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With ROSEMARY'S BABY ($30), writer/director Roman Polanski created one of the most subtlety chilling horror movies of all time. Based upon the novel by Ira Levin, ROSEMARY'S BABY tells the story of Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes), a young New York City couple that rent an apartment in the Bramford House. Before moving in, Rosemary and Guy learn of the Bramford House’s notorious past from their soon-to-be former landlord Edward "Hutch" Hutchins (Maurice Evans). Over the course of its history, Bramford House was home to a number of "eccentrics" including some cannibals, witches and devil worshippers. Undeterred by the old stories, Rosemary and Guy move into their apartment in Bramford House. Shortly after moving into their new place, Rosemary and Guy are befriended by Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer) and his wife Minnie (Ruth Gordon), the elderly couple that live in the apartment right next door. Guy is taken with Roman’s tales of the world, and begins spending a lot of time with the neighbors. Rosemary, on the other hand, is quite as taken with Roman and Minnie, whom she finds to be somewhat intrusive.

Shortly thereafter, Guy’s acting career suddenly catches fire and he begins focus on practicing his craft, instead of spending time with Rosemary. Eventually Guy realizes that he has been insensitive to his wife’s feelings, so he tells Rosemary that he intends to be more attentive to her and suggests that they should begin a family. Rosemary is delighted by the idea, however on the night the plan to conceive a child, Rosemary passes out and then has a bizarre dream in which she is raped by something that isn’t quite human. Soon after the night of her disturbing dream, Rosemary learns that she is pregnant. Everyone is ecstatic about the good news, including the Castevets, who insist that Rosemary go to see Dr. Abe Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), who is a personal friend of theirs, as well as being one of the best obstetricians in New York. As Rosemary’s pregnancy progresses, she gets the feeling that something just isn’t right with the baby. However, after a few odd occurrences, Rosemary becomes increasingly paranoid and begins to suspect that there is some kind of diabolical conspiracy involving her and her unborn child.

What sets ROSEMARY'S BABY apart from most other horror movies is the ambiguousness that Roman Polanski brings to the tale. Are a group of devil worshippers really after Rosemary’s baby, or has the pregnancy affected Rosemary’s mind to the point that she begins to believe her own paranoid fantasies? Polanski never tips his hand and keeps the audience guessing right up to the final moments of the film. Still, Polanski’s assured direction allows the viewer to feel every bit of Rosemary’s apprehension and fear, despite the fact that we are unsure if the danger is real or imaginary. Mia Farrow makes the audience believe every excruciating moment Rosemary’s ordeal. John Cassavetes is ideal as the self-absorbed actor, who may have sold his soul (and his wife) to the devil in return for success. Ruth Gordon earned herself an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress with her performance as the elderly busybody next door. The cast of ROSEMARY'S BABY also features Angela Dorian, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., Emmaline Henry, Charles Grodin, Hanna Landy, Philip Leeds, D'Urville Martin and Hope Summers.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made ROSEMARY'S BABY available on DVD in a wide screen presentation has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Framed at roughly 1.85:1, the transfer delivers a highly watchable image that flawlessly recreates the film’s intended look. Although not as sharp as newer films and slightly grainy in a couple of places, the image on this DVD provides a pleasing level of detail and is almost free of blemishes. Colors are somewhat subdued in some places, although the reds almost always explode off the screen in comparison to their pastel surroundings. Flesh tones are usually quite natural, except for Mia Farrow, who appears a bit cadaverous during the unspooling of the film. Black are inky and solid, although shadow detail is limited by the film stock available in the late 1960s. Clean dual layer authoring precludes any noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is free from distortion and provides crisp, intelligible dialogue reproduction. Additionally, there are no signs of audible hiss at moderate volume levels. A French monaural soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one to access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of nice extras. Included on the DVD are 17 minutes worth of retrospective interviews with director Roman Polanski, production executive Robert Evans and production designer Richard Sylbert, plus a 30-minute "making of" featurette that was produced at the time of the film’s original release.

ROSEMARY'S BABY is a genre classic, as well as being another stylish film from director Roman Polanski that can stand on its own without its genre affiliation. Paramount Home Entertainment’s presentation is truly fine, making this DVD a must have for horror fans and Polanski devotees. Highly Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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