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Rosemary's Baby [1968] [DVD]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2014
Roman Polanski's career would have been very different if he hadn't been head-hunted by Paramount's Robert Evans to direct a film version of Ira Levin's classic horror thriller Rosemary's Baby. Evans and producer William Castle had recognized the book's potential commercial worth even before it had been published by Random House and with a highly successful apartment-based psycho-suspense shocker already under his belt in the shape of Repulsion (1965), Polanski was the obvious choice to bring the project off.

It's true that Rosemary's Baby is a very highly regarded film which appears in many top 100 lists. It's also true that for a Hollywood commercial film the hype is deserved. It's an extremely accomplished thriller, beautifully made, finely cast and performed and above all is that rare thing in Hollywood - an original. It created a new genre in the paranormal demonic psycho-suspense thriller and spawned several pretty awful satanic thrillers (Black Noon, Mark of the Devil, Blood on Satan's Claw, etc - does anyone remember these?) cashing in quickly on the film's success. More importantly, William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist (considered the benchmark of the genre), The Omen (1976) and Demon Seed (1977) all would have been unthinkable without it. So why am I less than overwhelmed by Polanski's achievement?

No doubt in 1968 when Rosemary's Baby was released it seemed to American audiences to be the ultimate scary movie and the exciting new European director Roman Polanski the by-name for cinematic innovation. The trouble is he had already peaked in three fantastic films made in Poland and Britain (Knife in the Water [1962], Repulsion [1965] and Cul-de-sac [1966]) which in retrospect we can say amount to the best work he ever did. Rosemary's Baby may seem original, but it is really nothing more than a re-hash of territory already explored terrifyingly well in Repulsion with added occult demonology thrown in as a bit of surface spice. Evans and Paramount knew what they were getting by hiring Polanski and simply wanted to cash in by re-marketing old material for the American market, and by golly how it worked! Polanski moved to California and the rest is history as they say, but he lost his cutting artistic edge forever in the process. Such is the nature of the Hollywood system, chewing up artistic talent and reducing everything down to making bucks and putting bums on seats. If Polanski had remained in Europe eeking out his work on the proverbial financial knife edge he may have developed into another phenomenal artist of the cinema like Luis Buñuel or Ingmar Bergman. Making a splash in Hollywood genre fare with first Rosemary's Baby and then later with Chinatown (1974) ensured he would never rise above the level of highly accomplished professional in his trade. True, all his subsequent films are superior products which are well worth watching, but all of them lack authorial voice and sacrifice art to commerce in a way that prevents the man's radical cutting surrealistic/absurdist edge from ever appearing again. To me this constitutes a great loss and (however accomplished the film may be) Rosemary's Baby marks the start of the decline.

This Paramount DVD is good quality. Very cheap, the picture is clear and the mono sound decent for the late '60s. On my wide screen TV I was made aware of how much Polanski and his cinematographer William Fraker move their predominantly wide angle lenses in close-up, making for a dizzying experience which Polanski surely intends to mirror the psychological turmoil Rosemary is wrung through. I won't go into the film in depth as much of it depends on surprise and I don't want to spoil it for you. Just keeping to broad observations then, the way Polanski shocks us with absolutely no special effects, no gore and no violence is really an object lesson in how psycho horror should ideally be approached. The film spans the 9 months of Rosemary's pregnancy and the way suspense is achieved through splendidly creepy mise-en-scène (take a bow Richard Sylbert) and a careful working through of Rosemary's descent into madness is truly masterly. As has been commented elsewhere, Polanski plays with point of view in that we never know if she is being tortured by real people or by demons that exist only inside her brain. Similar to Hitchcock, Polanski demonstrates how much can be shown by showing so little. If you haven't seen Repulsion (and especially if you have been through pregnancy) I'd say the film still packs a powerful punch. But Polanski has said all of this (and more) much better in the earlier film, probably because there the woman's neurosis/psychosis is never explained - in Hollyweird everything has to have a logical explanation to obey those unwritten genre rules. In the acting stakes, Mia Farrow puts in a terrific performance here, but if you want even more vulnerability then look no further than Catherine Deneuvre who is simply jaw-dropping in the earlier film. I also feel that as wonderfully constructed as this film is, Gilbert Taylor's extraordinary b/w photography (wide angle lenses again with expressionist noir lighting straight out of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1919, Robert Wiene]) and Polanski's astounding use of props and off-screen sounds achieves there a deeply sinister creepy intensity that out-does anything on offer here.

