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Blu-ray Review Rosemary's Baby Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    One would think any studio executive who saw Roman Polanski’s Repulsion would have jumped at the chance to snare him as the director of Rosemary’s Baby, but allegedly it took the (then) head of Paramount Robert Evans to insist that Polanski be hired to direct the film version of Ira Levin’s best selling shocker. The result is as close to a masterpiece of book-to-film adaptation that has ever been accomplished. Now almost a half century later, Rosemary’s Baby is as taut and tension-filled as ever, and those who are making return visits to it can study in detail elements of Rosemary’s paranoia which (it turns out) are truer than true but so subtly and magnificently manipulated into the film as to be invisible to first timers who might not be quite sure if Rosemary is on the ball or off her rocker.





    Rosemary’s Baby (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Roman Polanski

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1968
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 136 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: PCM 1.0 English
    Subtitles:  SDH

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.95


    Release Date: October 30, 2012

    Review Date: October 19, 2012




    The Film

    5/5


    Actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) and his young wife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) move into an apartment in New York’s legendary Bramford building that has been the site of several nasty past occurrences. They’re eager to start a family, and they’re encouraged by their eccentric neighbors Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer) Castevet. One night after a heavy meal and too much wine, Rosemary drifts off into a semi-conscious state and imagines she’s being mounted by an unspeakable force though Guy simply shrugs off her dream as an alcoholic stupor. Soon, Rosemary learns she is pregnant, but almost immediately she begins having unbearable pain which her obstetrician Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) seems either unwilling or unable to control. When Rosemary’s friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) sends her a book about witches who had once lived in the Bramford and then almost immediately goes into a coma and dies three months later, Rosemary begins to fear that she’s actually surrounded by supernatural forces who want her baby for their own barbaric rituals.


    For those who hadn’t already read the chiller by Ira Levin, Roman Polanski’s screenplay (which follows the book very closely) keeps the uncertainty and paranoia building for almost ninety minutes before we’re finally clued in on what’s actually going on here. Rosemary’s dreams which are centered on Catholic guilt and occult notions are given reasonably rational explanations by Guy after the fact, but Polanski really turns up the suspense level as Rosemary begins to wilt under the excruciating pain she’s enduring, eating raw meat and lying almost inert in the bed each day. And, of course, as in the best thrillers, once Rosemary begins piecing together the parts of the puzzle, the tension doesn’t stop as the protective mother to her unborn child will do just about anything to protect the life of her baby. Mundane things like Scrabble pieces and a telephone booth lead to major “boo” moments, and Polanski’s direction is so skillful that he often takes important characters into another room just out of earshot and slightly hidden by a doorway to keep our radar tuned to attempt to find out what’s happening just beyond our grasp. His mastery of audience manipulation has never been honed to such razor-sharp perfection as he follows Farrow’s desperate attempts to escape her captors through the long, twisting halls, recalcitrant elevators, and less-than-secure locks at the Bramford, itself another sinister character in the movie.


    Mia Farrow was inspired casting for Rosemary (the director initially wanted Tuesday Weld). Slight and willowy, her tempestuous side rises to the fore on several occasions ironically contrasting with her otherwise slender frame making her a formidable presence that makes her appeal completely understandable. John Cassavetes (the studio wanted Robert Redford) has just the right twinkle of evil in his eye, his devilish sneer seeming to meld horrifyingly with something otherworldly in the dream-like conception scene. Ruth Gordon’s Oscar-winning Minnie Casstevet is all jangly bracelets and a strutting walk and is such a dynamic personality that she literally leaps off the screen in her every appearance. More subdued but just as effective is Sidney Blackmer as the worldly Roman. That mellifluous voice and his ready charm are wonderful weapons in his insidious role as recruiter. Maurice Evans has a couple of impressive scenes as Rosemary’s best friend Hutch, and Ralph Bellamy has authority to spare as the “good” doctor. In smaller roles, Patsy Kelly (as a friend of Minnie’s), Elisha Cook Jr. (as the Bram manager), and Charles Grodin (as Rosemary’s original doctor) all have effective moments.



    Video Quality

    4.5/5


    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image is clean and has strong color, something that can’t always be said for previously seen prints and home video releases. Flesh tones are natural with an occasional slant toward rose. The film was never super sharp, and it isn’t here though the transfer expertly captures the dream-like quality of the superb cinematography with a pleasing clarity that matches memories of the original release. If the transfer has a flaw, it’s in the less than optimum black levels, but even that doesn’t impede impressive shadow detail on occasion. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix precisely replicates the original theatrical experience. Engineers have turned out a solid, artifact-free soundtrack melding the dialogue, sound effects, and Christopher Komeda’s marvelously haunting, nerve-jangling score in perfect unison and with surprisingly good fidelity, the best ever soundtrack for this movie on home video.




