Thoughts from the Ledge on horror director Roman Polanski

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Rosemary’s Baby Courtesy of William Castle Productions

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Based on the Ira Levin book which I read, this is the supernatural horror story that stands toe to toe with other efforts like The Exorcist. All I can say is apartments and their myriad of tenants can be frightening. They are your neighbors, you might say hello to them but do you really know them?

Young wife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her struggling actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into this creepy building. The other residents are nice enough but there is an undercurrent of malevolence. With Guy always schlepping to find gigs, Rosemary is lonely.

She befriends busy body Minnie Castevet who is played by the wonderful character actress, Ruth Gordon. Rosemary starts to feel like something might be wrong with her but she still keeps a civil façade.

When Guy lands the lead role in a play under mysterious circumstances, things start to get interesting when he proposes they have a child. Delighted, Rosemary agrees. However, it gets eerie when he announces the ideal night to start this activity.

What should have been a romantic evening instead turns into a frightening experience as poor Rosemary is taken advantage of by the devil. The next day, she feels beaten up and Guy apologizes for being a little rough with her.

As a result, Rosemary is pregnant and her paranoia increases as the Castevets help her find a doctor. As the months wear on, she finds herself having unusual symptoms like a craving for raw meat as well as pain and weight loss.

Finally, Rosemary has had enough of the weirdness and she demands to see another doctor. Suspicious of everyone, Rosemary does research and finds out that her building is inhabited by a coven of witches. It all makes sense! She was impregnated by the devil in exchange for Guy getting a big break as an actor.

She ends up having the baby and despite the fact that she knows he is evil incarnate, she agrees to act like his mother. Once again, Polanski strikes gold. The script that he has written with Ira Levin is taut and full of suspense.

As a director, he elicits a wonderful performance from Mia Farrow who is truly believable as the conflicted and naïve Rosemary. You are frightened with her and for her. In my book, this is Polanski’s defining opus that cements him as a bona fide director of the horror genre.