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Rosemary's Baby Pt 3: All of Them Witches

50th Anniversary Three-Part Mini-Series
Occasionally we'll take a movie and baton pass it around the team.

In Part One Seán McGovern sang the praises of Oscar winning Ruth Gordon as nosey neighbor Minnie to Mia Farrow's iconic Rosemary. The apartment is a find for Rosemary and her husband Guy (sleazy John Cassavettes) but the Bramford sure has sinister tenants.

In Part Two Jason Adams eyed fascinating visual details as the perversions mount and Rosemary becomes emaciated and pale -- aren't pregnancies supposed to make you fill out and glow? As we pick back up Rosemary has just left the funeral of Hutch. He left her a book and a cryptic message "the name is an anagram." 

Part 3 by Nathaniel R

1:26:00 Rosemary never gets a moment to herself. Home from the funeral she barely has time to hang up her hat and throw off her shoes and the doorbell is wringing. I'll give you one guess as to who it is. 

Minnie, yup. Notice how chalky that drink is *wretches* and how much Ruth Gordon is doing in every scene including this brief one, conveying just how watchful, manipulative, and blasphemous Minnie is  -- "Grace, one of my favorite names" -- underneath all the old-lady eccentricity, flashy clothing, and innocuous chatter. 

1:27:00 Hutch wrapped the book up tightly like a gift, but it's not a pleasant one...

1:27:00  I love this shot because it's another reminder that not a single moment in the film is wasted. We'll see a variation of this shot toward the end but Rosemary will go for the largest knife the second time. For Hutch's package the smallest and least lethal will do.

1:27:30 The sound design of this movie is on point.  As Rosemary flips through the book "All of Them Witches" you can hear her faucett dripping inside and children playing outside... it's nearly subliminal like the dam of her ignorance has finally sprung a leak and her future child, more obviously, is also on her mind.

1:28:37 One of the most iconic shots in horror history is just Scrabble pieces. Your favs could never. This shot isn't a red herring but an, uh,  orange one. It's not the title of the book that's the anagram but a name within the book. But Rosemary figures that out while she's sliding the pieces around. (Raise your hands if you've ever solved anagrams with Scrabble pieces.)

Rosemary figures out that Roman Castevet is actually Steven Marcato (son of infamous martyred witch Adrian) and confronts Guy, who predictably blows it off.

1:33:42 Guy demands that Rosemary stop reading and takes the book from her. Love the placement of the book as he stashes it above Alfred Kinsey's twin books "Sexual Behavior of the Human Male" and "...Human Female" He doesn't want his Eve biting into any apples and getting the knowledge!

1:36:40 A brilliant moment of cutting from the editors. By the time Rosemary wants the book again Guy has thrown it away. We make an abrupt cut from a still camera interior shot of her annoyed face to a handheld outdoor shot as she just walks into traffic, oblivious to the cars honking and braking around her. She doesn't even look at the cars!

That shot always unsettles. One of the most brilliant choices Mia Farrow makes in this movie is the way Rosemary so easily slips in and out of awareness. It's the key to both her vulnerability and her dawning understanding. It's as if she's both half asleep when she's awake AND half awake when she's sleeping. She's sleepwalking right into the street but at the same time this is when she's awake enough to seek knowledge (heading to a bookstore) and when she finally thinks to ditch that demonic "good luck charm."

1:37:55 Stripping the drama down to its absolute essentials here -- this shot! It's only her pregnancy visually. And sonically it's only her dawning awareness of the power of witchcraft. The only sounds we hear are her conversation with Guy's blinded victim (who was told she was in California - yet more lies) and a ticking clock right behind her belly. That child is a bomb waiting to explode. Wake up, Rosemary. Wake up. This is not a dream. This is really happening!

1:40:50 Another distillation of everything as Rosemary flips through magazine at the Doctor's office. Time Magazine's famous "Is God Dead?" cover in close up; more casual blasphemy as that's paired with her pregnancy with fellow patients wish her good luck. It's in this scene where she finally realizes that Dr Saperstein is also in on the plot and she hightails it out of his office. Or rather waddles out of his office as fast as her pregnant self can manage on to the street again.

1:45:39 Rosemary calls Dr. Hill, her original obsteticrian for help. She tells him of the plot against her and demands to see him. It's the most forceful she's been in the movie.  It's a measure of the effectiveness of the movies paranoia that the man behind her is a source of real alarm. You're suddenly thinking he's listening in rather than just waiting to use the payphone.

1:50:31 Dr Hill isn't trustworthy either. (He's grown a moustache for this scene as Jason pointed out so he's clearly moved over to the dark side). I like that you don't get a sense of why Dr Hill betrays Rosemary though. He either thinks she's crazy OR he's been won over by the witches. Either way the end result is the same but I like wondering. Don't fill in all the blanks, filmmakers.

Rosemary's Baby arrived during a particularly tumultous time in American history and it seems to argue over and over again that innocence and trust in others are fatal character flaws. Soon enough Rosemary is back in the Bramford.

1:55:20 The film now feels more like a haunted house movie than ever. Even when Rosemary is escaping she's trapped.

We don't want to hurt you.

1:56:50 The cinematography on this movie is something else. Rosemary is here in the frame even when she's out of the frame.

1:57:24 We're in deep horror at this point. Rosemary screaming, being drugged, and held down, hands all over her body. She's injected with a sedative as she goes into labor. Even the usually loving act of stroking someone's hair to calm them down is soured here, with anonymous hands all over her, and no one actually concerned for her. The feeling of invasiveness in this film is overwhelming.

1:58:16 This is the image Rosemary wakes to, the father of her child her husband. It should be a comforting sight. But of course it's not. Love that the wall is totally blank and his shirt blends in. This is minimalist mundane evil. There's nothing to see here.

02:01:24  Even at this late stage in the game, her husband and her "friends" are still trying to convince her (and repeatedly at that) that she's making it all up.

02:02:34 Rosemary demands to look at Guy's shoulders (is she looking for some satanic marking?) and he makes a bad joke about stripping. He really is the worst. But all movies should contain scenes where the lead actress forces her lead actor to strip. It can be made organic to the plot!

02:06:45 After pretending to swallow her pills for days Rosemary is finally in a clearheaded state and realizes that the baby is next door at Minnie and Roman's though she's been told the baby has died. She grabs the big knife this time and plans to... what exactly?  

02:07:11 One of the most genius moments in the entire film (and that's saying something). Rosemary, hiding from husband in the closet hears a noise. It's the cradle they'd purchased (she must have bumped it) and she stops its squeaky rocking with the butcher knife. Everything about that is perverse. And funny. And foreshadowing, too. 

02:08:10 Looking for her crying child. I should know what this mural represents but I do not. Nor can I make out what Rosemary whispers about it. Anyone?

Shut up. You're in Dubrovnic. I don't hear you.

02:09:20 A slow reveal as Rosemary enters the coven's party and they notice her one by one until Laura-Louise screams like a madwoman. I love Ro's suddenly deadpan annoyance when Roman tries to reason with her. The gig is up and Rosemary is ready for the nightmare to end! I'd wager that the thing that often separates great films and great performances from merely good or adequate ones is the confidence and playfulness of disparate tones. Great actors and great filmmakers understand that each scene can contain multitudes, as long as there's a baseline and a purpose.

(Note the upside-down crucifixes as mobile over her baby's funereal cradle.)

02:09:56 As tribute to Rosemary's Baby's perpetual perversity, I'm not even going to screencap the iconic shot of her seeing her devil baby for the first time. You can conjure it on your own it's so famous. I love that she doesn't scream but merely looks around wide-eyed; the score compensates supplying half the histrionics for her. Instead let's screencap the absolutely genius quick-pan reaction shot of the coven.

He has his father's eyes."

02:10:10 First Minnie and Roman, utterly calm and comfortable in their demonic purpose. Then, a hard left jarring pan (to mimic Rosemary's POV) to find Guy. Her husband can't even look at her. This shot is, in its way the entire film. Pure evil staring directly and confidently in the face of disbelieving innocence, smiling, knowing it  has triumphed. The innocent casts about wildly for comfort but humanity is weak-willed, ashamed, and already fallen.

This bone-deep pessism is what makes Rosemary's Baby one of the scariest horror films of all time. There's no relief from the evil, no solitude, no sanctuary, no hope...

2:15:23 ...even the purest of impulses, like trusting a partner or loving a child, can lead to damnation. 


previous team retrospectives:
Rebecca (1940), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), Silence of the Lambs (1991) Thelma & Louise (1991) and A League of Their Own (1992). 

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Reader Comments (18)

Definitely a true classic in every sense of the word.

June 15, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I just noticed that Minnie & Roman are doing the EXACT same pose in that reaction shot. i should've mentioned that but didn't notice until rereading.

