Returning to familiar ground first covered in his earlier film, Repulsion, Polish director Roman Polanski chose to direct this adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestselling novel for his Hollywood debut. Mia Farrow defied her then-husband Frank Sinatra to take on the role of timid, frail newlywed Rosemary Woodhouse, who moves into a new apartment building with her actor husband (the late great John Cassavetes), only to grow increasingly suspicious of her nosey, interfering neighbours. When she falls pregnant, Rosemary is plagued by the notion that she is in fact carrying the child of Satan, and that her husband has done a deal with the devil to advance his career.
Farrow has never been better, as her slowly worsening physical and mental state provide much of the horror in the film, while Polanski does an incredible job of creating something sinister from the mundane surroundings of their airy apartment and Farrow’s brightly coloured frocks. Ruth Gordon steals the show, however, in an Oscar-winning turn as the world’s worst neighbour, at once hilariously eccentric yet frighteningly overbearing and domineering.
The film’s success paved the way for a string of big budget daliances with the devil onscreen, most notably William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and Richard Donner’s The Omen, but Rosemary’s Baby remains an exceptional piece of atmospheric filmmaking – given a wonderful overhaul by those fine folks at Criterion, as their new Blu-ray release looks and sounds amazing and features a brilliant documentary on the film’s production.