I’ve liked this movie since I first saw it sometime in the '80s. I love the atmospheric nature of it, I love the mundane evil of Minnie Castevet and the avuncular charm (and total evil) of her husband Roman and the stupidity of the one old lady in their coven (“We’ll kill you, milk or no milk!”), I love the tour of The Dakota, and anything that gave Maurice Evans a job in the 1960s (when he was also playing Maurice on BEWITCHED and Doctor Zaius- his apogee decade imo). It also had a quirky dark sense of the absurd (“It’s Lipton tea!”) mingled with some great psychological horror.
So I’m curious what others think: how does it hold up?
Levin wrote a sequel to it back in the 1990s when Baby Adrian would have been the age of Jesus starting his ministry. It flopped IIRC, but actually had an almost identical ending to Devil’s Advocate, the Keanu Reaves movie about a son-of-Beelzebub, which ends with “it was a all a dream… or was it?”
My favorite part of the ending is seeing Hope Summers, aka Clara from The Andy Griffith Show, shout “Hail Satan!”
Now we know why Clara’s pickles always beat Aunt Bee’s, and perhaps what happened to Andy’s wife…
I saw it recently with a friend who had never seen it, and I thought it held up pretty well. I had forgotten about its dark humor.
One scene that was a little dated to me was when John Cassavettes basically blamed the “rough sex” from the night before on how loaded he was, as if that was a justification for forcing himself on her.
Also Mia Farrow’s dreamy detatched performance is kinda annoying at first, but then kinda makes sense - if she were more on the ball or world weary it would’ve been less likely that she ignored the evidence for so long.
One of the many pieces of mythology about the movie:
When I was a teenager, Anton LaVey, Founder and High Priest of the Church of Satanism and author of The Satanic Bible, was a favorite bogey-man for the frothing-at-the-mouth set of Fundies-Against-Everything. This was during the “backwards masking” craze and just before the Satanic panic, and they portrayed LaVey as an occult mastermind who was basically kind of like a flashier Adrian Marcato, but with unlimited funds, with followers around the world and traveling to temples and mansions around the world in a black jet (actual claim), and, they claimed, he helped bankroll the movie and had a cameo as Satan in the rape scene of Rosemary’s Baby.
LaVey ate this crap up, of course, and probably started half the rumors, but he was not in any way at all associated with the film. As far as his international network, at his apex he had a small cult in San Francisco, and his international assortment of mansions and temples consisted of a small house in the SF Bay area he didn’t even buy but inherited from his parents and that was so dilapidated it was condemned not long after he died, and unlimited funds meant that at his zenith he made a good living but a combination of divorces, waning interest in his freak show, and legal bills from child endangerment and animal cruelty charges left him impoverished except for whatever he could scrape together from sales of his book and a pittance from cult members and the occasional handout from well off curiosity seekers like Marilyn Manson. It’s almost funny that this man who rejoiced in being seen as Bond villain/Hannibal Lecter/Roman Castevet all rolled into one was, like Alistair Crowley before him, a pathetic old con man who was having a good month if he paid his utilities on time.
I went through a phase where I was reading movies. Rather, I would find out a movie had been based on a book, so I’d go chase down the book and read that. Through that process, I learned how much I hate Ira Levin (the author of the book Rosemary’s Baby) because it turns out (I hadn’t noticed) that he’s a misogynist. All of the female characters are weak and totally told what to do and how to act. Same guy wrote The Stepford Wives, if that gives you any clue. That Rosemary’s baby was co-opted to become the Son of Satan or whatever, without any consent or knowledge on her part really pisses me off. You’d think the whole scheme would be much easier to pull off with the mama’s consent and participation. But they lied, obfuscated, gaslighted, and pretty much controlled and manipulated poor Rosemary during the entire movie. Every time I see one of the male characters (in the movie) patronize her (and every single one of them does it, even the doctor who’s on her side), I want to punch Ira Levin right in the throat.
So for me, I can’t stand that movie, nor either of The Stepford Wives movies, nor anything else Ira Levin had a hand in (Sliver is another book by him that became a movie and which was all about one man using women for his personal entertainment. Ew.), and therefore, it doesn’t hold up at all. YMMV.
All of which may be true, but that does not detract from the overt impression of blatant misogyny I got when I read it. The very premise is misogynist. He probably just didn’t like Sharon Stone. Because she’s opinionated and not afraid to voice it.
Let me ask, when this movie came out, was it supposed to be a surprise or “twist” that Rosemary had given birth to the devil’s baby?
I first saw the movie on TV when I was about 12 years old. I happened come in the room when my mom was watching it, at about the halfway point. I asked what the movie was about and she said, “It’s about a woman who gives birth to the devil’s baby.” So I sat and watched the rest of the movie, where it seems like the ending is supposed to be…I don’t know, a twist or something. Where it just ends with the devil worshippers confirming her suspicions that something was wrong. I remember watching it and thinking, “Yeah, it’s Satan’s baby, I already knew that part. This isn’t much of an ending.”
It’s been several years since I’ve last seen the movie, so I don’t really remember - it seems like the audience is supposed to believe that Rosemary is right in her suspicions, that she’s not going crazy as some of the characters imply. But was the movie originally billed with the premise explicitly stated as “Woman gets pregnant by devil?” Did my mom inadvertently “spoil” the movie for me?