    Special Features

    3.5/5


    “Remembering Rosemary’s Baby is a 47-minute remembrance in 1080p of the film experience by three of its major collaborators: studio chief Robert Evans, writer-director Roman Polanski, and star Mia Farrow. Filmed in 2012, all three contribute anecdotes tracing the production from the initial efforts to bring it to the screen (William Castle wanted to direct as well as produce) through the script writing, casting the actors, Mia’s problems with then-husband Frank Sinatra, the effective sets and costumes, problems with John Cassavetes, the nude scenes, the expert cinematography, the combination of Ruth Gordon and Patsy Kelly, the editing, and the ad campaign. Though Evans errs saying Farrow was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (1968 was a watershed year and Farrow was not nominated though she did get a Golden Globe nomination), most of the information in this marvelous featurette is welcome since there was no audio commentary for the movie on the disc.


    Novelist Ira Levin is interviewed by Leonard Lopate in 1997 prior to the release of his novel sequel to Rosemary’s Baby called Son of Rosemary. He discusses many of his books and their subsequent film adaptations in this fascinating 19 ¼-minute audio featurette.


    Komeda, Komeda is a 70 ¾-minute feature documentary on the life and career of composer/jazz musician Krzysztof Komeda who composed the score for the movie and for other Polanski projects. It’s in 1080i.


    The enclosed 29-minute booklet contains cast and crew lists, some stills and behind-the-scenes shots from the movie, author and film scholar Ed Parks' celebratory essay on the movie, and ideas and sketches from Ira Levin about the book and film.


    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    Notably scary but without the explicit gore or gruesomeness that would more and more up the ante for horror films, Rosemary’s Baby is one of a kind, a dream-into-nightmare scenario that’s wonderful to watch and easy to love. Criterion’s new Blu-ray trumps all previous incarnations of the film on home video. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    This cannot come fast enough. One of my desert island films.
    The theatrical dye transfer prints on this film were beautiful and I'm sure still are. Excellent review, MattH, and like you, I find it, well, not close to a masterpiece of adaptation - it IS a masterpiece of adaptation. Mr. Levin told me why - it was Mr. Polanski's first US film and he thought that you couldn't change anything, hence every line in the film is pretty much verbatim from the book, as are many of its descriptive passages. I'd always attributed that supremely Polanski touch of the worker drilling the eyehole in a nearby apartment when Guy and Rosemary are first being show to the Bramford apartment to Polanski, but it's in the book, exactly. Would it be that all people adapting novels were under the assumption that they could not make changes. How refreshing that would be.
    The only things missing from the book are a couple of short sequences - those were shot, however - they're in the shooting script. It's a shame those deleted scenes couldn't be found.
     
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Thank you, Bruce. In one of the featurettes, it's stated that all of the characters' dialogue is verbatum from the book. What other book-to-film can make THAT claim!
     
  4. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    Great review, but seeing how I'm waiting for a 50% sale it's going to make that wait all the more harder!
     
  5. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough review Matt. Looks like another winner BD of a fantastic film from Criterion. It's on my list!
     
  6. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    None, not a one. Ira lucked out with Polanski thinking he had to be verbatim. He said that the film WAS the book in every way. He was probably the happiest author ever in terms of a film adaptation.
    And that cast - holy moley on rye. It's not just that Mia and Cassavetes are so good, or that Ruth Gordon walks away with her scenes - it's Sidney Blackmer, who is absolutely brilliant, same with Maurice Evans and Ralph Bellamy and Elisha Cook, Jr. It's one of the most perfectly cast movies ever. And one can't say enough about Polanski's direction, which is superb - he always keeps you slightly off-balance. And one also can't say enough about Komeda's score, oft-imitated but then completely unique, and Fraker's gorgeous photography and Dick Sylbert's wonderful art direction.
    50% sale??? Some things you don't wait on. And I'm sure that Criterion would be much happier with those who didn't wait, so that they could actually make money.
     
  7. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    It's a rare single disc title I'll pay $43 cdn on. that's the Criterion situation in Canada. If we were offered the titles at the price the US is, especially since out dollar is on par or better then the US dollar depending on the day, then yeah, I'd order this one up. I'm sure this is a Canadian distribution problem and not a Criterion one, but it's a problem all the same.
     
  8. Trentrunner

    Trentrunner Stunt Coordinator

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    I think Cassevetes is fine in this role, but Redford would have been inspired. Such a cleancut WASP good-guy...Rosemary (and the audience) would never have seen his betrayal coming. Cassavetes already looks corrupted and troubled from the beginning.
     
