Rosemary’s Baby is a very important film in two regards. Firstly it confirmed the promise of Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski and proved that he was able to handle a large budget and the pressures of Hollywood. Secondly it became one of the keynote films in establishing a new modern horror, a type of horror that didn’t reside in distant gothic landscapes populated by sadistic aristocrats. The problem with the brand of gothic horror pedalled by Hammer and to a lesser extent Roger Corman was the very restricted and simplistic world view the films offered. Depictions of good and evil were strictly demarcated, with the latter overcome by the forces of faith and rationality to maintain a conservative status quo. This did not reflect the world as it was in 1968 and Gothic allegories became increasingly irrelevant. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) blurred notions of good and evil, more realistically offering shades of grey reflected in the monochrome cinematography. Ira Levin in his novel Rosemary’s Baby built upon this, by cleverly fusing soap opera/melodrama with witchcraft in a modern milieu that nevertheless paid lip service to gothic conventions with a suitably eerie apartment block.
© Shaun Anderson 2010