ROSEMARY’S BABY. 1968. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY IRA LEVIN. DIRECTED BY ROMAN POLANSKI. STARRING MIA FARROW, JOHN CASSEVETES, RUTH GORDON, SIDNEY BLACKMER, MAURICE EVANS, RALPH BELLAMY AND CHARLES GRODIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This brilliant and iconic horror film reaches out and grabs you by the throat from the get-go. The first thing I noticed about it is the following. The music in THE SIMPSONS when Homer exercises poor judgement and takes the kids to a horror flick that’s totally unsuitable for young ‘uns is actually a clever homage to the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the start of ROSEMARY’S BABY. I love finding out stuff like that!
When a terrified Bart and Lisa Simpson, traumatised from being made to watch THE RE-DEADENING, hear the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the dinner table and howl in fear, Homer casually remarks: ‘Oh yeah, I forgot I bought the soundtrack…!’ Good old Homer. Marge, on hearing where Homer’s taken the kids, actually remarks: ‘Homer, that’s a rare lapse in judgement for you!’ or words to that effect. Yes, rare indeed. Snigger.
Anyway, ROSEMARY’S BABY tells the story of a young couple, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, who in 1965 move into one of those gorgeous, huge old New York apartment buildings that are always being featured in films. SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is a great example. You know the kind of building I mean. They’ve got lifts and doormen and laundry rooms down in the big scary basement and tons and tons of storage space and I’ve always wanted to live in one.
Guy and Rosemary’s building is called the Bramford and, according to their pal Hutch, its history is sinister and inextricably bound up with the occult. This doesn’t deter the young marrieds, though. Rosemary in particular loves all the closet space and, let’s face it, as a dutiful little ‘Sixties housewife, she has plenty of time to line them all with nice stripy shelf paper while hubby Guy is out trying to earn a crust as an actor.
The most interesting thing about the Bramford is the Woodhouse’s new neighbours, an eccentric old couple called the Castevets. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Minnie Castevet, the garishly-dressed, extremely nosy and pushy auld one who insinuates herself into Rosemary’s business right from the off.
After initial reluctance, Guy becomes chummy with the couple and presumably talks to them in private about how hard he’s finding it to make it as an actor. Then one day, he suddenly tells Rosemary he’s willing to try for the baby she’s always wanted. Coincidence much? He’s even worked out on a chart when the optimum times for conception are, if you can believe that. Is any man alive that keen to knock up the missus…? Well, maybe some guys are, haha.
Dozey Rosie doesn’t suspect a thing. Not even when one night she gets ‘tipsy’ (with Guy’s encouragement) and has a horribly life-like ‘dream’ in which she is raped by a demonic figure in the presence of Guy and the Castevets and a load of their elderly pals from the Bramford. ‘Dream,’ my Aunt Fanny. As if the whole thing wasn’t arranged by Guy and the Castevets together. For shame…!
Rosemary wakes up the next day covered in claw marks and scrapes and scratches. Guy tries to make out like he had sex with her while she was out for the count so as not to miss out on conception time. He says it was nice, in a necrophiliac kind of way…! What a swell guy. We have a name for that kind of carry-on nowadays, boyo.
Anyway, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed, Rosemary ends up preggers by Satan after that one night, because apparently His Infernal Majesty always hits the mark on the first time. No faffing about for the Dark Lord. No bullshitting with Beelzebub. No half-assed endeavours for Lucifer. He uses his whole ass when he undertakes something. Oh, and Guy is suddenly on his way to becoming a famous actor. Coincidence, my butt.
What happens to Rosemary after her unwitting conception of Old Nick’s kid has the quality of a nightmare for the boyishly-coiffed young mum-to-be. Does she get through it unscathed? Does Satan Junior? Does Guy get any kind of come-uppance? Can the Devil be prevailed upon to pay child support and take his infant to MacDonald’s and a movie at the weekend like every other normal deadbeat dad? And above all, can anything be done about Rosemary’s hair? ‘Tis shocking bad. These and other questions can (mostly) be answered by watching the film.
The book by Ira Levin on which the film is based is one of the few books I own that I read right through without stopping. JAWS by Peter Benchley was another one, William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST another. It’s in pretty good company, as you can see.
ROSEMARY’S BABY, incidentally, is one of the films that made it on to the American National Film Registry, which means that the Library Of Congress deemed it ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,’ which is a pretty big honour for any film that makes the cut.
The acting is sublime, the scripting tight and the ending fantastic. The only thing that puzzles me is the bit about Satan’s apparently being such a rough and inconsiderate lover that he leaves his consort covered in savage claw marks. That’s not the Satan I know. Why, the time he and I… Ooops. I’ve said too much. Never mind. Forget that I said that. We’ll end on a pun based on the movie. ‘Anyone for tannis…?’ Yes, I said tannis, haha. Watch the film. You’ll find out.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home. In 2003, she was invited to be a guest on Niall Boylan’s 98FM late-night radio talk show purely on the basis of having a ‘sexy voice.’
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: