Studio:The Criterion Collection Year: 1968 Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes, Ruth Gordon, Stanley Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Angela Dorian, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., Emmaline Henry, Charles Grodin, Phil Leeds, Hanna Landy, Hope Summers, D'Urville Martin Director: Roman Polanski Release Date: October 30, 2012 Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, language) Run Time: 02h:16m:58s Genre(s): horror, suspense
"Awful things happen in every apartment house." - Rosemary (Mia Farrow
Perhaps not the ideal film for expectant mothers to watch, Rosemary's Baby remains a masterful bit of horror that still has the ability to disturb and terrify. And it's even better on Blu-Ray.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A
I am so glad that this has finally come to Blu-Ray, simply because it is one of the great horror films of the past half-century; it's a film that does so much with seemingly so little. I will preface this by saying that I have never read Ira Levin's original novel Rosemary's Baby, so unfortunately I can't offer much compare/contrast for the purposes of this review. What I do know, however, is that one of things the 1968 Roman Polanski-directed film version did for me is that the use of the mysteriously stinky "tannis root" became synonymous with witchcraft. That fact that it isn't real did nothing to diminish that in my mind. It was a case of fiction-creating-fact, and were I to have written a witchcraft-themed novel I guarantee you that I would have had some tannis root in there somewhere.
That's a subtle testament to the power and impact Rosemary's Baby had on me, an impact that is still prevalent 45 years later.
Struggling actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavettes) and his adorable waif of a wife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) are a young couple who move into an apartment in the labyrinthine gothic-ness of The Bramford in New York City. Their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) is quick to point all of the bad, bad things that have happened at The Bramford over the years (he mockingly refers to it as "Happy House") but that does little to dissuade the Woodhouses.
They take over an apartment formerly occupied by a deceased elderly woman, and immediately things seem a bit off and ominous. For example: why did the old woman have a huge dresser pushed up against a closet door? That is one of the first seeds of "things ain't right" that Polanski sets, and when the pair meet colorfully-dressed elderly neighbors Minnie and Roman Castavet (Ruth Gordon and Stanley Blackmer) their pushy friendliness is met by concern from Rosemary. Guy, on the other hand, has quite the fascination with them. When Guy's acting career takes off and Rosemary becomes pregnant soon after - on the heels of a chillingly perverse dream sequence - things really start to go to hell.
As her pregnancy and the film progress Polanski masterfully compounds the paranoia. Is it all in Rosemary's head?
dOc's Mark Zimmer summed it up succintly in his 2000 review of the SD release: "How well do you really know your neighbors? For all you know, they could be Satan-worshippers, bent on bringing the Antichrist into the world. Or they could be nice old folks who are just a little eccentric, and you're just being paranoid. How do you tell which is which? And which should one believe?"
I imagine most people going into a viewing of Rosemary's Baby already know this is a supernatural tale, and know that it concerns her pregnancy, its origins and the cabal of evil that exists at The Bramford. That's probably not much of a spoiler, and the terrifying beauty of this film is watching Polanski effortlessly dance around the ambiguity of Rosemary's downward spiral. Much has been made about the film's final moments, and over the years it seems that people remember seeing more than they really saw. That's another high-five for Polanski, staging the denouement with the kind of intensity that seems to plant the notion that we have seen things that we did not.
There is nothing to nitpick about on the wonderful Polanski-approved 1.85:1 AVC-encoded 1080p transfer. The depth and clarity of this restored version - culled from an original 35mm film negative - are first and foremost a showcase for the cinematography of William Fraker, all while retaining a tangible level of the natural grain. Colors are bright (Ruth Gordon's outfits especially) when necessary, though much of the film has a purposeful soft palette. No evidence of compression issues whatsoever, and if I were force to find fault it would be that the facial clarity is such that in one scene - when Hutch pays a visit - Farrow's "gaunt" makeup appears to be just that.
Audio is presented in a lossless 1.0 PCM mono track can't do much to compensate for the inherent thinness of the voices at times or the limited dynamics, but the mix is clean with no hiss or distortion.
Extras consist of a 26-page booklet featuring the essay It's Alive by Ed Park, an excerpt from the forward of a 2003 edition of Levin's novel entitled Stuck with Satan: Ira Levin on the Origins of Rosemary's Baby and From the Notebooks of Ira Levin that features the author's floorplan of the Woodhouse apartment and character background for Rosemary and Guy.
The remaining supplemental material begins with Remembering Rosemary's Baby (46m:53s), a 2012 doc featuring Roman Polanski, Robert Evans and Mia Farrow. Just having the unique Hollywood cool of Evans recalling the production should be enough to warrant a viewing, but the best parts come from Polanski and Farrow, both of whom reveal some interesting background on the film without resorting to fluffery. Ira Levin and Leonard Lopate (19m:21s) is a New York radio show excerpt from 1997, with host Lopate leading Levin on a discussion of the novel, the film and the sequel. Bonus content concludes with Komeda, Komeda (01h:10m:43s), a 2012 Polish television documentary on late composer Krzysztof Komeda, who wrote the score for a few Polanski films, including Rosemary's Baby.