Thirty-two years after it premiered, Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestseller still unnerves–a fact shocking in itself, considering that the film has been so absorbed into pop culture that the big “twist” regarding the titular infant is pretty much common knowledge. Chalk it up to Polanski’s all-around masterful job telling the story of Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow, in the role that put her on the map), who becomes pregnant not long after she and struggling actor hubby Guy (John Cassavetes) move into an apartment building with a shady history–one that she and her unborn child are about to become part of. “Rosemary’s Baby” still makes an impact after all these years because its scares are purely, elegantly psychological; there is no violence in the film other than the growing mental torment inflicted on poor Rosemary (by herself?) as she becomes increasingly suspicious of everyone around her, including the one growing in her womb. But perhaps Polanski’s most startling accomplishment is ultimately twisting something as natural as maternal instinct into something horrifying, if not downright monstrous.
As is the case with most Paramount discs, supplements accompanying the (nice) anamorphically-transferred feature are slim. But the two included here are more interesting than usual. A brief collection of retrospective interviews with Polanski, production exec Robert Evans, and production designer Richard Sylbert doesn’t offer too much in the way of juicy inside details, but much unintended amusement comes from Evans’ soft-focus segments, which the famously flamboyant producer gives in profile, presumably to showcase his “good” side. More revealing is “Mia and Roman,” a 30-minute behind -the-scenes fluff piece made way back during the film’s initial 1968 release. As a historical artifact, this featurette is priceless (dig Farrow and Polanski painting flowers and the words “peace” and “love” all over her trailer) and strangely prescient (Farrow rattling off a long list of pets more than foretells the large brood of adopted children she would eventually have). This featurette also exposes a sad truth: entertainment journalism hasn’t improved one iota in over 30 years.
Specifications: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; English Dolby Digital; English and French mono; English subtitles; English closed captioning.