Rosemary's Baby - the Film Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Rosemary's Baby - the Film

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Directed by Roman Polanski and adapted from the novel of the same name by Ira Levin, Rosemary's Baby, released in 1968, is psychological horror at its best. Suspenseful and unnerving, it sustains its ability to truly scare an audience to this day.

The Cast

  • Mia Farrow - Rosemary Woodhouse
  • John Cassavetes - Guy Woodhouse
  • Ruth Gordon - Minnie Castevet
  • Sidney Blackmer - Roman Castevet
  • Maurice Evans - Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins
  • Ralph Bellamy - Dr Abraham Sapirstein
  • Victoria Vetri (as Angela Dorian) - Terry Gionoffrio
  • Patsy Kelly - Laura-Louise
  • Elisha Cook - Mr Nicklas
  • Emmaline Henry - Elise Dunstan
  • Charles Grodin - Dr CC Hill
  • Hanna Landy - Grace Cardiff
  • Philip Leeds - Dr Shand
  • D'Urville Martin - Diego
  • Hope Summers - Mrs Gilmore

Tony Curtis and William Castle also appeared in cameo roles.

The Story

Rosemary Woodhouse is a young, devout Catholic woman from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, now living in New York with husband Guy, an out-of-work actor. The story begins with them moving into a new apartment in Manhattan's famous Bramford building, despite a warning from a good friend, Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins, over dinner, that the place has an unsavoury reputation. He points out that the building was once home to the Trench sisters, alleged cannibals and witches who reputedly cooked and ate small children including their own niece and another alleged witch, Adrian Marcato who after claiming to have raised the living devil was murdered in the building's courtyard.

Rosemary and Guy are blissfully happy to begin with and even begin to plan for a baby. Rosemary becomes friendly with Terry, a girl lodging with her elderly neighbours, the Castavets, when they do their laundry together in the basement and is deeply shocked when shortly after, Terry commits suicide. Guy and Rosemary then formally meet, and are asked to supper by Minnie and Roman Castavet.

Things start to take a turn for the stranger from here on in. Guy and Rosemary begin to see more and more of the Castavets, who introduce them to other equally strange and eccentric neighbours. Guy suddenly starts getting lots of acting roles, including one where the actor who originally got the part has suddenly gone blind. In addition, strange music and what appears to be chanting can be heard through the apartment walls. Strangest of all, however, is that the night that after eating a chocolate mousse brought over as a gift by Minnie Castavet - who has already given her the unusual charm locket worn by Terry - Rosemary dreams of being raped by an inhuman, devil-like creature while surrounded by chanting figures including the Castavets and her husband. In the morning while she is pondering the scratches that have appeared on her side, Guy claims to have made love to her while she slept.

Rosemary is now pregnant and haunted by bad dreams and a feeling that something is not right. Her new doctor, Dr Sapirstein, recommended by the Castavets, suggests she avoids standard vitamins in favour of one of Minnie Castavet's home-made nutrition drinks which Minnie is more than happy to help with. Dr Sapirstein also gives Rosemary other questionable advice. When he is visited by Hutch, who sees how unwell Rosemary looks, he decides to look into some things, particularly the tannis root she has been wearing and chewing. Hutch is briefly introduced to Roman Castavet, and he notices his piercing eyes. When he leaves, Hutch accidentally leaves a glove behind. He later arranges to meet Rosemary with his findings, but does not make the appointment as he mysteriously falls into a coma.

After some friends show concern for Rosemary's health at a New Year's Eve party, she plans to return to her old doctor, Dr Hill. Guy objects and an argument flares, during which she feels the baby move for the first time, and her fears are briefly forgotten.

The Mystery Deepens

Three weeks before the baby is due to be born, as Rosemary is preparing her bag for the hospital, she receives a phone call telling her that Hutch died after waking briefly from his coma. At the memorial service where she is given a book by Hutch's friend Grace, and the cryptic message 'the name is an anagram'.

Following this clue from Hutch and others he hints at in the book, Rosemary discovers that Roman Castavet is really Steven Marcato, Adrian's son, and that he and Minnie are in a coven of witches which includes most of the neighbours. She begins to suspect they have demonic plans for her baby.

Rosemary tries to talk to Guy about her findings, but he tries to allay her fears. He says that the Castavets are just harmless old people and he puts the book out of her reach. On her next visit to Dr Sapirstein, she talks to him about her plight. He listens and condescendingly reassures her that any mother would feel the same way. He prescribes some pills and divulges that Roman Castavet is terminally ill; and that he and Minnie have long planned a trip to Europe around the time the baby is due to be born.

As the Castavets leave for Europe and Guy disposes of Hutch's book behind her back, the clues mount up for Rosemary, and she throws away the tannis root charm locket on the way to a bookshop to read up on witchcraft. Here, she reads that witches often use a personal belonging of someone when casting a spell to harm them; and she remembers Hutch left his glove behind. Then she recalls that the actor who went blind, giving Guy his part, had exchanged ties with Guy over drinks.

