- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
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
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 136 minutes
Audio: PCM 1.0 English
MSRP: $ 39.95
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Review Date: October 19, 2012
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!