Sliver

Moving into the Bramford was a godsend for newlyweds Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse. Ideally located near Guy’s work in the theater and spacious enough for “Roe’s” dream of a nursery, this boarding house even came complete with welcoming, albeit nosey, neighbors. For better or worse, however, one piece of Wood of that house had clandestinely struck a deal, menacingly so.

Bloody Rundown

A petrifying tale of patriarchal pledges and ultimate betrayals, Rosemary’s Baby is the absolute masterpiece of horror. Distributed by Paramount Pictures under the guidance of prolific studio head Robert Evans, this critically-acclaimed 1968 blockbuster continues to transfix and horrify.

21Based on Ira Levin’s 1967 bestselling novel, Rosemary’s Baby was produced by William Castle, who had purchased the film rights with the intention to direct. Castle, a filmmaking veteran known for his flair of high-camp gimmicks in his low-budget horrors, was persuaded by the young Evans to forfeit directing and instead serve as producer with a momentous cameo role.

Evans recruited the then up-and-coming European director Roman Polanski, who he felt could make the film “jump out of the screen.” Polanski not only directed the film, but also faithfully adapted the screenplay from Levin’s novel. His screenwriting precision earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.  

16The film is quintessential mid-60s New York City, showcasing the décor and fashion of generations old and new. Set entirely in the city, the film primarily takes place at The Bramford, a fictitious name for The Dakota, the famed Upper West Side co-op where Boris Karloff once resided. Foreboding yet beautiful, the English Victorian building is the catalyst to this harrowing tale. With the exterior filmed in New York City, Richard Sylbert created the film’s interior at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. Polanski requested Sylbert as the art director, and then recruited his sister-in-law, Anthea Sylbert, as the costume designer.

7New York City’s fabulous Swinging ‘60s fashion is showcased throughout the film, most especially during the party scene that Rosemary, played by Mia Farrow, hosts. Sydney Guilaroff designed the wig that Farrow wore before her character donned her Vidal Sassoon pixie, a “hot” haircut that had garnered the actress much press.

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13Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda created the film’s memorable score. Mia Farrow sang his melancholic “Rosemary’s Lullaby” during the film’s opening and closing credits.

Initially, Polanski envisioned a voluptuous “corn-fed” actress for the role of Mrs. Guy Woodhouse; but, waif-like Farrow was cast at the urging of Robert Evans. Farrow delivered such depth and profound vulnerability to her character that the director and producer thought she deserved an Academy Award. John Cassavetes’ complex and vigorous performance as Guy Woodhouse was equal to Farrow’s brilliance. Cassavetes’ penchant to improvise, a style that Polanski abhorred, caused great tension on the set; however, the end result was cinematic genius.

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Sydney Blackmar’s singular portrayal as Roman Castevet complemented the authentic performances of all his costars, most specifically, Ruth Gordon’s. In her role as the eccentric Minnie Castevet, Ruth Gordon’s dynamic and mesmerizing portrait earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 72.        

It took a team of visionaries to complete this riveting and meticulous saga of Satanic soul-selling.  But, the enduring significance of Rosemary’s Baby surely could not have been achieved without the filmmaking ingenuity of Roman Polanski. Rosemary’s Baby, in my opinion, is Roman Polanski’s magnum opus, or rather wybitne dzieło. What a genius.

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Die-Anne’s Diatribe

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“Pray for Rosemary’s Baby” is the film’s eerie tagline. But, in light of what the baby is, surely a tagline such as, “Pray for Rosemary’s Miscarry!” would be more appropriate. (And I will personally lend you a wire hanger, Roe.) Then again, without that hanging carriage, there’d be no movie!

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Rosemary’s Baby, in my opinion, transcends all horror and remains the greatest film ever made. Ever.

From both a religious and secular perspective, Rosemary’s Baby is a horrifying suspense that unnerves the crux of my soul. Of course I find anything regarding the devil as frightening. But, the patriarchal subtext (err overt) in Rosemary’s Baby resonates even in Western societies to this day, rendering the film all the more haunting and scary.

The Satanic worshippers deceive and abuse Rosemary, which is par for the course, vis-à-vis the film. Once enlightened, Rosemary seeks protection. She beseeches a haven from an outside authority who can safely deliver her baby. But, that haven, who happens to be “dreamboat” Dr. Hill, also deceives her.

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Even while living during the Swinging ‘60s of New York City, the gateway to feminism, Rosemary’s demise is a result of being a product of her time. Rosemary, as a woman—living in the United States—has few rights. And as a pregnant woman, Rosemary has no rights—anywhere. Then again, she lost all human rights once she said “I Do” to a guy. (I don’t quite know who to loathe more—Guy Woodhouse, Dr. Hill, or the Satanists?) I have pondered this at length. Oh, if only Hutch had survived…

rosemarys_partyI have seen this film a million times, and I have forced my mother to view it with me at least 1,966 times. I once asked my mother, “Why can’t Rosemary just get a room at the Waldorf and then take a TWA back to Omaha?” My mum looked at me as if I was wearing tannis root, and gasped “Die-Anne, women were not even able to get a credit card in their own name until 1974!” And that, my freaky friends, is scarier than scary.

