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Rosemary's Baby Pt 1: Tannis, anyone?

50th Anniversary Three-Part Mini-Series
Occasionally we'll take a movie and baton pass it around the team and really dive in. If you missed past installments we've gone long and deep on RebeccaSilence of the LambsThelma & LouiseWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and A League of Their Own. Now... Rosemary's Baby - Editor


Part 1 by Seán McGovern

I'm delighted to take you through Part 1 of Rosemary's Baby, a terrifying personal favourite. 


00:01 William Castle, who in the pantheon of horror was basically a schlock-jock, produced the film but according to Mia Farrow, Castle was at one point going to direct. What would the outcome of that have been? Potentially not the paranoid horror we revere today but maybe something more gimmicky. William Castle was portrayed by John Waters in Ryan Murphy's Feud: Bette & Joan, and if that's not a fitting tribute I don't know what is.

01:00 In these short two minutes of opening credits are also the names of some of the twentieth century's best character actors: Ruth Gordon, Charles Grodin and Ralph Bellamy. The theme melody is la-la-la'ed by Mia Farrow herself, giving that girlish tone a chill that you'll also be humming all day...

02:15 It's hard to believe that Rosemary's Baby was fifty whole years ago. Hard to believe, not because it still scares in a deeply insidious and profound way, but because of the ordinariness of the events, the busibodiness of its villains. It all feels so possible today. I mean, the most fantastical element of the whole thing is that Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse can afford that apartment! 

Why would she cover up her vacuum cleaner and her towels?”

05:22 The realtor makes a point of moving the large chest of drawers, mysteriously moved from it's orginal place where it likely lived for many years. What's behind it? Just another closet. How strange...? Did a woman of 89 really move this? No wonder she went into a coma, says Guy! Part of Rosemary's Baby's excellent storytelling is that every object or piece of furniture of significance is referred to or revisited later on. When you consider a film like Hereditary, which is going to fill the internet with explanations, Rosemary's Baby, for all it's European influences, is solid gold Hollywood genre picture.

When Rosemary sees Mrs. Gardenia's herbs, Guy knowlingly winks “No marijuana?,” a simple nod to a new, youthful, and relevant cinema-goer.

Ah, you're great Hutch

07:11 Ah Hutch, another brilliant character. Their old landlord and cherished friend. Hutch is nothing but pure goodness, an avuncular figure who not only makes a mean roast lamb but warns both Rosemary and the audience of all the diabolical things that happened in the history of the Bramford Building.

Who's Adrian Marcato?

08:20 Hutch is a treasure trove of knowledge, and Rosemary singles out the mention of Adrian Marcato. Oh, poor, sweet Hutch, enjoy it while it lasts!

09:20 Our first glimpse of Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon) well, figuratively. It's just her voice bleeding through the walls. I'm happy to go on the record that Rosemary's Baby contains one of the most deserved Oscar-winning performances of all time but more on Gordon in a minute.

12:50 Down in the laundry room, we're introduced to Terry Ginofrio, a wayward young woman who was “picked off the pavement, literally” by the kindly Castevets next door.

I have a good luck charm. It might work for both of us.

14:30 She shows Rosemary her ornate but stinky good luck charm. It's European! Rosemary and Terry promise to come and do their laundry together from now on. Terry tells Rosemary that she'd be dead if it weren't for the Castevets. Dead or in jail.

16:15  Well, Terry, I've got bad news for ya...

Introducing Minnie and Roman Castevet.

17:00 Talk about an entrance. Minnie and Roman Castevet, in their flamboyant finery, walk into the scene from an apparent night out. Roman, in trilby and pink blazer, and Minnie in a spectacular frilled bucket hat(?), her face painted by the make-up gun. They both look with what can only be described as annoyed resignation at the bloodied corpse of Terry Ginofrio. A suicide.

That's not possible! That's a mistake!”

17:30 ...the first of many brilliant utterances by Ruth Gordon, spitting out her words like Daffy Duck if he smoked 20 Lucky Strike a day. Roman identifies Terry's handwriting, confirming it without hesitation. Why did Terry jump?

19:00 The first dream sequence.

19:50 Amongst the many brilliant touches in Rosemary's Baby are the dream sequences, this one a taster of things to come. Polankski balances the mundanity and absurdity of what happens in our dream state: the quarreling of Minnie and Roman next door bleeding into Rosemary's unconscious, as she confesses to an incident she did at school many years ago.

20:07 Minnie pays a visit.

20:15 This extended sequence captures the brilliance of Ruth Gordon's performance. Even though Gordon had been acting (and also writing) for decades previously, there's a naturalistic, unrefined quality to her acting, that feels so removed from the artifice of cinema prior to 1968. Gordon distills the menace of someone who just won't GET OUT OF YOUR HOME.

We're in the dark about the true nature of Minnie and instead are enraptured by her presence. Never has someone read the label on a tin with such a flourish.

I've been everywhere, literally”

23:40 Guy and Rosemary go next door for dinner. Minnie and Roman in their natural habitat, except, isn't it weird that there are pictures missing off the wall? And does Roman have earrings he's taken out? And even more sinister - “Jokes for the John.” Rosemary leaves giddy, but curious. The audience is left chilled. Roman ushers Guy away for a chat about... something, but not before telling him and Rosemary that he's been all around the world. He has seen the ruins of Rome, and been in the igloos of Nome. While Minnie has an endearing terror about her, it's Roman who barely disguises it. No amount of vodka blushes can get rid of that. No Roman, I don't care how popular they are in Australia!

