“Pray for Rosemary’s baby.”
The film that devilishly paved the way for such subsequent big studio horror blockbusters as The Exorcist and The Omen, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is a fiendishly clever hybrid of mainstream thrills and arthouse chills. Beautiful young couple Guy (played by legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes) and Rosemary (Mia Farrow, in the iconic role that catapulted her from actress to major celebrity) rent a fabulous apartment in New York’s fabled brownstone The Dakota, down the hall from an eccentric older couple—Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon in an Oscar-winning performance, and Sidney Blackmur). The Castavets redefine “nosy neighbors” and Guy seems to revel in their attention as he tries to get his acting career off the ground. When a Broadway star mysteriously goes blind, Guy sees a possible break. After a night of wild celebratory sex, Rosemary becomes pregnant. But is Rosemary’s blessed event actually part of Guy’s unholy bargain for success? And is everyone around her really part of a satanic plot designed to ensnare Rosemary and her baby, or is it all just a figment her over-active imagination? Surely the Devil can’t be alive and well and looking for an heir in modern-day Manhattan … right?
Based on Ira Levin’s best-selling novel, Rosemary’s Baby spins a web of paranoia and fear perfectly in keeping with the cultural/political climate of the late ’60s, and the film generated major controversy due to its shocking themes of Satanism and a Godless society. The film was on its way to being directed by infamous schlock-meister William Castle (The Tingler), who secured the rights to the novel and produced the film, until Paramount chief Robert Evans brought director Roman Polanski on board. Polanski’s sterling reputation as a serious art director with a penchant for suspense (based on such offbeat thrillers as Knife in the Water and Repulsion) took the project out of the realm of a “B” genre picture, and placed it firmly in the “A” list category. Infusing the story with wicked black humor and extremely unsettling ambiguity, Polanski turned this tale of “a woman in trouble” into one of the most profoundly creepy films to ever escape from a major Hollywood studio.