Rosemary hurriedly collects her hospital bag and heads for Dr Sapirstein's office. While she waits to see him, the chatty receptionist remarks on her 'perfume,' explaining that the doctor often smells of a similar fragrance. Realising she must mean the lingering smell from the tannis charm - and that Dr Sapirstein must wear one too, marking him as part of the coven - Rosemary quickly flees the office. She heads for the nearest phone box and calls Dr Hill who agrees to see her that night.

On hearing Rosemary's story, Dr Hill believes she is mentally unwell, but he tells her everything is all right and he's going to make a call to get her admitted to the maternity hospital. Instead, he calls Guy and Dr Sapirstein to ask them to collect her. She is assured that nobody is going to hurt her or her baby, and is taken home. On reaching the lobby of the apartment building, Rosemary deliberately drops her purse and escapes into the elevator and up to the eleventh floor. Going into labour in the hallway, feeling scared and betrayed, she locks herself in the apartment. She thinks she is safe, only to find that the doctor, Guy, and others are inside, having gained entrance through a secret door in the closet.

Screaming for help, she is wrestled to the bed and sedated. Rosemary gives birth to a baby boy but is told by Dr Sapirstein that the baby died due to birth complications. She does not believe him, saying the baby was taken, and accusing them all of being witches. Guy tries to convince her she has been suffering from delusions due to her pregnancy, but that it will all be alright now.

The Truth Revealed

Later that night she hears the muffled cries of a young baby through the wall in the next apartment, despite the fact there should be nobody there, as the Castavets are in Europe. She is watched closely by neighbours Mrs Gilmore and Laura-Louise, is given sedative pills, and is expected to express breast milk. One night Rosemary sneaks out of bed and, taking a kitchen knife, goes through the door in the closet to the Castavets' apartment. She finds a black-draped cradle surrounded by a coven of witches including Guy and the Castavets.

She approaches the crib expecting to see her own human child, but what she sees is anything but. When she cries out: 'What have you done to his eyes?' she is told by Roman Castavet that he has his father's eyes. She is then told the truth, that the baby's father is not her husband, but the devil himself. The child's name is Adrian; the devil had come up from Hell to find a mortal woman to bear him a son.

Minnie: He chose you out of all the world, out of all the women in the whole world, he chose you. He arranged things, because he wanted 'you' to be the mother of his only living son.
Roman: His power is stronger than stronger! His might shall last longer than longer.
Japanese man: Hail, Satan!
Rosemary: No! It can't be! No!
Minnie: Go look at his hands.
Laura-Louise: And his feet.

Roman then offers Rosemary the chance to join them and be a real mother to Adrian. Guy kneels by Rosemary's feet, with obvious guilt in his actions, and tells her how they had promised not to hurt her. They kept their word and he reminded her of all the things he'd gained in return. She spits in his face. Although Rosemary rejects the witches and their coven, she cannot reject her child as easily. The movie ends with Rosemary rocking the child to sleep in the crib, singing the haunting lullaby by Krzystof Komeda that had played at the opening of the film.

Making Rosemary's Baby

Polish director Roman Polanski stayed as faithful as he could to the novel by Ira Levin, taking character lines and copying small details - such as curtain and carpet colours - exactly as they were written by the author. It has been rumoured that Alfred Hitchcock was first approached to direct the film, with Polanski as producer; but this was unfounded. As well as being his first adaptation, Rosemary's Baby was also Polankski's first American film. It should have been Downhill Racer, but studio bosses decided that Rosemary's Baby was 'more suitable' as a project for him. In fact it is alleged that the offer of directing Downhill Racer was used by the studio merely to lure Polanksi to the US, with their intention being that he direct Rosemary's Baby all along.

One of the trickiest aspects of making the film proved to be finding the right cast. Tuesday Weld and Jane Fonda both rejected the role of Rosemary before it finally went to 22-year-old Mia Farrow. Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson were among those considered for the role of Guy.

Among other rumours is that Anton LeVey, head of the Church of Satan gave technical advice on the film and appears in it as the uncredited devil in the demonic rape/dream sequence of the film. LeVey denies any connection to the film.

Tragically, Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered at the apartment building (The Dakota, though it is known as The Bramford in the film) by Charles Manson and his followers in their 1969 'Helter Skelter' killing spree. Perhaps more ironically, John Lennon, formerly of The Beatles, (the band who sang the song 'Helter Skelter'), was also killed there, shot by a deranged 'fan' in the building's entrance in 1980. Other famous occupants of The Dakota include Judy Garland and Lauren Bacall.

Rosemary's Baby won several awards, including a Golden Globe for Mia Farrow as Best Actress, and an Oscar for Ruth Gordon as Best Supporting Actress. Interestingly, Ruth Gordon is the only person ever to win an Oscar for playing the role of a witch. The film also had a little-known 1976 TV sequel: Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby, which was directed by Sam Stein.

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