Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

You may have seen the movie or the miniseries, but have you read the book?

Rosemary’s Baby was first published in 1967, causing renewed popularity for the horror genre that has continued until this day. Since almost everyone has seen one of the two movie versions, I’m not worried about spoilers and will give a one-sentence plot summary:

Rosemary is pregnant with Satan’s son.

Because I saw this (1968) movie long before I read the novel I’ll be reviewing both in this post. My notes on the movie are pretty basic.

The novel gives the reader a long look at the New York City of the mid-1960’s, particularly the theater crowd.  The prose is engaging and intelligent.  The characters Levin created are perfect for the genre, especially the geriatric and urbane group of satanists who live in Rosemary’s building. Every time I revisit the story I laugh at Minnie Castavets (Ruth Gordon), the ultimate nosy neighbor. I find myself angry with Rosemary for not standing her ground – a helpless anger I experience throughout the story as the duplicity of almost everyone in Rosemary’s world is revealed. Rosemary’s escape to her original doctor still has me on the edge of my seat.

This is the only case I can think of in which I liked the movie better than the book.  The book is words on paper, but the movie adds visual setting, music, and wardrobes that contribute dimension to an already excellent tale.  The wardrobes are spot on for the time period, and the casting is perfect.  I can’t imagine a better Rosemary than Mia Farrow (Patty Duke auditioned but lost to Mia, thank heaven). Ruth Gordon won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

There were sequels to both book and movie, completely unrelated to each other. I read the book sequel,  Son of Rosemary – it was pretty forgettable. I did not see this movie sequel: Whatever Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.  There was also a remake of the original, aired as a miniseries. Reviews were negative. I didn’t see it.

I recommend that you (re) read  the book at night, with a cup of  tannis root tea and some 60’s jazz in the background.  Better yet, grab the movie from Amazon and turn off all the lights. The audio version is also available at Google Play.

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