Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book to Movie: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Book to Movie: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Screenplay by Roman Polanski
Directed by Roman Polanski

In 1968, director Roman Polanski adapted Ira Levin’s bestelling novel, Rosemary’s Baby to the big screen. In doing so, Polanski did not alter Levin one iota and managed to make a great movie.
Mia Farrow is perfectly cast as Rosemary Woodhouse. Mousy and demur, Farrrow plays the dupe quite well.

In casting the Castavets, Polanski chose Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer – two well known actors not known for their roles in horror films. This was also casting genius because, the creepiness of Levin’s novel was the satanists appeared to be unasumming, old people who demonstrated no evil in their overt actions or personality. Evans and Gordon were wonderful in their parts.

The script lifted much of the dialogue from the book and had the same staccato feel as the novel. Events unfolded rapidly until the climax, which built much slower to its excellent ending. Farrow played the horrified, then motherly Rosemary perfectly, giving the film a tremendously satisfying ending.

Making the film was actually the idea of producer William Castle. Castle was well known in Hollywood for his low budget, gimic horror films. For this reason, he was not allowed to adapt the book into a screenplay or direct. But for all Castle’s faults as a producer, he produced a great film in Rosemary’s Baby.

Castle makes a cameo appearance in the film as the guy waiting impatiently outside the phone booth as Rosemary talks to her OB/GYN.

It was rumored for years that the Church of Satan founder Anton Lavey played Satan in the scene where he impregnates Rosemary. According to the folks at Snopes, this is false and Lavey had no part in the making of the film.

Ira Levin had several films made based on his work and like Rosemary’s Baby, the scripts stuck very closely to the story Levin produced. Levin wrote books that lent themselves well to the big screen and Polanski and company were wise to incorporate all of Levin’s story elements, character development, and dialogue into their script. Rosemary’s Baby ranks as an excellent, intelligent horror film.

NBC has filmed and will release a four part miniseries based on Rosemary’s Baby. I fear this will be a poor effort. There’s not enough story to fill a four part miniseries and the writers no doubt had to pad the script to fill the time.

Also, the subject matter does not lend itself well to the times. In the 1960s, the role of religion and the whole controversy over “Is God Dead?” was raging. Satanism as a real life horror was pretty much debunked in the 1980s.

Like those who played Carrie in the remakes of Stephen King’s classic novel, actress Zoe Saldana has some big shoes to fill playing the iconic Rosemary Woodhouse.

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