Citing “the perverted use which the film makes of fundamental Christian beliefs and its mockery of religious persons and practices,” the U.S. Roman Catholic Office for Motion Pictures slapped Rosemary’s Baby with a C-for-condemned rating upon its release in 1968. But if the church subscribed to the notion that you are either with us or you are with the satanists, then their decree was counter-intuitive. Faithfully adapting Ira Levin’s bestseller, Roman Polanski’s first Hollywood-backed feature may recast the virgin delivery as the breech birth of Armageddon, but it’s no devil’s advocate. A recruitment pamphlet would have deployed sexier minions (see Lena Olin in Polanski’s demonomanic The Ninth Gate), not Ruth Gordon escaped out of Grey Gardens (or the geriatric coven of Being John Malkovich), wielding poisonous herbal drinks and drugged chocolate mousse to pour down the vessel’s milky white throat. Catholics befuddled by the Trinity concept now understand that God simply cloned himself 2000 years ahead of the Raelians, and here’s the adversary still futzing around in the kitchen. And what of the final dish? Mia Farrow’s Rosemary (a lapsed Catholic, natch) surely won’t be the only one to blanch at little Adrian’s burning-ember eyes; if Lucifer were halfway serious about world domination, as Albert Brooks points out in Broadcast News, he’d take the form of WASP mecha William Hurt. But Daddy’s genes bode ill—he’s unkempt, hirsute, Neanderthal. Come to think of it, he bears a strong resemblance to the slithy creature haunting Mulholland Drive. Is Rosemary’s baby living behind Winky’s?
II. RROSE(MARY) SÉLAVY
Raelians like sex; Roman Polanski’s movies don’t. Incest is the rotting core of Chinatown; in Repulsion, a woman’s moans in the spasms of ecstasy are later slant-rhymed with her terrified wails. (Catherine Deneuve in the latter film inhabits the same psychic/apartment complex as Mia: the incessant ticking clock, the faraway piano scales, the nightmare assailants.) The beastly ravishment of sedated Rosemary is matched in horror by hubby’s morning-after accounting for the scratches on her body: “It was kinda fun in a necrophile sort of way.” (Hunched, black-eyed, leering, John Cassavetes’s Guy is a contaminated satanic canal in himself.) And once the seed is planted, Levin/Polanski do pose Rosemary as a dead woman walking, her chalky pallor and Falconetti crop evoking a phantom in wait, her pregnancy a sexually transmitted disease that will breed a plague.