Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Rosemary's Baby

US movie (1968). Paramount/William Castle Enterprises. Pr William Castle. Dir Roman Polanski. Spfx Farciot Édouard. Screenplay Polanski. Based on Rosemary's Baby (1967) by Ira Levin. Starring Ralph Bellamy (Abraham Sapirstein), Sidney Blackmer (Roman Castevet), John Cassavetes (Guy Woodhouse), Maurice Evans (Hutch), Mia Farrow (Rosemary Woodhouse), Ruth Gordon (Minnie Castevet), Charles Grodin (Dr C C Hill). 137 mins. Colour.

Childlike Rosemary and unsuccessful actor husband Guy move into an apartment in an old block with an unsavoury history involving the Witch Adrian Marcato. Their elderly neighbours, Minnie and Roman Castevet, soon become claustrophobically close, although Guy relishes this; Roman tells him he is destined for greatness, and soon his successful rival for an important role is struck blind, so Guy gets the part. One night, after eating mousse presented by Minnie, Rosemary collapses; among her vivid Dreams (or so they seem) is one of intercourse with the Devil. She awakes feeling raped and with scratches on her shoulders; Guy explains he had Sex with her as she slept, a rape which she accepts. Soon she finds herself pregnant; a lot later she finds out more about Witchcraft, and deduces (falsely) that the witches want her baby for Human Sacrifice; at last, too, she realizes Guy is complicit (indeed, has sold her body in return for his own success), as is Sapirstein, her new obstetrician. Sapirstein and the rest of the coven drug her and she gives birth; later she is told the child is dead. But she hears through the partition a baby crying and breaks into the Castevets' apartment to find the full coven, plus the horrific baby fathered on her by Satan as an evil Messiah. Soon, though, the maternal instinct triumphs and she accepts the child as hers.

RB is a long movie, but its time is not wasted and events are beautifully paced; despite its sensational material, it is oddly unsensationalist. Although everything is told from Rosemary's viewpoint, we are constantly ahead of her in understanding what is going on; yet this is handled so well that the situation does not seem artificial. Such restraint was not to be displayed by later movies on similar themes, like The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976) and the drab sequel Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1973 tvm; vt Rosemary's Baby 2), which attempted to capitalize on the success of RB in a standard tale of the Great Beast. In all of these, what you see is what you get, whereas RB's strength is its delicious ambiguity; by design, it is left open to us to read the movie as an account of distorted Perception produced by Rosemary's neuroses. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.