August 9, 2018

filmsgraded.com:
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Grade: 77/100

Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

What it's about. Mia Farrow is a young housewife married to struggling actor John Cassavetes. They rent a New York City apartment, where they are neighbors with an elderly and eccentric couple, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. They have an attractive, friendly young guest, Victoria Vetri.

Vetri unexpectedly commits suicide, and soon Gordon is intruding into Farrow's life. Curiously, Cassavetes seems to enjoy the company of the much older Blackmer, and just as curiously, he lands an important role in a play when the actor who has sewn up the part suddenly becomes blind.

Farrow becomes pregnant under suspicious circumstances. As she approaches delivery, she becomes increasingly paranoid that Cassavates has joined a satanic cult with Gordon and Blackmer as key members. Farrow believes they will kidnap her baby once he or she is born, and use it a sinister ceremony. Her doctor, Ralph Bellamy, appears to be part of the conspiracy.

Film noir veteran Elisa Cook Jr. has a brief role as a landlord. A young Charles Grodin shows up as a doctor.

How others will see it. Rosemary's Baby was a box office hit, among the top ten movies of its year of release. It was also a critical success, winning Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon) at both the Golden Globes and Oscars. In addition, both festivals nominated Polanski's screenplay.

Today at imdb.com, has a big 160K user ratings, aided by the end of the Production Code that would have restricted its nudity and resolution. (The conspirators get away with the murders of Victoria Vetri and Maurice Evans, the rape of Mia Farrow, and the blinding of an unseen actor, voiced by Tony Curtis.)

The user ratings are very high at 8.0 out of 10, and show only the most marginal spreads between age, gender, and geographic demographics. The user reviews for notorious movie are dominated by high praise, e.g. "A Flawless Horror Masterpiece", "one of the best horror films ever made", etc. The old joke is true: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they're not out to get you. Or, in this case, your baby.

How I felt about it. Rosemary's Baby has to be the best film in the producing career of William Castle, who graduated from directing B-movies such as Slaves of Babylon (1953) to making cheesy horror movies such as The Tingler (1959) and 13 Frightened Girls (1963).

But of course, the undeniable success of Rosemary's Baby has much more to do with Roman Polanski, who directed the movie, and adapted the screenplay from the Ira Levin source novel. Polanski has an affinity for horror that escapes most respectable directors (e.g. Repulsion and The Ninth Gate) and layers on the suspense masterfully.

Sweet and innocent Mia Farrow is ideal to play the lead, and her Machiavellian husband is portrayed just the right amount of cynicism by John Cassavetes, nobody's husband of the year. Ruth Gordon, who was previously known primarily as a screenwriter (with three Oscar nominations in that category) launched a successful second career playing eccentric elderly characters (e.g. Harold and Maude).

Given its writer, director, and story, and aided by insightful casting, Rosemary's Baby had most everything going for it. All that can be criticized is Farrow's pre-feminist character, who only manages a gram of spittle to punish her despicable husband and his satanic career enablers.

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