June 15, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

There's a shot when Rosemary might be on the phone in the foreground, and.... something happens in the background (NO SPOILERS!) that just completely creeped me out the most of all of the weird things going on in this this brilliant, creepy movie.

There really is just no. way. out for her.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Ruth Gordon deserved her Oscar for the shot of her pulling the knife from the floor alone.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Forever1267: I second that! And, taken out of context, that moment is almost goofy and comical when you see (okay, spoiler alert--sorry) the intruder because of his exaggerated tiptoeing. But in this movie, the comedy intensifies the horror, and vice versa. The tone of this brilliant movie--like almost everything else in it--is perfect. (I write "almost," because--gulp--I think Ruth Gordon's performance, clever as it is, throws the movie slightly out of whack.)

Another chilling moment: the shot of Guy staring at Roman on the couch after the Rosemary and Minnie have cleaning up after dinner. Upon repeated viewings, you understand that this is the moment in which Guy has just sealed the deal with Roman. It's a moment that can easily go unnoticed, but it's such a creepy shot, what with Cassevetes' intense expression (he's great in this role), that it gets to me.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMatt L.

I think just about everyone on this site agrees that Mia Farrow should have been Oscar nominated for this astounding performance. But who in that year's best actress nominations would you replace her with? I guess if push comes to shove, I would take out Vanessa Redgrave for Isadora? It is a tough call, but truly think this is one of the biggest Oscar flubs of all time. Could that nomination have changed the direction of her career? This site has so many great comments, looking forward to other peoples opinions. Thanks!

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBob W.

Sean/Jason/Nathaniel, what a beautiful job you did on this! Thanks for the hard work and great insight. This movie has to be one of the best of all far superior to every film nominated for Best Picture that year. RB grabs you on a primal level early on and never lets go. So beautifully directed by Polanski. Truly enjoyed reading all three chapters of your work here!

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEricB

Mia Farrow gives one of my favorite performances of all-time in this film. The work she does in the phone booth scene is truly extraordinary. Hepburn is great in The Lion in Winter, but I would have given the Oscar to Mia that year, no question.

I really love these team retrospective pieces!

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Nathaniel: what Rosemary says when she's in front of the painting of the burning church: "Easy, easy - you've got her too high." That's something she heard during her "dream" earlier on - where she was being carried into the altar to be violated by you-know-who (you-know-what). She's putting those final pieces of the puzzle together...that was no dream--that really happened.

Great job, all three of you on interpreting this all-time great film.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Rob -- thank you. i feel like that painting is famous but i dont know why it looks so familiar.

Suzanne -- i do too. I think we should do more of them.

Bob W - it's not that that's not a good lineup but that SOMEONE has to go to include Farrow. But then I feel that way in 1985 and *maybe* in 1990, too.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Some More on Horror Performances please,thanks gr8 read.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Rob & EricB & Suzanne,

Thanks for the compliment! I think I had some of the most fun ever writing this because every moment of this film energises me. It really is an absolute masterpiece.

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeán

A great finale (i.e. the write-up) to a great three-part series about a great film. Now I'm desperate to watch the film again. Thank you for all these new thoughts!

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

A true masterpiece of horror and suspense

June 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Yes it is ridiculous Farrow has never been Oscar nominated. She should have won for Purple Rose of Cairo.

June 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Yes it is ridiculous Farrow has never been Oscar nominated. She should have won for Purple Rose of Cairo.

June 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Sorry to comment so late; I enjoyed this three-piece homage so very much I simply can't help myself. Second kudos to your commentator Rob who beat me to the punch not only with the definition of crepe-hanger, but the dream sequence flashback of the 'missing' painting of the burning church against the " her too high" as well. What a treat! Thank you so much for sharing this labor of love. I'm hooked.

August 1, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrivergirl

The following is an alternate (and perhaps a bit more ‘feminist’) scenario to the unforgettably creepy Satanic rape scene in Rosemary's Baby, in which the devil is on top of the drugged Rosemary Woodhouse in order to impregnate her with his prophetic offspring …
“Oh, God,” she exclaims, “This is no dream! This is really happening!”
“You bet it’s happening, baby,’ Satan smugly confirms, for he perceives himself as the studly devil that many might attribute to such a powerful, feared diabolical entity.
Then, no more than seven seconds later, Satan climaxes and appears pleased with his performance. Rosemary, however, looks up at him with a somewhat disappointed expression, and she says, “What? Is that it?”
And to this, of course, Satan betrays an embarrassedly surprised expression over his phallic failure.

August 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Sterle Jr

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