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"We're your friends, Rosemary. There's nothing to be scared about. Honest and truly there isn't...."
Criterion / 136 Minutes / 1968 / Rated R / Street Date: October 30, 2012
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her husband (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment whose previous tenant was an old woman who had recently fallen into a coma and died. Rosemary loves the apartment, and she convinces her husband to sign the lease. Then almost immediately, she becomes acquainted with the neighbors, one of which (Ruth Gordon) might be the nosiest and pushiest woman in the world, and a young woman who has been adopted Gordon and her husband. Since this young woman had a troubled past, she is fortunate to have been taken in by them, or so she says. So far, so good. But soon Rosemary becomes pregnant, and suddenly her husband becomes aloof, even while the nosy neighbors becomes more and more insistent about Rosemary's pregnancy...
For about ten years Roman Polanski was as good as any director out there. His success came in several genres, and the excellence of those films match their influence. Personal problems and a move to Europe are often credited with ending this great period of Polanski's, though it is not unusual for directors to "have it" and then suddenly "lose it". Rosemary's Baby was Polanski's first American film, and it is an effort that is worthy of being equated with his other great works as Repulsion, Macbeth, and Chinatown.
But make no mistake about it, Rosemary's Baby is a suspense film with horror elements. Often it is creepy, but its scare factor is minimal. To his credit Polanski avoids "BOO!" scare tactics, instead fashioning a story that tantalizingly builds little facts, like the oddness that a closet was inexplicably blocked off by the former tenant. What makes the film so effective is its ability to increasingly transfix the audience as Rosemary becomes more and more in danger.
Mia Farrow is incredible in the role of Rosemary, and Ruth Gordon truly is the neighbor from hell in her Oscar-winning performance. Yet I have one problem with the film. Rosemary is unbearably stupid; in fact, she is about as dense as a cement block. How could anyone believe that chronic sharp pain is a normal part of pregnancy? She is near death, and yet she keeps following the advice of her neighbors and their doctor. Why would she wear that necklace knowing what she does about its history? What a dunce! She also is very slow to recognize how coincidental it is that so many people around her are dying. Maybe I would not have been so fast to recognize what was going on had I seen this movie in 1968, but having seen many other films that rely on a similar formula, I knew right away that something was seriously amiss. It is exasperating watching Rosemary and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for her to figure out that something is awry.