31:00 You put on some music, lie down to read a book and the door bell rings: utter horror. If you lived with me you'd know this is a very real fear. Minnie enters, with Laura-Louise, definitely the grandmother of Hereditary's Ann Dowd. They sit down – for the evening, god knows – to do a bit of stitching.

32:25 Minnie hands Rosemary a familiar object: it's the charm that Terry wore around her neck. Minnie, unaware that Rosemary is struggling to contain her significance of the object, casually tells her about tannis root. The fictional plant lives on in in-jokes between me and my boyfriend. 

Tannis anyone?

33:30 "If you took it you oughta wear it". Why is Guy so determined that Rosemary express her gratitude?

34:20 Moments later there's a call. Donald Baumgart, who beat Guy to a role, has gone blind. Guy is offered the part...

You really mean it?

37:00 Guy, with a spring in his step, apologises for being a jerk. And what can a man do to apologise? Determining a woman's will to procreate, that's what!

38:30 As he ratchets up the romance there's a knock at the door. Oh God, Minnie. Guy returns, chocolate “mouse” in hand.

It has an undertaste... a chalky undertaste"

40:30 Rosemary spoons a few morsels into her mouth, tipping the rest onto her lap. As she becomes woozy, Guy carries her to bed.

42:22 Somewhere between worlds, Rosemary finds herself on a yaught, captained by Roman Castevet. JFK tells her that unfortunately it's Catholics only.

43:30 Guy undresses her. The wedding ring is removed. 

CUE: An iconic moment of terror in cinema history in part 2

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Reader Comments (13)

One of my very favorite movies. Most horror/dark fantasy films show you way more than they should. Rosemary's Baby is smart: it lets the audience experience its chalky undertaste for themselves - filling in the blanks with our own imaginations until all is revealed. Thanks for this write-up, can't wait to see the next 2 installments!

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

You pick up just right on the creepy bits of foreshadowing,that's why I love this film,the dread after Terry dies creeps slowly over you until your covered in it by the time the dream starts.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Should anyone want to make one of Roman's vodka blushes, here's how you do it. Beloved of Satanists the world over:

Ingredients for one drink –

2 1/2 ounces of vodka
Dash of grenadine
1/2 ounce of fresh lime juice
Sprigs of rosemary for garnish

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients except rosemary and shake. Strain into a champagne glass (as Roman serves it) and garnish with fresh rosemary.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeán

Séan -- thank you for the daffy duck with a 20 pack cigarette habit. also you're so right about the 'unrefined' quality to the performance but in the best possibly way. Like it's authentic despite its absurdity. She really is five star brilliant in this movie.

p.s. somehow i hadn't registered other than subconsciously that it's Mia Farrow going "la la land" on the theme. my eyes went wide seeing it in print. OF COURSE.

June 14, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

absolutely agree on the dream sequences. I don't think there's one in my part (part 3) but they're pitch perfect in their editing and camera work... both mundane and absurd as you say... but really what makes them so memorable is the way they dissolve into themselves and drift from one image to the next. They feel both real and unreal, clear and fuzzy, easily interpreted and baffling simultaneously, all of which are exactly how dreams feel!

June 14, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yay! I love these team mini-series! Such a great choice for one. This movie is SO good. Ugh, now I want to re-watch it. Is Gordon's win one of the top 5 best supporting actress wins? Possibly/probably.

So many big movies are celebrating their 50th this year. Just read the New Yorker article from a few months ago about 2001 that is really interesting. Kubrick's design team basically created what the future would look like.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Mia Farrow not getting an Oscar nomination is #1 on my list of unforgivable omissions in the Best Actress category.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Thank you Seán. My partner (“not this movie again!”) is going to be so pissed when I come in carrying my overfilled Roman’s vodka blushes!!!

Thanks for fêting this piece of art. Beyond the film itself, its relation to its time is so interesting. Unmoored youth without institutions to guide them (no religion, family). Instead of running into Charlie Manson, Guy & Rosemary meet the Castevets (with more interest from one partner to say the least!).

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAdeferrer

Please do more like these.

Such a great film. How DID Mia Farrow not get nominated for this?!?

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Definitely one of the best movies I had ever seen. In fact, it was so scary. My mother refuses to see that movie ever again. It scared the shit out of her. I hope to buy the film on DVD and scare her again.

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Tannis everyone!

Thank you for this. As absurd (in the most genius, best sense of the word) as Rosemary's Baby can be, the biggest absurdity is that Mia Farrow was not—and to this day hasn't been!—Oscar-nominated for one of the most iconic movie performances. (Meanwhile, her ex, Frank Sinatra, is an Oscar winner for God's sake.)

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

A masterpiece of horror and suspense- Polanski creates such a realistic situation and just the lets the horror slowly creep in until that final shocking reveal

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I love these multi-part series...and I love Rosemary's Baby. Such a stealthy film. Funny and frightening. Every scene has something great that builds the story and atmosphere.

June 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

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