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USA 1968
Directed by
Roman Polanski
136 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Rosemary's Baby

One of the benchmark releases of late '60s New Hollywood, Rosemary's Baby has acquired iconic status probably more through its pop cultural notoriety than its inherent merits. Made at the height of the counter-cultural upheaval of the time the film gained an even greater reputation by the brutal murder of Polanski's pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, the following year by the Manson family.

Adapted from Ira Levin's novel of the same name, the subject of modern-day devil worship was in itself a contentious subject, whilst Mia Farrow, the daughter of Maureen O'Sullivan and Hollywood producer, director and screenwriter, John Villiers Farrow, who was a television star of the day thanks to Peyton Place and making her first major film appearance was at the time married to Frank Sinatra who served her divorce papers on the set when she refused to quit the film.

Such considerations aside, Polanksi's direction endows what might have been a risible fright-fest into a credible psychological thriller/horror story although the film is overlong in setting up the happy young couple, (surprisingly well-off on an itinerant actor's income) and indulges in some rather cheaply-done dream sequences. Polanski is aided by a solid cast of veterans, including Ruth Gordon who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Rosemary's nosy neighbour.

Farrow made her most famous-ever screen appearance and except for some rather dodgy make-up moments epitomized the waif-like beauty that was the hallmark of the day whilst famous independent director, John Cassavetes, plays her spineless husband and the voice of Donald Baumgart, the blind actor only heard on the telephone, is that of an uncredited Tony Curtis.

Polanski takes the psychological approach to the subject-matter much as he did with Repulsion although not as effectively as that film which was far more rigorous in bringing home the inexorable descent of its lead character into madness. Here there is too much play with the notion of whether Rosemary is imagining things or not, summed up with the too clever ambiguous ending.

FYI: The film uses as its New York location, the Dakota Building outside which John Lennon was shot dead in 1980.




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