Rosemary's pregnancy by the hands of witches
Directed by Roman Polanski.
Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer,
Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin.
LSC Friday Classics. Tonight in 10-250, 6:30 p.m.By Stephen Brophy
In an inspired bit of Friday the 13th programming, LSC will be screening one of the great classic horror films this evening, Rosemary's Baby. By turns comic, grotesque, and genuinely terrifying, this 1968 tale of a really difficult pregnancy proves the old adage that it pays to be paranoid - sometimes they really are out to get you.
John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow play Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, a newly married couple who move into a gloomy old Central Park West apartment building. (One of the great effects of cinematographer William Fraker, who also worked on great films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is to make the dark apartment grow increasingly light and airy as the heroine's suspicions deepen.) They live next door to Roman and Minnie Castavet, played by Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon (of Harold and Maude), an eccentric old couple who turn out to be witches. Soon Guy, a struggling actor, lands a lead role in a successful Broadway play - for which he had previously been turned down - when the actor chosen in his place mysteriously goes blind. To celebrate, he suggests to Rosemary that they have a baby. And then the fun begins.
One of the reasons this film works so well is its setting, emphasized by the leisurely pan across Manhattan with which it opens. It's hard to believe that a successful coven of witches could be operating in such an urban environment. And the witches are played by veterans like Gordon, Blackmer, Elisha Cook Jr., and Patsy Kelly, which seems more ludicrous than frightening. Also, the story is told entirely from Rosemary's point of view, and the possibility that her fears are induced by the hormonal changes that accompany her pregnancy always hovers in the background.
Rosemary's Baby marks the final high of an interesting career in horror movies for producer William Castle. Most of his previous efforts were low-budget thrillers like House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, which succeeded more because of Castle's promotional stunts than for any inherent qualities of the films themselves. Watch for Castle playing a man at a phone booth in this movie.
Less than a year after the release of Rosemary's Baby, director Roman Polanski was involved in a real-life horror when his pregnant wife and several friends were murdered by a satanic cult led by Charles Manson. And a little more than a decade later, the building in which Rosemary's Baby was filmed became the site of the assassination of John Lennon, who shared an apartment there with his wife, Yoko Ono.