Rosemary's Baby is my favorite horror film of all time. Its got it all: a genius director, marvelous actors, a haunting tale, spooky neighbors, dastardly witches, and, of course, Satan. The film revolves around a young woman named Rosemary Woodhouse. Rosemary and her husband are expecting a child. But Rosemary doesn't look so good. Rosemary is starting to believe that she has been impregnated by evil itself, and everyone she knows might be in on it. As a thriller it works on a level Hitchcock only hinted at. Its a film that surpasses masterpiece and classic, and rests snug atop the terrain of legend.
It was once a venial sin to watch this film, condemned by the Catholic Church and the Legion Of Decency, now you can own it in glorious High-Definition, with a genial satisfaction only Criterion could bestow.
This film only gets creepier and creepier with time. There are several different ways to watch this film. And this film, in turn, tries to tell us many several different things. As film scholar David J. Skal points out in his fantastic book 'The Monster Show':
"Whether Levin's strategy was conscious or not, the plot of Rosemary's Baby was a brilliant metaphorical distillation of the widespread ambivalence and anxiety over sex and reproduction, concerns overshadowed by the garish glare of the swinging sixties. On a simplistic level, both Rosemary and the reader share lingering doubts about the chemical-occult tinkering of their reproductive systems. Rosemary drinks the stinking tannis-root cocktail that her neighbor provides while the reader(likely) swallows the magic candy of birth-control pills. Neither has a deep understanding of the effects of either substance on their bodies and their lives; they rely trustingly on patriarchal authority. Rosemary Woodhouse is led repeatedly to believe she is making her own carefully considered reproductive choices, but the decisions are all being made for her. No matter what assurances are offered, no matter what charms and preparations she uses or ingests, she is not really safe. One of the many indelible images in the film version of Rosemary's Baby is the pregnant but wasted-looking Mia Farrow dashing out against the light into midtown traffic, an apt metaphor for child-bearing under socio-technological seige."
Roman Polanski is my favorite living Director. He is without a doubt the most cathartic of any, living or dead, and damn near the most personal. To think that just one year after making Rosemary's Baby, tragedy would strike his home, wife, and child, is far too horrifying a concept to accept as reality. Polanski fought back with films like Macbeth and Chinatown, both are nothing short of cinematic exorcisms; Polanski fighting off his demons. His films are usually deeply personal, and Rosemary's Baby is no exception.
Another one of my personal heroes had a hand in the creation of Rosemary's Baby.
John Cassavetes gives an outrageously good performance as Rosemary's husband, Guy Woodhouse. The performance Cassavetes lays down gets better and better, and more and more complex the more you watch the film. Mia Farrow is the obvious force to be reckoned with here, but Cassavetes' performance is quickly overshadowing her's for me. Its a performance of subtlety and nuance. Each look, motion, action, pause, and word takes on different meanings after repeated viewings. Sadly, Cassavetes and Polanski hated each other. Polanski has gone on record discrediting Cassavetes' abilities as not only an actor, but as a filmmaker. And Cassavetes can be quoted as saying, "You can't dispute the fact he's an artist, but yet you have to say Rosemary's Baby is not art". The two nearly came to blows, and by the end of production had grown loathsome of each other. But you could've fooled me. It seems as if everyone involved with this film were in tune with each other, in perfect sync.
What Mia Farrow does in this film is indescribable. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more empathetic portrayal of a damsel in distress. I felt all of her fears, and shared more than just basic emotions. Mia Farrow had the ability to communicate feelings effortlessly on film, a very rare and unique gift that Polanski skillfully manipulates and fine-tunes. Not only a great performance but an iconic one. "What have you done to its eyes" will stay with me forever.
It is a truly mystifying picture. Its impossible to not feel Rosemary's paranoia, or even question her sanity, or your logic. Atmospheric and isolated at the same time, this film will play with your sensibilities. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend this one. This is a film that should not be missed by anyone. It is just that good.
And this Blu-Ray Edition is stellar. The picture is very good, and what we've come to expect from Criterion: Quality Above All Else. The colors are very impressive. When compared to the previous DVD release, the picture is a Godsend. The sound is even better. Krzyzstof Komeda's score has never sounded better. Its as if this was my very first time actually hearing it. It was a wonderful experience.
The supplements, in my honest opinion, could have included a little bit more red meat. The disc includes an Interview with Author Ira Levin from 1997, a feature length documentary about the composer of the picture, and the best stuff collected by Criterion: the new interviews with Roman Polanski, Robert Evans, and Mia Farrow herself, I can see myself watching these many times over. But, not to gripe with a next to perfect release of my favorite film, it could have easily included a commentary track. Or the Vintage Behind The Scenes Feature available on the previous DVD release. I guess Criterion just didn't feel like going all out with this one, which is sad for me, I just can't get enough of this one.
Regardless of how I feel about the bonus features, the movie LOOKS and SOUNDS great. Thank you Criterion a million times over! If you're a fan of the film, DO NOT HESITATE. Its worth the upgrade, its worth the cost, and you'll love the product!