Nobody could possibly call Minnie Castevet “weak.” She is the one who berates her husband Roman for telling Terry (the doped up hooker) their plans to use her as a vehicle for Satan’s spawn. She visits the Wodehouse’s apartment first and gets information on Guy’s acting career and then invites the couple to dinner so Guy can fawn all over Guy (who he probably didn’t know from Adam) and convince him to use Rosemary to impregnant with Satan’s baby in exchange for his lucky break in acting.
The book was written during the debates about legal abortion and “Is God Dead?” Rosemary was raped and definitely carrying a deformed child, yet she gives birth.
I think both the movie and book hold up very well.
I’ve always loved this movie, and saw it again recently (introducing it to my fiancee who had never seen it).
I think it holds up beautifully. Sure, some references are dated – nothing from the 60s is going to be immune to that. And it suffers from the same fate as all groundbreaking films – what looks cliched now was once new.
I think Polanski made a critical error, though, in the impregnation/rape scene. The shots of Rosemary with something scaly are too vivid and obviously non-dreamy, and when she says “this is no dream…this is really happening!” :smack: thanks, Roman, for tipping your hand.
Without at it could be plausibly have been a story about witches plotting to kidnap a human baby, with a big twist at the end.
Not to excuse misogyny, but Ira Levin’s (not to mention Roman Polanski’s) is probably par for that period. Hitchcock’s female characters don’t fare much better, for example (with the possible exception of Midge in Vertigo). They, too, are either passive or neurotic or both, for the most part. (It’s good to discuss it and not just let it pass.)
Another interesting feature of Rosemary’s Baby: This may have been the first and last time in popular culture that “Satan worshippers” were depicted as something other than Glamorous and Sexy and Glamorously, Sexily Dangerous.
It’s quite refreshing.
I enjoy the movie very much. It’s a period piece, of course. But it has not one slow or false moment, to my mind.
A question about Charles Grodin’s character (Rosemary’s original doctor):
Rosemary confides to him about the plot to kidnap her baby and he seems to take her seriously, but then he brings Guy in. Is this because he decided she was mentally disturbed or was he part of the conspiracy? The reason I wondered if he’s part of the conspiracy is that he really did seem to believe her for a moment.
I didn’t like that they used the Hormel Devilled Ham version of the devil; I wish they’d gone with a more Nephilim than reptilian version.
I thought the dream sequences were some of the most “realistically dreamlike” (if that’s not an oxymoron) ever in a movie. The Pope at her bedside saying “I understand you were bitten by a mouse” was perfect and an actual weird congregation of things that would come together in a dream.
I think it’s only on my most recent viewing (let’s say viewing #5) that I got that the previous tenant of Rosemary’s apartment had been a coven member who was killed when she tried to bail out. Not sure why there needed to be a secret passage between hers and the Castevet’s, though.
And I’d like to have a better look at the artwork on the Castevet’s walls, and why they felt it necessary to remove them when they had company.
I’m not going to defend Levin the writer or his body of work, but the movie is clearly not misogynistic just because you have a female character that’s manipulated and abused–because it is neither consensual nor condoned and the entire point of the movie is that Rosemary (hardly a weak woman, given what she’s up against) is the object of a cruel conspiracy beyond her control or depth. That is the source of the horror.
A truly misogynistic movie would brush away or trivialize that element, but the audience (men and women alike) are meant to identify specifically with her and her helplessness and disorientation (especially towards people she’s grown to trust and take at face value). Her husband is obviously a horrific and self-centered person, but let’s be honest–this is just at the dawn of Women’s Lib so a highly patriarchal and narcissistic worldview would not be uncommon among men his age, especially ones as insecure as he clearly is.
Maybe Levin sympathizes with and justifies all his male characters in the book (I wouldn’t know), but Polanski clearly doesn’t. They are evil at worst, condescending at best. And that is quite unambiguous throughout the film.
Yes, it was supposed to be something of a surprise that this is what was really going on. As I remember, Rosemary thought that something was wrong, and she had vague memories of being boinked by something other than her husband, but she just wasn’t sure. All she knew was that something was wrong, and she thought that they had kidnapped her baby for some nefarious purpose. The surprise was that the baby was the son of Satan (“What have you done to his eyes?” “Nothing, dear, he has his father’s eyes.” “Sam doesn’t have eyes like that!” “No, dear, Sam isn’t the father; the father is Satan.” or words to that effect).
As I noted in the very short thread on the current movie This Is The End, there is a sly reference to the boinking scene of Rosemary’s Baby at a critical point in that movie.
My interpretation is that it’s plain old patronizing patriarchalism…Women Are Naturally Hysterical and that sort of thing. The doctor was following the conventional wisdom that Her Husband Will Know Best. I don’t think we were meant to believe the doctor was part of the conspiracy–but that may be a matter of opinion. Perhaps Polanski was going for deliberate ambiguity.
For those who’ve read the book: is this question answered, there?
One was a depiction of demons and Hell (though that wasn’t that uncommon a theme for centuries- Bosch and Durer and Michelangelo and lots of others visited hell for inspiration). The portrait above the mantel was of Adrian Marcato, though that wouldn’t really have meant anything to Rosemary and Guy until after Hutch gives her the book with his picture in it (and Hutch was kind of a wild card), so I’m not sure why they took it down as they could just have said “That’s a painting of Roman’s dad”.