ROSEMARY’S BABY. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.


ROSEMARY’S BABY. (1968) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY IRA LEVIN.
DIRECTED BY ROMAN POLANSKI.
STARRING MIA FARROW, JOHN CASSEVETES, RUTH GORDON, SIDNEY BLACKMER, MAURICE EVANS, RALPH BELLAMY AND CHARLES GRODIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
 
This brilliant and iconic horror film reaches out and grabs you by the throat from the get-go. The first thing I noticed about it is the following. The music in THE SIMPSONS when Homer exercises poor judgement and takes the kids to a horror flick that’s totally unsuitable for young ‘uns is actually a clever homage to the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the start of ROSEMARY’S BABY. I love finding out stuff like that!

When a terrified Bart and Lisa, traumatised beyond belief from being made to watch THE RE-DEADENING, hear the ‘la-la-la-la’ music at the dinner table and howl in fear, Homer casually remarks: ‘Oh yeah, I bought the soundtrack…!’ Good old Homer. Marge, on hearing where Homer’s taken the kids, actually remarks: ‘Homer, that’s a rare lapse in judgement for you!’ or words to that effect. Yes, rare indeed…

Anyway, ROSEMARY’S BABY tells the story of a young couple, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, who in 1965 move into one of those gorgeous, huge old New York apartment buildings that are always being featured in films.

SINGLE WHITE FEMALE has one of ’em. You know the kind I mean. They’ve got lifts and doormen and laundry rooms down in the big scary basement and tons and tons of storage space and I’ve always wanted to live in one except I think I’d be too scared.

The building’s not entirely dissimilar to the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, which recently featured in a Netflix series entitled: CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL. The specific ‘vanishing’ to which it refers is that of Canadian student Elisa Lam (1991-2013), who booked into the Cecil Hotel, only a stone’s throw from Skid Row, in January 2013.

Sadly, she went missing while staying there and her body was eventually found in a water tank on the roof of the building. Her death was found to be accidental. Huge Internet interest was aroused by the disappearance and, particularly, by some hotel footage of Elisa in a hotel elevator on the last day she was ever seen alive, in which she is seen to be behaving strangely.

Anyway, Guy and Rosemary’s building is called the Bramford and, according to their pal Hutch, its history is sinister and inextricably bound up with the occult. This doesn’t deter the young marrieds, though.

Rosemary in particular loves all the closet space and, let’s face it, as a dutiful little ‘Sixties housewife, she has plenty of time to line them all with nice stripy shelf paper while hubby Guy is out trying to earn a crust as an actor.

The most interesting thing about the Bramford is the Woodhouse’s new neighbours, a hugely eccentric old couple called the Castevets. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Minnie Castevet, the garishly-dressed, extremely nosy and pushy auld one who insinuates herself into Rosemary’s business right from the off. Rosemary, a total doormat, is much too weak and wimpy to tell the bossy old biddy to bog off.

After initial reluctance, Guy becomes chummy with the couple and presumably talks to them in private about how hard he’s finding it to make it as an actor. Then one day, he suddenly tells Rosemary he’s willing to try for the baby she’s always wanted.

Coincidence much? He’s even worked out on a chart when the optimum times for conception are, if you can believe that. Is any man alive that keen to knock up the missus…? Well, maybe some guys are, haha.

Dozey Rosie doesn’t suspect a thing. Not even when one night she gets ‘tipsy’ (with Guy’s encouragement) and has a horribly life-like ‘dream’ in which she is raped by a demonic figure in the presence of Guy and the Castevets and a load of their elderly pals from the Bramford. ‘Dream,’ my Aunt Fanny. As if the whole thing wasn’t arranged by Guy and the Castevets together. For shame…!

Rosemary wakes up the next day covered in claw marks and scrapes and scratches. Guy tries to make out like he had sex with her while she was out for the count so as not to miss out on conception time. He says it was nice, in a necrophiliac kind of way…! What a nice guy. We have a name for that kind of thing nowadays, boyo.

Anyway, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed, Rosemary ends up preggers by Satan after that one night, because apparently His Infernal Majesty always hits the mark on the first time. No faffing about for the Dark Lord. No bullshitting with Beelzebub. No half-assed endeavours for Lucifer. He uses his whole ass when he undertakes something. Oh, and Guy is suddenly on his way to becoming a famous actor. Coincidence, my butt. 

What happens to Rosemary after her unwitting conception of Old Nick’s kid has the quality of a nightmare for the boyishly-coiffed young mum-to-be. Does she get through it unscathed? Does Satan Junior? Does Guy get any kind of come-uppance?

Can the Devil be prevailed upon to pay child support and take his infant to MacDonald’s and a movie at the weekend like every other normal deadbeat dad? And above all, can anything be done about Rosemary’s hair? ‘Tis shocking bad. These and other questions can (mostly) be answered by watching the film.

The book by Ira Levin on which the film is based is one of the few books that I read right through without stopping. JAWS by Peter Benchley was another one, William Peter Blatty’s THE EXORCIST another. It’s in pretty good company, as you can see.

ROSEMARY’S BABY, incidentally, is one of the films that made it on to the American National Film Registry, which means that the Library Of Congress deemed it ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant,’ which is a pretty big honour for any film that makes the cut.

The acting is sublime, the scripting tight and the ending fantastic. The only thing that puzzles me is the bit about Satan’s apparently being such a rough and inconsiderate lover that he leaves his consort covered in savage claw marks.

