horror of the story. She’s paired up with John Cassavetes who also does excellent work. His performance carries a lot of tension within it that really helps with the tone of the film. Together these two have nice chemistry that helps to keep their relationship feeling honest.
The movie also features nice work from Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, and the rest of the cast. The success of this film can be largely attributed to the strange nature of the supporting characters. The odd nature of the people around the building is easily written off as quirky. As the story progresses, quirky becomes scary. Gordon does a particularly great job with her role in the film. She would earn the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her work in this one. The cast does an excellent job bringing this one to life. Even the smallest roles in this one bring something great to the film.
There is a simple visual approach taken with this movie. Like the premise, nothing is initially done that feels odd or unrealistic. This plays nicely because the unfolding story comes together in stark contrast with the world it’s happening in. The lighting and camera work do an excellent job helping this story come to life. Cinematographer William Fraker (WarGames) also found the right ways to handle the more unique aspects of the visuals. Overall, this one looks great and has visuals that back up the tone of the story. The film also features an incredible score by composer Krzysztof Komeda (Knife in the Water).
This is a movie that has earned the status of a classic horror film. In addition to the immediate success of the film, it continues to be recognized as one of the great psychological horror films. The film was even selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. If you’re a fan of films like The Omen or The Exorcist this is one for you. I would also suggest this to fans of the stars. This is a great choice for people looking for great psychological thrillers or horror films. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.