During this recently-produced documentary about the making of “Rosemary’s Baby,” legendary producer, and proud wearer of oversized glasses, Robert Evans describes this seminal horror masterpiece as, “Not a horror film, but was.” This assertion is key in fully appreciating “Rosemary’s Baby” during our current period of ADHD-addled horror cinema, where the target audience checks out if there isn’t a cheap jump scare at least twice a minute.
“Rosemary’s Baby” relies on an ever-escalating atmosphere of fear and unease as director Roman Polanski pulls the audience into the world of the film and the collapsing mind of its protagonist so patiently and assuredly that by the time we reach the insane climax, it all feels oddly familiar, which is where its true terror derives from.
Before its release in 1968, audiences could build a mental wall between the obviously fantastical locations and schlocky characters of a horror film and their own lives. “Rosemary’s Baby” shattered that wall by presenting what appeared to be a family drama about a couple the audiences could easily identify with and carefully introducing a sinister element of supernatural evil. Suddenly, the terror wasn’t only in a gaudy gothic mansion somewhere far away, but was right there at our front door.
For those familiar with the eventful production process of “Rosemary’s Baby,” this 47-minute documentary full of candid interviews with Evans, Polanski and star Mia Farrow, won’t divulge much new information. Everything from B-movie schlockmaster William Castle’s spearheading of the production to Mia Farrow’s divorce from Frank Sinatra—which led to Farrow’s glee when “Rosemary’s Baby” crushed the Sinatra vehicle “The Detective” at the box-office after both films opened on the same day—are all mentioned here after popping up in pretty much every making-of documentary about the film released during the last four decades.
Regardless, this documentary, which is included on The Criterion Collection release of the film, combines all of this information into a neat package and should provide a fascinating insight into this bona fide American classic for newcomers, as well as a refresher course for die-hard fans. For those without the funds to shell out $40 for the Criterion release, which also sports an excellent transfer of the film, the good people at Vice have provided us with the documentary in its entirety. Enjoy, and remember, this is no dream, this is really happening.