Don't get me wrong - Rosemary's Baby is one of the best American films of the 60s and it definitely deserves a place in any collection. Potential buyers should note it's also available in a 3 DVD pack along with his very best American film Chinatown (1974) and The Tenant (1976). Retailing at a fiver that would appear to be the best way of buying it. I don't think I'm alone in saying that it's rather sad Polanski never lived up to the promise shown by his first 3 features - in the end he settled for being merely 'very good' and rich instead of being 'great' and (probably) poor.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2008
'Rosemary's Baby' is without doubt Roman Polanski's best movie.
Still after fourty years this film scares me. Not in the kind of gruesome (torture-porn) kind of way that the Saw franchise do, but in a deeply psychological way, in the spirit of all the great twentieth century horror films. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is the young married woman who's just moving into an upstate New York appartment block with her husband, actor Guy (John Cassavetes). The pair soon get to know their neighbours (mainly) Minnie Castevet & her husband Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer).
Rosemary's baby is a very scary film, not gruesome (sometimes mildly explicit) but it has that claustrophobic eery feeling & after the first half of the film the feeling that no one can be trusted & that the world is conspring against Rosemary is very apparent.
The story is set into motion when Guy announces to a broody Rosemary that he wishes to have a baby. Which leads to probably the only prorper 'horror' scene in the film.
The performances in the movie are phenomenal, particularly that of Ruth Gordon, who plays the nosy meddling neighbour (she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance). Mia Farrow is also very convincing as Rosemary, the trapped individual whose intentions are always good.
A stupendous film that will give the viewer a taste of a good horror movie, before the directors of this genre got lazy & decided to just give B list actors a vague & undeveloped plot line, just to accomodate 'torture-porn' (which I do like, but it doesn't compare to the creepiness & subtlety of a horror movie like this.)
I would recommend this movie to all fans of Alfred Hitchcock, other works of Roman Polanski & Stanley Kubrick.
In conclusion a great film, everything is right about this, a true horror great that would be in at least the top five best horror pictures of all time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Indeed Rosemary's Baby is a classic but let's get the bad points out of the way first. Some scenes are awkward, Mia Farrow and her new found friend in the washing room really doesn't belong in a movie hailed as a classic. Terrible dialogue and acting from both. Farrow seems to change accents throughout the movie, even in her same lines which is a little off putting. However she is terrific in this role as the quiet naive woman who senses over the films two hours that something is very wrong. The movie has been directed much like Nicolas Roeg's classic, Don't Look Now, that classic 70s look of chopping and changing scenes during dialogue. Rosemary's Baby is also very sexually aware of itself, and one could say with all validity was the bridge between censorship issues and what would follow in the glorious 70s.

The movie was shot in the Dakota Buildings, and looks dreadfully eerie, director Roman Polanski makes New York like that too, which all fits with the mood of the film. John Cassavetes has some great lines and is particulary good, though isn't needed once he plays his cards too early. But two actors outstage Farrow and Cassavetes and that is their old nosey could be witch neighbours played delightfully well by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer.

Rosemary's Baby may well be lost on a younger horror generation, but the movie works on so many levels. For example we have all had nosey neighbours that interfere and the film of course on a technical level is great.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 October 2013
The horror in "Rosemary's Baby" is the horror of betrayal and powerlessness. There are few shock moments (excluding a misjudged devil's costume with hairy arms - Wlliam Castle, the schlock producer's influence, no doubt who even makes a sub-Hitchcockian appearance in a minute cameo) in the 137 minute running time. However this is immaterial as the strength of the film rests in the classy direction (surely one of Polanski's finest achievements) excellent performances and the sophisticated and incremental paranoia it generates along with the copious black comedy lurking just below the film's surface which perfectly captures the chilling banality of evil.

No character should or can be trusted in the world which Rosemary inhabits once she is installed in her New York apartment. Her husband, the neighbours, her doctor, the elevator boy are all potentially sinister figures and even Rosemary herself could quite easily be unhinged too - and this feeling of relativism and uncertainty permeates the action for most of the film.

