Rosemary's Baby special edition from Criterion


Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968) is my favorite horror film of all time. The story is exquisitely creepy, the tension is profound, and Mia Farrow is absolutely sublime. I was thrilled to learn that the film is getting a new Criterion treatment with a Polanski-approved special edition DVD and Blu-Ray due out around Halloween. Along with new interviews with Polanski, Mia Farrow, and producer Robert Evans, this edition also includes an interview with the novel's author Ira Levin and a feature documentary on composer Krzysztof Komeda who created the film's gorgeous noir lullaby theme and score.

Rosemary's Baby



  1. The older I get, and the more experience I have, I get increasingly confused about why there isn’t more horror fiction centered around the pregnancy and birth experience. Because seriously, you guys. 

    1.  We’re from a culture that considers motherhood to be sacred.  I agree that procreation is pretty weird and is uh… fertile ground for the horror genre, but it’s a touchy subject for a lot of people. 

      1. Someday, I will get drunk and write up my very English Lit-class deconstruction of the Frankenstein story and the connections I like to bullshit that it might have to the kind of stories about pregnancy that women traditionally have not talked about publicly. Because, you know, the basic archetype of “making life and trying to play god and then having it all go horribly, horribly wrong”, that ain’t limited to male mad scientists. 

        1. First of all thank you for pointing our a level of meaning in Frankenstein I’ve completely missed but has forever and significantly changed my perspective on it.

          Secondly, many years ago at a meeting of the Samuel Johnson Society I listened to a lecture in which a scholar made the point that Mary Wollstonecraft was a misogynist because, in A Vindication Of The Rights of Woman she exhorts women to be more like men.

          It’s a bit off your topic, and the scholar admitted it was a pretty big stretch on her part to call Wollstonecraft a misogynist anyway, but the idea of women being more like men might have had some influence on her daughter, although Dr. Frankenstein’s take is very different. Anyway if you ever get around to writing that deconstruction Wollstonecraft-as-misogynist might provide an interesting side note.

        2.  As a dedicated Frankensteinophile (and proponent of nascent boing-boingesque Georgianpunk — did you know that young Mary Shelley was reading the unpublished manuscripts of Sir Humphrey Davy? That the same Radical publisher was responsible for Godwin, Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Franklin, and Paine?), I should point out that you’re not the first to note that Frankenstein is a tale about motherhood gone wrong–a kind of horrible post-partum depression made real. But I think you could bring it to public consciousness where others have not, so I encourage you to get drunk as soon as possible and start typing.

          (Although I should note that only one person has ever seen Victor and the Creature in the same place at the same time: The Captain of the Demeter. On the other hand, Henry Clerval only knows that his bipolar friend is followed by a trail of corpses. So I don’t think the R. L. Stevenson/Freud reading is quite dead yet.)

        1. Except this time, instead of a chest burster, they had a uterine buster. Just in case you weren’t clear about the subtext. In some ways, It was “Alien for dumb people.” 

          Aww, isn’t that the cutest Alien snake?

          1. fun fact: when i was a young’un, i thought that’s how babies were born: chestburster-style.  wasn’t that why the ladies on tv shows having babies were always screaming, and why the baby was bloody and gooey when they handed it to her?  add to this the fact that, after having my brother, my mom came home from the hospital with a good-sized incision on her belly (from the followup tubal ligation) — that was where he must’ve ripped his way out! :O

    2. Have you watched Rosemary’s Baby as an adult?  It’s entirely about the subjugation of women.  She’s drugged by her husband.  She’s raped by someone to whom her husband has sold her so that he can advance his career.  She’s carrying her rapist’s child.  She’s sent to the Rape Club doctor to manage the pregnancy.  Her pre-natal care is killing her as she wastes away for the benefit of the baby. When she tries to escape, she goes to another male doctor and he hands her over to her captors because, of course, she’s just an irrational pregnant woman.

      1. You obviously have never lived in New York City. That’s the shit ya gotta deal with to get a nice place in the Upper West Side… Whaddayagonnado!

      2. Oh, yes. I saw all of that when I watched it as a teenager. That’s what makes it great horror. It’s an exaggerated/supernatural take on something a lot of women were feeling at the time (and are probably still feeling today) … that there’s something living inside their body they don’t understand and don’t have control over; that their husbands and friends think they’re crazy because of what the pregnancy does to their hormones; that their doctor doesn’t really care about their agency and also thinks they’re nuts; that society doesn’t take them seriously because they’re women and because they’re pregnant. 

        Really good horror stories tell unrealistic stories about really, really realistic feelings and experiences. 

        1. Its not just a metaphor for the subjugation of women, what Mia Farrow went through filming that movie is horrendous, both personally and professionally. It always made me feel for her.

      3. The ‘how’ is also interesting: nothing that is done to her can be refused because it would be impolite. She is caught in a web of politeness.

    3. Well, you know that the original, Alien was basically about an evil “mother” (literally, the computer on the ship is called M.O.T.H.E.R.) sending her children out in the world to learn about all kinds of “evil” things… Like where babies come from. I mean, every kid thinks kids come out of the stomach, right?  Kind of like some crazy alien bursting out of someone’s chest.

      I’m not as eloquent about that as I would like to be, but there are tons of words that have been committed to the mother/childbirth aspect of the Alien films.

      Heck, the sequel Aliens is basically about Ripley’s maternal instincts kicking into gear to protect Newt and confront the ultimate evil in her galaxy… The alien queen.

