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Thursday, April 14, 2011

William Castle Tribute IV: Rosemary's Baby

At the beginning of March, I reviewed one of William Castle's famous movies- "House on Haunted Hill".  For my month long tribute to William Castle, I'm going to review another famous movie that was produced by him... "Rosemary's Baby".

Rosemary and her husband, Guy move into a gothic 19th century apartment building in New York.  Despite it's beauty, the building also has a history of less than savory residents and events.  After meeting their neighbours, The couple decide to try and have a child... and succeed.  The only problem is that the bundle of joy they're expecting may not be altogether human...

William Castle convinced Paramount Pictures to buy the film rights for the novel before the book had even been released.  Originally, Castle wanted to direct the movie, but Paramount Executives though that his "gimmicky" reputation may damage the box office receipts- allowing him to produce, but not direct.  Because of this, Paramount Pictures brought in Roman Polanski to direct.  Castle was also allowed to make a cameo as a gentlemen waiting for Rosemary to finish a phone call at a pay phone.

Never having adapted a novel before, Polanski stayed as faithful to the original source material- even using much of the dialogue from the book.  Unaware that he could make changes, Polanski even called author, Ira Levin, for help on a scene involving Guy talking about a shirt he saw in an issue of The New Yorker.  Roman Polanski had been unable to find that issue, and asked for help.  According to Levin, he'd made up the ad.

I watched "Rosemary's Baby" one night because I'd heard such good things about it... and also because it's expected of a Horror Fan to know this movie.  I felt that the story was a strong base with which to work, as were the characters.  I'm not a fan of Mia Farrow, but she did an admirable job as Rosemary- and, though at times, I felt that Rosemary was a little TOO submissive a character... one you wanted to have wake up and take a more assertive role in her own life.  John Cassavetes was convincing as the less than scrupulous Guy.  I also enjoyed the performances given by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as the elderly Satanic neighbours.  Finally, I'd enjoyed Elisha Cook, Jr in "House on Haunted," and really enjoyed his role as Mr Micklas.

As much as I enjoyed the acting, I was left a little annoyed with Rosemary for being so... bendable to the will of others.  I really wanted to see her grow from a naive little woman/child into a more independent and strong person.  I do however give her credit for being strong enough to still love child she gives birth too- even after the truth was revealed.

Once again, I'm not a fan of Roman Polanski's work, but I'll say that there are some beautiful shots and scenes in this movie due to his direction.  He brought a sense of normalcy to the events.  You could almost believe that if you walked into an apartment building, you'd find a couple like Rosemary and Guy dealing with neighbours like the Castevets.  The pacing was slow- but suspense filled.

In the end, while there were a lot of good elements, the fact that I'd been annoyed with Rosemary's lack of real growth as a character forces me to place "Rosemary's Baby" in "The Bad" category... with the additional comment that I would've been very interested to see how William Castle would've directed this movie.


  1. Thanks so much! And what about my cameo? Did you like it?
    I appreciate all the reviews.

  2. That anonymous comment was from me, William Castle

  3. How could a person NOT like your cameo. It was on par (if not better than) with Hitchcock's cameo as a man walking by in Psycho. :)

    I'm always on the lookout for the classics. Would love to add the rest of your films to my collection.

  4. Another good piece dude. I dug the film as well, but wish it had been scarier. It would have been great to see what Bill would have done with it!