When Rosemary's Baby was first released it shocked and surprised audiences. Starting off more like a Doris Day film, Rosemary's Baby looks like it could be another story about a young couple in love. What it turns into is anything but.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to recreate the surprise that this film created for its original viewers. It was released at a time where Mia Farrow was more known for her TV work on Peyton's Place and her marriage to Frank Sinatra than anything else. Over the years she has lost that young and innocent image which helps made Rosemary's Baby so impactual.
Rosemary's Baby has always been billed as a horror film without the horror, as you are never shown the awful things that happen in the film. I actually think the movie has been a little mistyped. To me Rosemary's Baby felt a lot more like a Hitchcock film than a horror film, where the main focus really is on a cast of quirky characters and a perceived plot against Rosemary. The 'surprise' and 'horror' take up such a small part of the film.
There's no question the story of Rosemary's Baby is excellent, and Mia Farrow, who I typically dislike, does a fantastic job of playing through the paranoia to unravel the conspiracy around her baby. If you haven't seen Rosemary's Baby, it's worth seeing simply for the amazing supporting cast - Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are fantastic as the nextdoor neighbors, Ralph Bellamy has amazing screen presence as Rosemary's obstetrician, Tony Curtis in an unaccredited phone call roll, and Charles Grodin is great in his first film role.
What I didn't like about Rosemary's Baby was the fact that it was yet another Roman Polanski ambiguous ending. I recently had a chance to watch his latest film, The Ninth Gate, and it was striking how the end of both films left me with the same unfulfilled feeling. I can understand where Romany Polanski may be coming from and why he likes to leave his endings ambiguous, the unfortunate result is that we miss the real payoff this film leads to.
Rosemary's Baby is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic wide screen. Unfortunately the print leaves a lot to be desired. Overall the film is pretty soft, with areas of heavy graininess, and the colors are all pretty muted and murky. Having seen clips from the movie before, I can imagine that the original print may not be ideal but I felt there could have been more work done to restore it. Many times during the film I was aware of the fair to poor print quality.
As with the print of the film the audio was noticeably thin and tinny. Again I understand the kind of original that the film must have been sourced from, but I would have liked to see more work done restoring the audio of this film.
Rosemary's Baby features two main extras: Retrospective interviews with Roman Polanski, producer Robert Evans and production designer Richard Sylbert and an original making-of featurette.
I really enjoyed the retrospective interviews; they capture the three very different personalities of the three key filmmakers and provide some very good perspective on the making of the film, in particular the selection of the actors to play the roles. Both Roman Polanksi and Richard Sylbert are very honest and upfront about their thoughts and perceptions about the film, but I really wanted to hear more from these two. Robert Evans was laughable, he comes off as the archetypal producer. I don't think I've seen anyone that pretentious since I worked in Hollywood.
The Original Making of Featurette is very raw, which is fantastic. It gives a genuine look at both Roman Polanksi and Mia Farrow who are both VERY different than they used to be and honestly discuss the filmmaking process and how Rosemary's Baby came together.
What's missing of course from the DVD release of Rosemary's Baby is audio commentary. I would have loved to have heard audio commentary from Roman Polanski, Mia Farrow or Richard Sylbert. There are so many scenes in Rosemary's Baby that could be enriched by commentary, so it's a real shame that none is there. Additionally it would have been great to have stuff related to the initial reaction to the film when it was first released. Rosemary's Baby made such a huge impact when it was first released that it would have been nice to have seen some of that represented on the DVD.
If you've never seen Rosemary's Baby, it's definitely worth watching. Try not to see it as a landmark film and you might enjoy it more. Although I've only seen it once I can imagine I'll enjoy seeing it another time, if for nothing more than to pay more attention to the supporting actors (many of which have made an unbelievable number of films). As a DVD Rosemary's Baby is OK, but I think Paramount could have done more with this DVD, most importantly spend more time on its restoration.