What an actor will do to gain a role in a new TV series is the deliciously ironic central plot premise in this, heavily 60's production, which does for "old folks" what Spielberg did for sharks and despite it's length, the film just speeds by to it's extraordinary and movingly horrific conclusion.

This Paramount Blu Ray has quite good definition and sports a totally satisfactory audio transfer too even if it doesn't wow.
I have not seen the Region A locked, highly celebrated, Criterion version but this edition seems fine by me. The definition is generally very good, the colour saturation acceptable, the contrast and black levels good too for a film of it's period and the grain is present but not intrusive. It is considerably cheaper than the Criterion version as well, and although it doesn't have the extras available of that edition, which were also present on the earlier SD DVD, it is still highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2009
A mesmerising movie with very distinctive self assured direction by a true master, RB is a very famous film, a light horror classic. The writing is very very good, this time a fulsome screenplay just a couple of years after his first English language feature showed a real preference for visual over verbal drama. That Polanski had immersed himself in American culture since then, shows too in the well detailed and very New Yorky looking set. Again he shows his talent for getting drama out of showing the small everyday domestic details that usually do not get big cinematic focus. He took the material elements of British kitchen sink drama and honed in on them further, as if they were characters as much as the human actors. What this does is create a claustraphobic, uncomfortably close atmosphere, which of course became his hallmark.

It is so well crafted in its minute detail, just as Repulsion was, it builds its atmosphere of growing tension almost seamlessly, but of course very very slowly. This for me causes one slight problem this time - it risks losing the bigger picture as we once again get drawn into the psychological spiral of the main character (again a female). All this intense claustraphobia is in its way very compelling, and it does do just enough to motivate me to keep watching, but this time it is a bit more of a chore than it was for Repulsion. The trouble here is that we are expecting a real story, whereas with Repulsion we didn't know what we would get, but were just knocked out by this new guy's mesmerisming depiction of obsessive madness.

Where this kind of intensity and narrowness of focus in filmmaking always takes a risk in being weak in, is with the narrative, so it is a major risk. But where some other auteurs may be accused of being too self indulgent and showy, Polanski usually shows enough form and discipline not to leave his narrative just flailing in the wake of the showcasing of his visual prowess. He is quite like Hitchcock in having a real sense of dramatic integrity about him, in that he understands a story is paramount, even after pursuing a very creative presentation of that story (Although you do feel much more with Polanski that the discipline of a dramatic narrative is sometimes a bit of a bind for him). This film has such carefully crafted charm and its own naturual charisma, due to its superb casting and setting that the viewer forgives the rather slow and indulgently lurid journey one takes to get to the ending. A very interesting and involving movie but not one I long to see on a regular basis like some of my favourite films.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2000
Rosemary's Baby is regarded by many as Roman Polanski's finest achievement. Although it is now 32 years since Poland's enfant terrible brought his adapation of Ira Levin's 1967 novel to the screen, it stands up well to the test of time. Starring Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon, and John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby is a stylish and brilliantly executed set piece, accurately reflecting the New York of the late 1960's.
Set in the famous Dakota building - later to become infamous, following the senseless assassination of John Lennon, on its' doorsteps some two decades later - this masterpiece of suspense will chill even the most hot blooded spine. Polanski coaxed brilliant performances from his stellar cast, also featuring Sidney Blackmer, and Ralph Bellamy as Rosemary's insidious gynacologist, and Ruth Gordon won an Academy Award for her star turn as the nosy parker next door.
Rosemary's Baby is not simply a classic tale of suspense and horror, but a fine example of how a feature film of the genre need not lose it's impact when viewed on the small screen. A 20th century classic! 5 stars. Kym Jones
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It is simply unfair that Mia Farrow's acting so often comes under scathing criticism, she CAN act. Okay, her impossible beauty makes it easier for the eye to wonder away from her delivery, but she is utterly unerving as the meak, Rosemary.

Roman Polanski, no matter what your reservations on him are, is a masterful director. He is one of the few directors who can produce the fear factor, without resorting to the banality of gore, copiuous amounts of blood and sadism.

The darkliy lit flat in which the film mainly takes place, sits uneasy, as Rosemary finds her pregnancy has a few implications, mainly that her seemingly loving husband has made a pact with the devil, and is carrying the dark lord's child.

New York is captured with that lost Hollywood allure. But rest assure, this is a film that is not out-dated, instead we have a piece of on-screen nostalgia.

Ruth Gordon as the prying neighbour does offer a slight comic releif, although, this does not take away from the film's totality.

In itself, a time piece in cinema. On a larger scale, an avant garde horror, that is really a cut above the rest.
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on 31 August 2012
Talk about strange food cravings and hormonal crazies. Welcome to what is probably the most difficult pregnancy in movie history. Technically this is classed as a horror but those put off by that kind of thing would be glad to know that it is much closer to a psychological thriller. Even though this is on the mild side for a horror that doesn't mean that director Roman Polanski doesn't keep things as disturbingly unsettled and ambiguous as he can right up to the end.

Our title character, Rosemary doesn't work, she never sees friends or communicates with her family, and she's married to a vain, selfish, and what seems like quite a cold man, all of which reinforces her isolation. Her Catholic guilt and sexual repression are reflected in her dreams: surreal sequences in which nuns and the Pope flit through erotic fantasies. When Rosemary and her husband actually have sex it isn't spontaneous or heated but studied and pre-arranged.

The film revolves around Rosemary who is played by Mia Farrow, who is in all but a very few shots. At first her performance seems to leave much to be desired, she seems childish, naïve and slightly annoying but then you realise that Polanski is slyly exploiting her mannered childishness. Even before she gets pregnant she wears shapeless little smocks and flat, little girl shoes. When she has her hair trendily cropped at Vidal Sassoon she is even more boyish. She is so unwomanly it seems odd that the husband character would be married to her, unless it is for her compliance which it probably is. Easily led, Rosemary allows herself to be utterly dominated constantly.

The whole premise of this film is that Rosemary thinks that her next door neighbours are witches, that are trying to take her baby for there own satanic means. The genius behind it all is that it is never really confirmed, there are many instances within the film where are questioning the sanity of the title character. Her child-likeness works to enhance this thought in your head that maybe she is feeble minded, I love how the film makes you question the motives of every single character. Is Rosemary crazy? Or is she sane? Is the whole world out to get her baby or not?

But even at the last minute you can't be sure she isn't crazy. Maybe they're all nuts. We never see what the baby looks like, but according to Rosemary there is something very wrong with its eyes. It's that smile playing on Rosemary's lips at the end that makes you question her mental state, it suggests that the combination of her maternal instinct and the conspirators have prevailed, and of course that provides the biggest chill, the kind you get at the end of every film in which evil has prevailed.
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on 3 April 2011
This film is based on Ira Levin's chilling novel and remains very true to the original story. Mia Farrow is perfectly cast as the young, beautiful newlywed Rosemary Woodhouse. At the beginning of the film she appears to be simply glowing with health and happiness but by the time she is three months into her pregnancy she is a shadow of her former self. This is down to Farrow's acting as much as to hair and make up. She is suffering dreadfully from terrible pains but all around her tell her that she will "feel better in a day or two". When her old friends see her they are horrified by her "stick of chalk" appearance and urge her to seek help. Rosemary is married to Guy who, to put it simply, is a selfish pig. He tells her she can't get another doctor to give her a second opinion and seems unconcerned about his wife's wellbeing. He is desperate to make a success of his acting career and doesn't care who gets hurt on his way to the top. He gets his lucky brreak at the expense of another aspiring actor. The creepiest character in the film is Minnie, played by the marvellous Ruth Gordon. Whenever Rosemary manages to leave her apartment or is just about to spend five minutes with an old friend either Minnie or her husband, Roman, turn up.
Rosemary's world seems to get smaller and smaller and she becomes paranoid. Do her kindly neighbours have an ulterior motive in befriending her? It seems that there is no one she can trust. She is determined to keep her unborn child safe but there is noone who she can turn to.
I think that this film would probably be given a 15 certificate now. It is an excellent,chilling thriller but I wouldn't class it as horror. It is a film that will stay with you long after you have finished watching it. I will be checking out more of Roman Polanski's and Ira Levin's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2015
You don't get to see many as interesting satanic film as this one. Good storyline, well acted by everyone. I like the way they play out the film. I honestly don't think you can get better satanic film than Rosemary's Baby, it's made in late 60s but that's where it were the best time for such film.

If you're Satanist, you should check this out but its not for light-hearted people though.

Price is worth it for me, as I can watch it again and again in the future. No problem with the delivery too.
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