The Curse of Rosemary’s Baby

The backstory hearsay and history of this production is just as riveting as the film, but I daresay the aftermath of production is all the more tragically haunting than any fiction.

  • 17Roman Castevet, otherwise known as Adrian Marcado, the Satanic mastermind, was portrayed by the great talent Sidney Blackmer. During the final scene where his character leads the devil worshipers with salutations of “Hail Satan,” Blackmer turned to Mia Farrow off camera and stated “This isn’t going to go well.” And those prophetic words rang true.
  • Mia Farrow, a starlet on the rise from the television soap opera Peyton Place, was married to Frank Sinatra, 29 years her senior. 9Sinatra discouraged Farrow from taking the role of Rosemary as he had cast her in his film The Detective. When filming for Rosemary’s Baby had overlapped into Sinatra’s production schedule, he demanded that she leave the movie. Farrow refused. She was of Hollywood royalty, and her ingrained work ethic stipulated that one just doesn’t leave a film mid-production. Sinatra was so enraged that he sent his lawyer to serve Farrow divorce papers on set. Distraught yet resilient, Farrow continued filming her scene (the one in which she is raped by the devil). This of course incited massive press fodder. Although Rosemary’s Baby beat The Detective in the box office, Farrow and Sinatra would ultimately rekindle their relationship, platonically as loyal friends until his death.
  • 11Shortly after the release of the film, the gifted composer Krzysztof Komeda was tragically killed in a freak accident at the mere age of 37. He suffered a brain injury after falling and hitting his head. Like the film’s character Hutch, Komeda was subsequently comatose for three months before dying of a brain hemorrhage. The fall occurred in California; however, he was able to be flown to his native Poland where he died.
  • During the film’s release, producer William Castle almost died from kidney failure. Hospitalized and deteriorating, Castle only regained health long after the film’s accolades; accolades that he rightly deserved to enjoy, but missed.
  • Although this may be a stretch to the theory that the film is cursed, I daresay it is a strange coincidence: Two actresses who portrayed Rosemary’s girlfriends, along with the actress who portrayed Dr. Saperstien’s receptionist, would succumb to rare cancers at early ages.
  • 12Most recently, Victoria Vetri (billed as Angela Dorian), who portrayed Terry and who Rosemary confessed looked like the movie star Victoria Vetri, is in prison. In 2011, Vetri was sentenced to nine years after pleading guilty to the dropped charge of the attempted murder of her husband. While high on meth, Vetri shot her husband close to the heart during an argument. (One wonders who she’s doing laundry with now…a wrinkled Pat perhaps?)  
  • sharon tate 2The mesmerizingly beautiful and exquisite talent Sharon Tate was not just an average American actress and model, she had European sophistication. In a supporting role, alongside the famed Donald Pleasence, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, and David Hemmings, Tate made her feature film debut in the British horror Eye of the Devil (1966). Evidently, she caught the eye of many. Tate was then cast in the comic-horror The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), directed by Roman Polanski, who she would later marry. sharon tate With innumerable bit parts and costarring roles along the way, Sharon Tate would eventually earn a Golden Globe Award nomination for her role as Jennifer North in the cult classic Valley of the Dolls (1967). Tate would also appear in an uncredited part in Rosemary’s Baby during the “under 60” mid-60s party scene. (Patty Duke, her costar from Valley of the Dolls, would later reprise the role of Rosemary Woodhouse in the made-for-TV sequel Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976).)
  • 25On August 9, 1969, nearly 14 months after the release of Rosemary’s Baby, all innocence was lost. The murders, and subsequent spree, that befell Roman Polanski’s 26-year-old wife, Sharon Tate, who was nine months pregnant, and their three friends, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger, as well as the 18-year-old passerby Steven Parent, are surely the most infamous tragedy surrounding Rosemary’s Baby.
  • On August 10, 1969, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were also murdered. During this second set of murders, “HeaLter SkeLter,” misspelled for the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter,” was cryptically written in blood on the refrigerator.
  • On December 8, 1980, John Lennon, the iconic peace activist and former Beatle, was executed outside his home at The Dakota, fictitiously known as The Bramford in Rosemary’s Baby.        14

Plot Mutilator

Coming before the year “1”; and if that has passed, may God help us all.

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Deadly Details

Director ∞ Roman Polanski
Producer ∞ William Castle
Screenwriter ∞ Roman Polanski
Adapted from ∞ Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)
Music ∞ Krzysztof Komeda
Cinematographer ∞ William A. Fraker
Editors ∞ Sam O’Steen and Bob Wyman
Distributor ∞ Paramount Pictures
Release Date ∞ June 12th, 1968
Running time ∞ 136 minutes
Country ∞ United States
Language ∞ English

Cast ∞
Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse
Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevets
Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet
Maurice Evans as Hutch
Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Abraham Sapirstein
Charles Grodin as Dr. Hill