Thursday, August 5, 2010
ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968). Director: Roman Polanski.
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) moves into a new apartment [that a barely recognized actor, her husband, could hardly have afforded even in the 60's] and discovers that her neighbors are witches and devil worshipers and have their eye on her unborn baby. Rosemary's Baby was based on the novel by Ira Levin, one of the first, highly influential horror novels of the modern period. For the most part the movie eschews creepy atmosphere, monsters, familiar horror iconography and the like as in the old Lugosi/Karloff films, bringing horror out of the dark woods and musty castles and into Manhattan and the daylight. This more prosaic approach was influential on such as Stephen King, but some viewers may find it all a little too matter of fact or just a new take on a very old notion. The devil worshippers mostly come off as normal people -- which is the point -- although it must be said that if you want your villains to appear "ordinary" you probably shouldn't cast someone as odd and rather gross as Ruth Gordon. [Sidney Blackmer is more on the mark as her husband.] The bizarre casting of some of the satanists threatens to turn the movie into more of a black comedy than a horror film, although it has to be said that Patsy Kelley is better in her role than you'd ever imagine. Charles Grodin is a doctor, as is Ralph Bellamy, and producer William Castle has a cameo as a man at a phone booth. John Cassavetes is fine as the actor-husband who finds his career suddenly taking an upswing. Elisha Cook shows up early as a rental agent, setting the tone of familiar faces often cast in sinister roles. The whole thing is rather silly all told, but undeniably entertaining. Mad Magazine did a funny spoof entitled "Rosemia's Boo Boo," with a horrified Mia looking at Alfred E. Newman in the crib.
Verdict: Overall fun it you don't take it seriously. ***.