That’s not the Satan I know. Why, the time he and I… Ooops. I’ve said too much. Never mind. Forget that I said that. We’ll end on a pun based on the movie. ‘Anyone for tannis…?’ Yes, I said tannis, haha. Watch the film. You’ll find out.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE LANDLADY BY CONSTANCE RAUCH. (1975) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

landlady uk

THE LANDLADY BY CONSTANCE RAUCH. (1975) PUBLISHED BY FUTURA PUBLICATIONS LIMITED. BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a little paperback book I found in a charity shop the other day. The gems I’ve found in places like that over the years! Just recently, in a box of free-to-take-away old books, I’ve discovered paperback copies of JAWS, PSYCHO 2, THE EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY. Not bad at all for a free box!

THE LANDLADY, with a distinct BURNT OFFERINGS feel to it, is in a similar vein to these ’70s paperbacks I’ve mentioned. On the cover, it’s referred to as ‘A mind-wrenching tale of malevolent horror.’

There’s a circle cut out of the title page through which you can see a woman’s face, then when you open it up you see that the face belongs to an old-fashioned doll with ‘Twenties make-up, a torn white dress and a grotesquely cracked bare left breast. So far so good, eh?

 It concerns a young married couple called Sam and Jessica Porter and their two-year-old daughter Patience. They move into a gorgeous big old house in upstate New York that has a fabulous view of the mighty Hudson river. Unfortunately, the house isn’t theirs; they’re only renting from a Mrs. Frederick Falconer, the titular ‘landlady.’

The house is so big that it straddles two streets and has two entrances and even two addresses. Mrs. Falconer lives on the Maynard Hill side, and her new tenants, the Porters, occupy the Granite Terrace end that faces the Hudson.

A door in the middle of the house, referred to as the side door, connects the two houses from the inside, but Mrs. Falconer makes it clear she doesn’t want her tenants using this door to come into her part of the house and, to be honest, the Porters don’t much like the idea of their pushy, frequently stroppy landlady waltzing willy-nilly into their side whenever the fancy takes her, either.

Not that she waltzes, you understand. She’s a heavy-set old dear pushing eighty, who walks with a big heavy cane that makes clumping noises overhead as she moves around upstairs.

She has disturbing mood swings; sweet as pie one minute, then screaming blue murder the next. She’s intrusive, nosey and judgemental and feels free to criticise Jessica’s parenting, which outrages Jessica, and she never knows (or cares) when she’s outstayed her welcome downstairs at the Porters.’

Worst of all, Jessica’s new friend from the area, Mary Smith (the Porters still keep in touch with their old eclectic group of friends), tells Jess that tenants who rent the Falconer place don’t tend to stay there long, and they don’t tend to leave with their marriages intact, either.

Mrs. Falconer has a strange, but unerring, habit of coming between couples and pouring poison into the cup of their marital bliss. The locals, in other words, don’t have anything good to say about the widowed Mrs. Falconer.

A word about Sam and Jess as a couple. Sam is thirty-three and can’t settle to anything since he gave up acting as a bad lot. He currently works in building maintenance with a French chap called Pierre Villard, but he’s failing at this enterprise now too and Pierre wants shut of him. Friendship and business don’t mix well, but Sam makes big errors of judgement that usually result in he, Jess and Patience having to up-sticks and move to a new place.

There’s not much stability in this for Jess and her child. You get the impression that the clever, intellectual and well-educated Jess might be better off striking out on her own with Patience, rather than waiting around for Sam to find his ‘dream job’ and finally be happy and settled. (It’s never gonna happen…!)

Sam seems to love his wife and child but he’s absent, either working or drinking heavily, for most of the scary incidents in the book, and I see him as a deadbeat father and a neglectful, selfish husband, thinking of only his own needs and rarely of his family’s.

Twenty-four-year old Jess, on the other hand, is devoted to her family. She’s devastated when, one night not long after they move in, the bright and curious little Patience has an horrific screaming fit in her cot and, afterwards, when she’s calmed down, she seems to have regressed back into being a baby rather than a toilet-trained and sociable toddler.

The discovery of a smoked cigar butt and a hideous female sex doll, covered in slime, in and around the baby’s cot, leads Jess to the horrible realisation that there must have been an intruder in her precious baby’s room, an intruder who possibly committed a heinous sex act near, or even with, the baby. What the hell is she going to do?

Sam is no help, as he’s running around trying to pin down an elusive acting job with the help of an old flame (grrrrr…!) while Jess is trying to cope with everything on her own. Patience’s mental state –– and future mental stability and well-being –– are at stake here and Jess is worried sick about her.

And there’s also the disturbing notion of the intruder coming back to finish what he started with Patience. If he got in once he can get in again, especially… especially if he’s coming from inside the house…

There’s also the murder of local clerk Nora Kelly in the mix, the murder that occurs just as Sam and Jess move into the Falconer place, and the fact that old Mrs. Falconer seems to have an extreme allergy to the police calling to the gaff. What exactly is the old dear trying to hide, upstairs in the Maynard Hill side of the house…?

I guessed the twist just before it came but it was still a great twist. I really enjoyed the book as a whole. It’s the kind of short horror book that used to come out in the ’70s with some regularity, but they don’t seem to make ’em like that any more. Ah well. Thank heaven for the charity shops…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor