Friday, May 27, 2016

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Sundance Channel viewing

The first witch I ever met wasn't what I expected. Let's call her Barbara. She was in my Playwriting class during my junior year of college. I didn't know about her occult proclivities at first. She was short, with long, scraggly hair and big round glasses. I don't recall what drew me to her. She was not a great beauty, as much as it bothers me to say because I adore her regardless, and she tended to keep to herself for the most part. Maybe it was something about her writing. The point is, though, we became friends.

One day she invited me over to the room she rented out at the Y across town. I always called it the shoebox on account of it was so tiny. That's when she let me in on her little secret, though as far as witchcraft in general goes, she was no Elizabeth Montgomery. She had a few boxes full of rocks and crystals, some books on the history of arcanum and occult lore, and a few "spells" she picked up from her mother that were more of the old-wives-tale variety. Barb was basically a New Ager who dabbled in what she called witchcraft for fun.

Thing is, though, I still found it unsettling at first. Like many people, I grew up believing all the things people say about the occult and its adherents, and while I didn't seriously believe that Barb was Evil and was gonna go to hell - I didn't really believe in heaven or hell anymore by this point in my life - I still had a hard time shaking my conditioning. It's not even like she was a hardcore pagan or anything - I've known people like that, too. Barb was simply a quiet geek girl from a small town who enjoyed the trappings of Wiccan culture. And anime.

I visited Barb at her childhood home on several occasions, where she lived with her parents. They were no Gomez and Morticia Addams; quite the opposite, in fact. More like Ma and Pa Kettle! They were as sweet and wholesome and down-to-earth as you can imagine, and they certainly weren't Satan-loving leaders of any secret coven bent on humanity's subjugation. They would've laughed at the thought.

I still had my instinctive fears, however. Through conversations with Barb and her mom, they set my mind at ease about their dabblings in the occult and convinced me it was harmless, at least as far as they were concerned. Eventually, I was able to relax around Barb and enjoy her company much more.

Over time, though, we fell out of touch. She never came back to New York as far as I knew; indeed, I think she preferred small town life - and I can't imagine her on social media. She never seemed the type for that sort of thing, though I could be wrong. I still think about her now and then, though... when I watch movies such as Rosemary's Baby. The remarkable thing about this story is how mundane the supernatural elements tend to be presented, at least within the real world. (Rosemary's dream world is another matter.) The film is almost totally unreliant on special effects, and even the atmosphere seems remarkably ordinary on the surface. Perhaps the original novel was written with that in mind; I don't know. (And don't ask me about the recent television remake with Zoe Saldana; I didn't see it.)

I imagine this movie probably drove people bananas when it first came out, but today, it kinda comes across as a little campy - but in an endearing way: from Mia Farrow's la-la-la theme song in the beginning to Ruth Gordon's over-the-top performance to the general look and feel of the iconic Dakota Building in which it was shot, all the way up to the "Hail Satans" at the end. There's something a little kooky about the whole thing that seems more obvious now, but then, this movie is a William Castle production, so maybe that's not too surprising!


  1. I LOVE this movie! Exactly for the camp. I never watched this until I was an adult. I had this in a mental category of unwatchable films, because they must be SO scary. Now I laugh at myself for thinking that about this funny, weird movie. :)

    1. I felt similarly about it for awhile, too. Though the final half hour is definitely the scariest part.

  2. Scares the heck out of me. Just the idea that Rosemary had no one she could trust. Everyone was using her. The ultimate in big city loneliness.

  3. Creepiest part for me is realizing that John Cassavetes' character was in on it too. You're never entirely sure which way he's gonna go until the end, and that's when Rosemary realizes she's had it.


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