  9. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Amen! A rare, rare case where every choice was perfect. I can't wait for this.
     
  10. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I've heard the Redford thing before, but I don't think it would have worked nearly as well with him, wonderful actor though he is. Cassavetes just gets the hungry actor part so right and he's just great, IMO.
     
  11. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    You may not have to wait since the BN 50% off Criterion sale is rumored to start 10/30. With member discounts and a coupon hopefully, this will be a steal whether
    I can get it for $12 or $15 or $18
     
  12. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    The shock value of finding out he is a bad guy would be less than the constant suspense of wondering what he is up. There is just enough of a willingness to cut corners in Cassavettes' performance. Remember how he says that she hasn't been really hurt--he believes it. Redford might play pure evil, but not sliding on the slippery slope like Cassavettes.
     
  13. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Let me put it this way: I want to support Criterion and releases like this. I don't need to get it for a "steal." I know that's the game today and I must say the people who play it, in my experience, are the ones who can easily afford to pay a little more and be supportive. But that's not the world we live in.
     
  14. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    Buying it from B&N for $18 doesn't effect what CC gets for it, why would it?
    Supportive in what way?
    Paying $40 instead of
     
  15. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  16. Louis Letizia

    Louis Letizia Supporting Actor

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    I fully agree and appreciate that Polanski followed Ira Levins book very carefully. But the subtle scene when Ruth Gordon is sitting on the bed with her back to the audience talking on the telephone must have been Polanski's choice.
    The viewer finds himself cocking his head as if to peer around into the room to over hear what Gordon is saying. Its a masterpiece of manipulation.
    Its telling though that Polanski's nomination at the Oscars was for Adapted Screenplay, not directing. (Ironic that in the same year John Cassavettes was nominated for FACES in the Original Screenplay category, and in 1974 they faced off as Best Director nominees). Farrow clearly should have been nominated at Vanessa Redgraves (ISADORA) expense. Polanski, the Picture itself, the Score and cinematography should have all been nominated as well.
    As much as I enjoy THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975 version) and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL -I enjoy them as pop not art. WIVES and BRAZIL have both stepped into everyday lexicon -both meaning conformity.But neither had the brilliance of ROSEMARYS BABY....even the poster art is a masterpiece.
     
  17. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Exactly. I do completely understand the "me" world we live in, however and if you go to any message board having to do with Blu-rays you will see just what I'm talking about - that's ALL they talk about, how cheap they can find something. Then they get irritated with Twilight Time because they can't play that game. Why do you suppose Sony and Fox license that company everything? So, they don't have to go through this BS where no one buys things unless they can figure out the coupon and the 50% off sale and they (the studio) end up losing way too much money. I'm old-fashioned and to the poster who said my comment made no sense, well, sorry, it makes a lot of sense and it's the way the world used to work. One supported companies that went the extra mile with their product, or stores that may not have been as cheap as other stores but who went the extra mile for their customers. Back then it was called customer loyalty and no, it simply does not exist today, and I'm of the opinion that the world is not as good for it.
     
  18. WinstonCely

    WinstonCely Stunt Coordinator

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    I still try to practice it when I can. B&H Photo is not always the cheapest place to get pro audio/video gear, but they're the only people I trust to get me exactly what I need.
     
  19. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    Canadian pricing isn't on par with American pricing for reasons unknown to me since our dollar is par. A Criterion on Amazon.com for $29 it $41cdn on Amazon.ca, double the price. When they were on par, at around $31, I bought them. So I wait for sales to be able to purchase these at a fair price. Being unwilling to be completely fucked by the price in Canada does not make me unloyal to the brand.

    A lot of the complaints with Twilight Time is the limited availability, no extras, yet Criterion pricing. It's my problem with it anyways. "Fright Night" isn't popular enough to do a proper run on bluray? What was retail, $39us plus shipping, so $65 for a bare bones bluray? Bullshit. I get it, people paid $100 for VHS at one point. Those days are over, times change.

    Of course, if you feel so strongly about Criterion pricing and loyalty I'll happily PM you my mailing address so you can buy all the Criterions I want to get at the next sale at full price and mail them to me. I'll compensate you shipping and 50% of the retail of course. I think I'm sitting at around 6 or 7 titles for the next sale.

    Or you can stop being so unnecessarily pompous and judgmental of others. that would probably work too...
     
  20. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    While I get bored with seeing people bitch and moan about pricing and I'm not much of a "I'll wait until it's on sale" kind of guy, it's not as if Criterion is only releasing movies for the sake of art and shun making a profit. They're in it to make money (like any company) and since that's the case, I don't see a problem with a consumer taking the same basic position.
     

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