Film: Rosemary's Baby

"He chose you, honey! From all the women in the world to be the mother of his only living son!"
Minnie Castevet

A 1967 horror novel by Ira Levin, Rosemary's Baby became better known as a 1968 film by Roman Polanski, the second in the director's so-called "Apartment Trilogy" (along with Repulsion and The Tenant).

Young housewife Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) moves into a New York apartment with her actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes). Their new neighbors are Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer), an elderly couple who seem nice enough at first. Shortly after having a very bad dream, she finds herself pregnant... And then things get very weird for her.

The film version received high praise for its close following of the novel, going so far as to take much of its dialogue directly from the book (this is rumored to be partially due to the fact that Polanski had never before done an adaptation and didn't know he was allowed to make changes). The Bramford, where all the action takes place, was deliberately modeled on the Dakota Building in New York City (where John Lennon lived and where he would eventually be murdered). Exterior shots of the Bramford in the film are of the Dakota, but, due to the exclusive privacy policies of the building, the interior shots were filmed on a soundstage.

The film received a made-for-TV sequel, Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby, in 1976, while Ira Levin wrote a sequel to the novel, Son Of Rosemary, in 1997. It also received a Mini Series remake on NBC in 2014, written by Scott Abbott (Queen of the Damned) and starring Zoe Saldana as Rosemary. Unlike the 1976 sequel, it is based on both books by Ira Levin.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation / Pragmatic Adaptation: Both averted. Ira Levin has stated that he was amazed by how faithful the film was to the novel; Stephen King described it as so faithful that you really only needed one or the other.
    • At one point Polanski even rang Levin to inquire exactly which issue of a magazine one of the characters was reading when they noticed a shirt advert. Ira Levin replied that he just made this up.
  • Adult Fear: The real horror comes from not the supernatural themes — which are rather subdued by today's standards — but from Rosemary's predicament: She is manipulated and conspired against by everyone around her, and even when she realizes this and fights back, she is powerless to stop them.
    • Not to mention the possibility that her fears are actually just a manifestation of paranoia and Sanity Slippage. At least until the end.
  • Affably Evil: The Castevets, particularly Roman.
  • All Just a Dream: Subverted.
    • Though in the sequel novel, it turns out the first book really was a dream. A prophetic dream. DUN! DUN! DUN!
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Younger viewers may be a little surprised to see that Rosemary has to see if she's pregnant by visiting the doctor and getting her blood drawn, and then wait to find out the results later.
  • Anti Anti Christ: What Rosemary hopes to raise her child as.
  • The Antichrist: They hope so, at least.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The cultists succeed in their plan to spawn the Antichrist — and it seems that they've drawn Rosemary herself into their ranks. The novel subverts it a little. While Rosemary does agree to raise her baby, it's because she hopes that she can influence him to reject his destiny and embrace his human side. This is shown when she demands that the baby be named Andrew (instead of "Adrian", after the cult's founder) and not wear black all of the time.
  • Big Applesauce
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Pretty much anyone who's in the cult.
  • Call Back: Plenty, the film really makes use of horrible little moments or elements that come back later, for instance:
    • Dr. Shand: Briefly mentioned before as another Castevet friend, introduced to Rosemary at New Year's, and showing up to drive them from Dr. Hill's.
    • The paintings in the Castevets' home: The spaces on their walls are noted by Rosemary when they first have dinner there. Later, a burning building and a sinister bearded man overlooking the ritual are elements of Rosemary's "dream"; and later we see, in the final scene, the picture of the burning church in the hallway, and the painting of the man in the living room, which is actually a portrait of Adrian Marcato, Roman's father.
    • The very first scene: When Nicklas is showing Miss Gardenia's apartment, there are plenty of herbs everywhere, which is confirmed that she grew things with Minnie. Then Nicklas notices the dresser in the hallway blocking the closet for some strange reason, revealed that the closet has a secret door between the apartment and the Castevets' next door. And before any of that: Rosemary noticing a strange note made (presumably) by Miss Gardenia ("...I can no longer associate myself") alluding to the Castevets' evil influence. And plenty more...
  • The Cameo: Elisha Cook, Jr.! Hooray!
    • Wait a second... Is that William Castle outside the phone booth?
    • That's Tony Curtis on the phone as the actor who's blinded and replaced by Guy in a play.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Inverted with Rosemary. She was raised Catholic but has drifted away from the church, and the Castevets find her a ripe target. Meanwhile, her stolidly Catholic sister can sense that Rosemary is in danger but Rosemary doesn't get anything of the sort.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Scrabble board pieces.
    • Hutch's missing glove.
    • The knife rack in the kitchen.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dr. Hill.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Roman criticizes the Catholic Church, but not a word is said about any other one.
  • Comatose Canary: Rosemary fills this role in the time between Rosemary's Baby and Son of Rosemary.
  • Comically Small Bribe: A non-comedic example. Guy allows his wife to be raped and impregnated by Satan, so she can bear the Antichrist. Does he get power? Riches? Fame? Nope. He gets a part in a play. A small but important play, the kind of thing that gets noticed and leads to power, riches, and fame. "He's suddenly very hot."
  • Cult: A Satanic one, at that.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Guy.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: This movie has a very slow start. But once it gets going...
  • Downer Ending
  • Driven to Suicide: Terry Gionoffrio, who turns out to have been the original choice to be impregnated by Satan. Of course, whether or not it was suicide is ambiguous.
  • Evil Old Folks: Although, despite being Satanists, they're kind of nice people.
  • Extreme Doormat: Rosemary. Everything about Guy under jerkass? She basically goes along with it.
  • Fetus Terrible: Although aside from causing her several months of unusually extreme pain, the fetus itself doesn't have that much influence while it's in Rosemary's womb.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: A struggling actor and his non-working wife living in a pre-war apartment in an exclusive Upper West Side building that, even in the '60s, a hedge fund manager could barely afford in real life. Justified in that New York rent control prevents the landowner from raising rent above a certain percentage of what the previous tenant (an elderly woman who had been there for decades) was charged. The superintendent even comments on this, saying that they would charge a great deal more if they could.
    • Justified in the remake, where the original apartment Guy and Rosemary live in catches fire, and the Castevets offer them a spare apartment in their building, telling them they can live there for the rent they were paying at their old apartment.
  • God Is Dead: In a doctor's waiting room, Rosemary reads a magazine with a cover asking, "Is God Dead?" (an actual Time Magazine issue from 1966).
  • Hellish Pupils: The devil mating with Rosemary has these.
    • The baby is suggested to have inherited them as well.
  • Hollywood Satanism: Zig-Zagged. The Satanic coven is probably the closest you'll ever come to actual Satanists in a Hollywood film. The only ritual we see doesn't feature big black robes or child sacrifice, but rather a bunch of old people singing naked. That said, most Satanists emphasize autonomy, so rape is a major crime in Satanism.
  • Incubus
  • Jerkass: From the beginning Guy was more than a bit of a jackass. Seriously, what man repeatedly states to his wife's face that he thinks her haircut makes her look hideous and that it's the worst decision she's ever made?
    • The night after Satan impregnates her, Rosemary notices some scratches on her. Guy tells her he got too excited last night and then handwaves it as "Baby Night." Outside of the fact that Guy is covering for the fact that he let Satan rape his wife, he covers by saying he basically raped her unconscious body, scratching her in the process, and thinks that's an acceptable cover story. To top it off, he says "it was kind of fun, in a necrophiliac way."
  • Large Ham: Ruth Gordon, and it earns her an Academy Award.
  • Meaningful Echo: "To 1966! The year one!"
  • Number of the Beast: Present throughout, right down to Rosemary's due date: 6/66.
  • Nightmare Face: In the final scene when Rosemary discovers her baby. While not disfigured, the look on Rosemary's face when she first sees her child, and her eyes go INCREDIBLY WIDE... You don't even have to see what the baby looks like, her horrified expression tells it all.
    • Also Satan, though (thankfully) we don't see too much of it.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Minnie and Roman.
  • People in Rubber Suits: Satan. It's not a very convincing suit, which is probably why they avoid showing you too much.
  • Phone Booth
  • Product Placement: Rosemary makes a big deal about the fact that her new haircut is Vidal Sassoon. All of the characters then say it doesn't look good on her.
    • Works on a meta-level. While the Vidal Sassoon cut is mentioned by name in the same context in the novel, Mia Farrow was famous at the time for abandoning her long strawberry-blonde locks in favor of a Vidal Sassoon pixie cut, garnering similar responses from her fans.
  • Put on a Bus: In the made-for-TV sequel, Rosemary is literally put on a (driverless) bus in the beginning of the movie and is never seen again.
  • Religious Horror: Genre Popularizer. The boom in this sub-genre in The '70s followed the lead of Rosemary's Baby.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Terry Gionoffrio.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Hutch.
  • Satan
  • Sequel: Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby for the film, and Son of Rosemary for the book.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Rosemary becomes suspicious of her husband and the neighbors he's befriended. She discovers her suspicions are all too horribly true. She tries to escape. She fails. It wouldn't have made any difference if she'd succeeded. In the end, she just gives up. What was at stake? Everything.
    • She doesn't give up in the book, though. She first plans to grab the baby and jump out the window with it to kill it, then plans to agree to raise it, with the intent of guiding it to be a good person and not evil.
  • Shout-Out: Rosemary mentions in passing that she and Guy enjoyed watching a production of The Fantasticks the other day.
    • Rosemary says that Guy had been in plays on Broadway called "Luther" and "Nobody Loves an Albatross", this were real shows which were about Martin Luther and a talentless television writer-producer.
    • At one point Guy reads the reviews for Drat! The Cat!, an incredibly short-run Broadway musical, lyrics and book by Ira Levin.
  • Significant Anagram: Steven Marcato the warlock. Roman Castevet the neighbor. They're one and the same.
  • The Sixties: If you lived in New York in the 1960s, you'll feel right at home. Levin weaves in references to the newspaper strikes, the great blackout, the Kennedy assassination, and the Pope's visit to Yankee Stadium.
    • Cigarette commercials? On television? Drawing blood? For a pregnancy test?
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Hinted at, though (apparently) averted at the end.
  • Title Drop: In-universe example. Rosemary reads a book titled "All them witches." When she starts growing more and more paranoid she starts rambling "Witches... Witches... All of them, witches... All them witches!" and then seems to laugh to herself.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Kind of applies to Rosemary.
  • The Unreveal: We never see Rosemary's baby's face, we're only told it has the eyes and feet of Satan.
  • Urban Legends: Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey wasn't actually involved in this film, and that isn't him in the demon costume.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Subverted. Rosemary thinks that the Castevets are going to sacrifice her baby. She's wrong. After all, why would they kill The Antichrist, the one who they hope will bring Satan's reign on Earth? She had the right genre, after all — she just didn't realize she had more of a starring role.

Alternative Title(s):

Rosemarys Baby