      1. Oh, definitely. That, too. It just surprises me that the pregnancy/motherhood horror story isn’t nearly as common as the “teenagers have to make decisions about sexuality” horror story. 

        Probably because more people want to think about hot teenagers doing it and that kind of anxiety than want to think about yucky things like birth or miscarriage. 

        1. Hmmm… Okay, you are right… About the hot teenagers!  Reowr!  But I do think there are a lot more stories in the TV science fiction world that address the horrors of motherhood.  Shows like The X-Files, The Outer Limits & The Twilight Zone.

          And hey, back on topic but what about David Cronenberg’s world. The Brood is just screwed up on so many levels.

        2.  Oh, crap. The “teenagers have to make decisions about sexuality” horror story really isn’t all that common at all. It’s just selection bias. When you mention “horror movie” to most post-1970s Americans, they think of slasher films. But if you look at the whole of the horror genre, across media, from the 18th c. Gothics like “Melmoth the Wanderer” or The Castle of Otranto,, through Poe and Bierce, to the Edwardians, the French decadents, the German expressionists, Carl Laemle and his imitators in America, classic American OTR and the BBC’s Fear on Four,  the British and Italian gothic revivals in the 50s and 60s, up through J-Horror and K-horror in the ’90s and ’00s, that stupid slasher-film morality play/dead teenager schtick is a flash in the pan. 

          Fuck dead teenagers. It’s a contingent accident based on American film distribution assumptions in the 1950s, followed by the imposition of the MPAA. The slasher film is creation of American capitalism, and has nothing to do with the horror genre as  a whole.


  2. Good movie! Sure wish Polanski would face up to the child rape charges he’s been avoiding for 30 years.

      1.  He did NOT.  He was released (on a technicality) and will be arrested for raping a 13 year old child if he sets foot on US soil.

  3. Word of advice, though: The only blu-rays I own that feature region lock are Criterion’s. Check before you buy.

    1. Criterion is also notorious for exceptionally high prices. The only way they will bring down their prices is if people refrain from buying their releases. Unfortunately Criterion is the only way to get Wes Anderson’s films on BluRay… Criterion get lots of praise but other studios produce extras every bit as good, and without the higher prices that go with the Criterion name.

  4. Movie is freakin incredible, but I only feel OK watching it cause Polanski made it so long ago.  I don’t need bullshit interviews and extras, the movie is great alone and I’d rather watch an edition without such recent association with Polanksi.

    1. Why not? Why would you ignore the fact that a rapist made a film about rape?

      1. I’m not about to justify the various and manifold offenses of many creators of artistic works, but even if one limits one’s boycott to just the convicted criminals, one will be surprised at how many songs, movies, books, etc., become unavailable to one’s appreciation.  And then if one considers how many sins went unpunished (such as some of those alleged to have been committed by the likes of Errol Flynn or Kirk Douglas) and tries to eliminate those artists’ works as well, one will rapidly run out of entertainment.

        1.  Well, there is a difference between convicted criminals who served their time and escaped fugitives.

  5. You meant “Komeda” not “Komdea”

    By the way, Komeda was an awesome (and sorely missed) Swedish band (named for Krzystof Komeda) from the late 90’s and early aughts…

    1.  Yep, it’s Komeda. His score for “The Fearless Vampire Killers” is incredible even if the movie is . . . not. I’ve been known to sit through that dreadfully unfunny “komedy” just for the music, but the film is so awful, and Polanski such a skilled director, that I think cineastes twist themselves into knots trying to find something good about it. Komeda’s score, of course, is the “something good,” but Polanski’s film, OTOH, is like something a genius would come up with after getting wasted and watching “Take the Money and Run” and “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” while bathing in a big pile of money.

      I do need to watch Rosemary’s Baby again, although I suspect I’ll dig out my old discount DVD and skip the Criterion version. Anyone else here seen “The Tenant”? It’s got the mood of “Rosemary’s Baby,” but with themes related to masculinity and masculine fears.

      1. I disagree. On the movie being awful part, that is (no question the music is brilliant).

        I saw the movie when I was a kid and I think it’s a wonderful children’s movie. And I still love it to this day. Beautiful colors, great locations and Sharon Tate all add to the experience.

  6. I read the book before I watched the movie. It is utterly fantastic. You have no clue what’s going except that something is wrong, and then at the end…. POW. Ira Levin is an amazing writer. Then you go back and read it again and see everything that you missed the first time around. (Of course, I read it first in high school so I guess there’s a chance that as an adult I would have seen what’s coming.)

    1. My mother had the misjudgment to read Rosemary’s Baby while pregnant with my kid sister.

      1. I saw the film on TV when I was a child. The I read the book when I was ~18. I was quite shocked to discover that there was a psychedelic demon sex scene with Jackie Kennedy and the Pope. I took the first opportunity to see the film when it showed at a revival house. Much better uncut.

  7. Surprised no one has mentioned that this film featured the great John Cassavetes. His contribution to cinema is astounding, if you love this art form you should really check out his movies.

  8. Ratio: 1.85:1 ! Jeffry Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere was appalled: . Even more appalling to Wells was Polanski’s apathy. One comment on Wells’ post mentions that Wells’ choosing to reprimand Polanski for this, and not Polanski’s other past crimes, is appalling in itself. One thing I’m sure of, is that it makes entertaining reading.

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