Rosemary’s Baby


Rosemary's Baby
And baby makes three.

(Paramount) Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Angela Dorian, Elisha Cook Jr., Patsy Kelly, Charles Grodin. Directed by Roman Polanski

The trouble with evil is that it is unpredictable. There are rarely situations in which you can point to something and say “that’s evil” and avoid it; sometimes evil emerges from subtle and unassuming sources – even things that we would normally consider good.

Guy Woodhouse (Cassavetes) is a struggling actor living in New York. He and his wife Rosemary (Farrow) are looking for an apartment that is bigger than the one they live in because they are planning to have a family soon. They find the Bramford on Central Park, a tony address and find the perfect apartment with a gorgeous view that had just become available.

While many of the residents of the Bramford are elderly, Rosemary still has friends from her previous life, none closer than Hutch (Evans), a writer of children’s books. While Rosemary paints and decorates her new apartment, she does meet one young lady, Terry (Dorian), an ex-drug addict who has been taken in as a ward by a couple that lives next door – Roman (Blackmer) and Minnie Castevet (Gordon).

Shortly after that, Terry commits suicide and the Castevets and Woodhouses meet for the first time. The Castevets invite their new neighbors over for dinner afterwards when Rosemary speaks kindly to Minnie about their recently deceased ward. Guy is reluctant at first – he’s just lost out on a plum role to another actor – but he relents and he actually winds up enjoying the company of the much-travelled Roman and his busybody wife.

Despite Guy’s career shortcomings, he and Rosemary decide it’s the right time to get pregnant. Minnie brings over a chocolate mousse that seems tasty but winds up knocking Rosemary out. She has a strange dream afterward of being raped by a beast-like demon. Soon after that, she discovers that she’s pregnant. Her obstetrician, Dr. Hill (Grodin) puts her on vitamins but Minnie won’t hear of it. She’s close with Dr. Abe Saperstein (Bellamy), one of the best-known obstetricians in New York if not the world. She arranges for Rosemary to be one of his patients.

Although Rosemary is suffering from a weird, constant pain, Dr. Saperstein tells her that it’s normal and refuses to prescribe anything for it. In the meantime, the actor that had gotten the part Guy wanted had mysteriously gone blind and the part was now Guy’s. It turns out to be precisely the break Guy was looking for.

Rosemary and Guy are deliriously happy, but all isn’t as it seems, particularly those who seem the friendliest towards them. A monstrous conspiracy is afoot and Rosemary becomes paranoid, particularly when people she knows begin to die off mysteriously. Soon she realizes that she’s alone against a powerful evil, one that wants her unborn baby – but for what purpose?

This is a classic of the horror genre, and in many ways it’s not even a horror movie. Director Polanski, for whom this was his first American film, creates an atmosphere of growing menace that becomes so palpable even the viewer at home gets caught up in it. There isn’t much gore (mostly seen in the death of Terry) and all the violence happens off-screen for the most part (even the rape is more suggested than seen) but still you’re given a firm grasp of the evil surrounding Rosemary and find yourself immersed in her struggle to escape it.

The movie was based on a noted bestseller by Ira Levin which I’ve actually read – the movie follows it nearly word for word (legend has it that because Polanski had never adapted another work for the screen before, he didn’t realize that he could make changes of his own). As the movie progresses, the outcome seems inevitable but still there’s a twist at the end that back in 1968 when the movie was released took audiences completely by surprise – most modern audiences however are aware of the twist simply because it has been so widely associated with the movie since then. That’s a shame because the movie works much better if you aren’t aware how it ends.

Even so, the movie’s main weapon is Farrow. Her performance as Rosemary is so ordinary, so naïve but so completely believable that she nails Polanski and Levin’s vision of Rosemary as the Girl Next Door caught up in a horror greater than she can imagine. By the time she realizes what’s going on, it’s far too late.

Gordon and Blackmer also give fine supporting performances as the Castevets; they have the right attitude to be the consummate New York elderly busybody couple, Gordon’s accent almost Yiddish in places. While the characters are certainly products of their time, they still manage to give off no menace other than in underlying ways that when you look back at the movie, you realize they were creepy all along and you just didn’t realize it. It’s amazing work by any standard.

While this movie is well over forty years old, it has held up well. I watched it again the other night while Da Queen lay sleeping (she finds horror movies too disturbing) and realized that if it had been released last Friday, it would still be just as effective today as it was back then. Horror movies rarely get any better than this one.

WHY RENT THIS: Polanski creates a mood so creepy and troubling that the viewer feels the whole time that something is completely wrong.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: There is little gore and only a few scenes of outright horror which may not meet the standards of modern horror fans.

FAMILY VALUES: While relatively tame by our standards, it does depict a rape and there is a good deal of talk about female pregnancy as well as a good deal of smoking and drinking. There is also some female nudity. While it received an R rating at the time of its release, I would think that it would be adequate viewing for most mature teenagers.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The voice on the phone of the actor who had gone blind, clearing the way for Guy to get the part was an uncredited Tony Curtis. Farrow was unaware who she was talking to, although she recognized the voice she couldn’t place the name. Also, the movie was filmed at the Dakota, the apartment complex on Central Park later made infamous by being the location where John Lennon was murdered.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The pickings are rather slim. There’s an interesting retro interview with Polanski, producer Robert Evans and production designer Richard Sylbert. There is also an original making-of feature that is fascinating as a historical artifact.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

FINAL RATING: 9/10

TOMORROW: Secretariat

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Woodhouse


 

            Halloween in New York City can be a little wild for the uninitiated. In all respects, Andrew Woodhouse would be considered anything but wild, but he always had a soft spot in his heart for the holiday.

            You would never know it. Woodhouse was CEO of the Woodhouse Group, number three in the Fortune 500 and the biggest privately held company on Earth. Andrew, “Woody” to his close friends, had everything you could imagine; mansions in the Hamptons, Nassau, Cannes and Fiji, a massive apartment on Central Park, yachts, limousines, private jets, everything you would expect a man whose net worth was nearly half a trillion dollars to own.

            He had been born into celebrity; his father was Guy Woodhouse, the movie star. In the 70s and 80s Guy was as big as Burt Reynolds and had done equally well on television, Broadway and the movies. Oddly, Andrew didn’t inherit the matinee idol looks of his father; some said he favored his late mother who has committed suicide when Andrew was only five years old.

            His life had been charmed all along. Private school education followed by a degree at Columbia and an MBA at Yale. He’d worked at Haliburton and Goldman Sachs where he’d risen to the position of Executive Vice President at the relatively young age of 31. After that, he’d branched out on his own with a venture capital company that owned sizable chunks of such companies as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Dell, Microsoft and Wal-Mart. Nearly everything Andrew touched turned to profit as glowing articles in the Wall Street Journal and Fortune had opined. Forbes magazine had even proclaimed him “the face of 21st century capitalism.”

            Now, in his 40s, he regularly hobnobbed with presidents and CEOs. He was married to a former Miss Georgia who still had the figure of a woman half her age and regularly wore her bikini just to remind him she could. There are those who would say Andrew Woodhouse was blessed.

            There are just as many people who would say Andrew Woodhouse was cursed. He always seemed to profit at the expense of others. Bill Gates called him “the biggest son of a bitch in America” while others had nicknames that were less complimentary than that. The Woodhouse Group had spearheaded the subprime mortgage market but had gotten out just before it nosedived. Lawrence O’Donnell likened the company to “a schoolyard bully who was smart enough never to throw the first punch so some other kid gets blamed for their disturbances.”

            Andrew’s chief advisor and right hand man was Woodhouse Group CFO David Sapirstein, an older man who was said to resemble actor Ralph Bellamy. Sapirstein’s father had delivered Andrew; their families had been close for years. In fact, David’s dad had introduced Andrew’s father to his second wife after the suicide of his first.

            Things just seemed to happen in Andrew’s favor. When an opportunity came to make money, Andrew always seemed to be around it. If he had a rival for that opportunity, something would happen to take the rival out of the running. When a politician, crusading journalist or law enforcement official made noises about looking into Andrew’s financial empire, something would happen to the offending person. Sometimes it was a scandal of their own; sometimes it was a tragic accident. No matter what it was, Andrew always came out smelling like a rose.

            Andrew’s personal life seemed beyond reproach. His publicists proclaimed that he neither smoked nor drank alcoholic beverages stronger than an occasional glass of wine, nor had he experimented with drugs – ever. He’d had his share of romantic entanglements in college, they said, but what young man hadn’t? Unlike some of his contemporaries, there were no illegitimate children, at least that anybody knew about.

            Andrew’s reputation had been taking a beating lately, though. The economic meltdown had made people less well-disposed towards CEOs, particularly ones that were as wealthy as Andrew Woodhouse. MSNBC had named Andrew one of the architects of the economic meltdown, mainly for his support of sub-prime mortgage lending which his company had profited greatly from.

            However, no congressional investigation would find any evidence of wrongdoing. As one investigator commented in an official report, “While you can certainly accuse the Woodhouse Group of being unethical and of showing questionable moral judgment, they cannot be accused of doing anything illegal. They are experts at exploiting loopholes in the law for their own advantage.”

            He arose every morning to virtually the same routine. He was customarily awake just before dawn. He would brush his teeth, put on his gym clothes, and go for a run, either in his own private running track in the Woodhouse Building in Manhattan or at his Hamptons estate if he were staying there. He would usually do two to five miles depending on how busy his day was, then would always return for a simple breakfast of orange juice, dry toast and a single hard-boiled egg which he ate while reading the financial news, often with CNN, MSNBC or Fox News on a nearby plasma screen television. He would then shower, dress and head to work at about 7am.    

            Once there he would get on his computer and look at whatever e-mails his staff had deemed worthy of his attention. Usually at about 8 or 8:30 he’d call a meaning of his executive team, which David would normally run. While Andrew participated, he tended to listen to whatever others said, and then would weigh in with an opinion after both opposing sides had made their cases. Andrew’s opinion was law at the Woodhouse Group.

            Most of Andrew’s day was conference calls, board meetings and signing off on whatever program his advisors thought would be profitable. Sometimes Andrew would veto a project without explanation; he simply had a sense about such things. His employees had learned to trust it, although they didn’t always like it.

            He would have a light lunch at about 11:30, followed by more meetings until three. Then he would leave the office, head over to a private club for a few drinks and some appetizers, then home. Normally he would have dinner at home, although he and his wife Marcy would go out to some of New York’s finest restaurants.

            After dinner, it would be home where he would do a little work until 10pm, at which time he would usually retire although not always. Andrew didn’t need a lot of sleep to be at the top of his game; he had been that way ever since he was a kid. Sometimes he went days without it, and you’d never know it by looking at him. Sleep is something he did when he was bored and Andrew was easily bored.

            The thing was, his whole carefully ordered life was a façade. The mask of a responsible conservative businessman was the cover of a true monster. Not only were his publicist’s assertions that he never smoked, drank or did drugs a complete fabrication, there were plenty of other things he did that were far worse.

            Andrew had started by raping a few co-eds in college, usually getting them drunk first. If they raised a stink, he or one of his father’s associates would pay off the girl. If she didn’t want to be paid off, normally they’d meet up with a horrifying accident. He used people for pleasure; his own pleasures were perverse and often grotesque. He’d gone through a long string of women from the famous to the unknown, most of them for a single sexual encounter. He’d had the wives of diplomats, the daughters of tow truck drivers, the girlfriends of his best friends and single girls of all shapes and sizes. In another stroke of amazing luck, he’d never contracted a disease and never gotten anybody pregnant.

            The marriage to his wife was more or less for show. She had peccadilloes of her own, but he did fuck her from time to time. He was particularly brutal with her, and she lived in fear of those occasions where he would decide to be with her. Marcy was his second wife; his first, Katherine, had burned alive in her bedroom when her bed sheets caught fire when she fell asleep while smoking in bed. Andrew had been conveniently out of town when the tragedy occurred but there were still whispers, mainly due to the fact that most of the people closest to his dead wife were completely unaware that she smoked.

            Andrew had a lot of parties, some in private hotels, and others at his various homes. Most of the time, Marcy wasn’t around when he had them. There were usually a lot of women, high priced call girls most of them. Andrew had a great cruel streak in him, one that turned vicious upon occasion. A lot of these parties had ended up with dead hookers and a whole team of employees who specialized in deflecting any scrutiny that might come Andrew’s way.

            David, as well as most of Andrew’s closest advisors, disapproved of his lifestyle but allowed it to continue since it took place behind closed doors. David had at one time been a regular at Andrew’s parties but he was an old man these days, and had his fill of banging hookers long, long ago. He would sometimes lecture Andrew about the dangers of having his true nature exposed, but Andrew would just stare at him with a curiously flat expression and David knew enough not to push it. Andrew had a dangerous temper and a genuine willingness to do violence upon whosoever angered him.

            The world was more or less Andrew’s oyster, but that had been the intention from the beginning. You see, Guy Woodhouse wasn’t really Andrew’s father; his father came from someplace far different. Guy had merely raised Andrew, as much as anybody could.

            Andrew was, in fact, the son of Satan, the anti-Christ. There was none of his mother in him, other than the little bit he had eaten when he had discovered her body. She had supposedly slit her wrists in her bathtub, but the wounds were actually inflicted by her five-year-old son who had eaten some of her flesh after she bled out. The Castevets, the closest friends to the family, had discovered her body with little Andrew calmly taking bites out of her flesh. They had called Dr. Sapirstein who had made sure that the medical examiner would never see the cannibalism that had been performed upon poor Rosemary’s body.

            All was for the protection of Andrew who grew up arrogantly thinking he was untouchable. The problem was, he was essentially right. The network of people protecting him was powerful and far-reaching. There were none who even suspected who Andrew really was. An obstetrician, a Dr. Hill, had heard from Andrew’s mom that the Castevets were part of a coven but he had died when a bus hit him while crossing 7th Avenue when Andrew was less than a year old. People who had any shot at putting two and two together usually didn’t survive very long.

            Andrew knew the plan was really coming together, but the ultimate goal was in plain sight. Soon he would run for president; 2012 had always been his goal for that.The world needed to be in utter turmoil before he became president; it was necessary for him to usher in his father’s dominion on Earth.

            Time was ticking down and Andrew knew his era was coming, he could feel it in his bones. Soon the world would be his; hell, it always had been. It would just become official. The funny thing was that the ancient Mayans had figured it out long before he was born. December 21, 2012 was when the world would end, according to the Mayan calendar.

            Andrew didn’t know for certain if that would be the date – he was rather more partial to June 6 but that was up to his father, not him. Still, Andrew liked the family business; he stood to inherit quite a bit from it.

            His one quirk was that he never appeared in public without his sunglasses, or without special contact lenses. Nobody other than the Castevets and Dr. Sapirstein, not even David, had seen his naked eyes. It was said he had his father’s eyes, and Andrew believed it. He had seen so much with those eyes, and they were truly windows to his soul. As such they were portals to the ugliest side of human nature. They were the best indication of his true nature. The world truly was his oyster, and he meant to consume all of it.