Rosemary’s Baby (11/2/12)

Rosemary's BabyMovie Two Hundred Forty Eight

When a young couple moves into a new apartment and gets pregnant, weird happenings cause the expecting mother to worry that something sinister is afoot in Rosemary’s Baby.

Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) move into a large, gothic apartment after the previous owner passed away. They meet their neighbors, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castavet (Sidney Blackmer), and the young woman staying with them named Terry (Victoria Vetri). After Terry is killed after jumping out a window and Guy and Rosemary decide to spend more time with their elderly neighbors. Guy immediately forms a strong bond with the couple despite Rosemary’s reluctance and when Rosemary becomes pregnant under strange circumstances, the Castavets take a strong role in the Woodhouses lives until eventually Rosemary suspects that there is much more going on to their story and suspects them of witchcraft.

Roman Polanski’s Hollywood debut, Rosemary’s Baby, is one of the most chilling stories put to film. There is a sense of dread from the very beginning, even if you know nothing of the story that *something* is going to happen. As small hints are dropped or strange things are happening, you start to wonder what exactly is going on and what is really happening with the Woodhouses and Castavets. When witchcraft and Satanism start coming up you almost don’t want to believe that it’s really happening; maybe Rosemary is just being delusional but you know that probably isn’t true.

The really haunting thing about Rosemary’s Baby, however, is that while everything happening seems a bit weird, it isn’t so weird that it would raise any red flags  in most of our lives, and that is what makes the tale so chilling. We can’t all go around assuming the worst of people or that their motives are probably evil. If we move into an apartment next door to an elderly couple we wouldn’t want to offend them. The progression of the plot is not at all far-fetched and even when Rosemary suspects witchcraft she is scoffed at. Even at its weirdest, Rosemary’s Baby is fairly grounded in realism which makes it all the more frightening.

I’ve long held an opinionated distinction between horror movies and terror movies, sometimes classified as psychological horror movies. Nowadays, horror films are filled with blood, guts, and gore – which is fine. I find movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, or The Shining to be more terror movies,where the reliance to chill is on mood rather than violence. The experience for watching these films is disquieting and difficult to shake even after the film is over. Rosemary’s Baby may not appeal to modern horror fans in the same way that it does to me, but I would rank it quite highly.

Criterion Collection recently released a new restored version of Rosemary’s Baby that gives Polanski’s film a fantastic presentation. The visuals and sound have likely never looked better, or at least not since it debuted on the big screen. The special features, which I didn’t fully dive into, include an interview with Polanski, Farrow, and producer Robert Evans on the film. As far as Criterions go, this is a brilliant set for a fantastic film.

Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t get the attention I feel it deserves, even when discussing classic horror films. There are few films that give the same sense of dread so well. Though I just missed watching it in time for Halloween, be sure that Rosemary’s Baby will make a solid place in my annual film rotation come Halloween season.

I give it 5 tannis root necklaces out of 5.

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Harold and Maude (8/3/12)

Harold and MaudeMovie One Hundred Eighty One

Harold and Maude is the story of a young, death-obsessed man and an older, free-spirited woman becoming close.

Harold (Bud Cort) comes from a very well-to-do family and goes to elaborate lengths to stage his own death to get a rise out of people, usually his mother (Vivian Pickles), drives a hearse, and attends random funerals. At one of the funerals, he meets a plucky older woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon) who is about to turn 80 but acts like a carefree young child. The two instantly hit it off despite Harold’s love for the morbid and Maude’s love for life. While Harold’s mother continuously tries to set him up on dates (where he usually fakes his own suicide), Harold announces that he is going to marry Maude instead, who has shown him more about life than he ever imagined.

To put it bluntly, Harold and Maude is a very dark comedy but it is a comedy if you have kind of a sick sense of humor. It’s hard to describe the style of humor but it’s either very morbid and dry most of the time. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you do find it humorous then you’ll likely be laughing throughout most of the film. For the most part, Harold and Maude is meant to be taken lightly and it does not try to bring you down, some people simply may not find the humor in suicide the film revels in.

One thing I need to point out about Harold and Maude is the terrific original soundtrack by Cat Stevens. Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, it fits the film so well. You may even recognize the songs without knowing they originated from this film. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon have surprising chemistry too, not in a sexual manner, necessarily, the two just seem very comfortable with each other. Bud Cort’s deadpan deliveries cracked me up and Ruth Gordon just lights up the screen.

Another great release by the Criterion Collection and a marked improvement over the DVD copy we had. I am in love with the cover art, which captures the mood of Harold and Maude so well. The extras are entertaining as well, but I didn’t dive into them very much. Picture and sound are above average, as one would expect from Criterion.

If you like your comedies dark and haven’t seen Harold and Maude then I think you’ll really be in for a treat. The unusual pairing makes such a wonderful story of love and friendship and the whole thing is made doubly unusual with the staged suicides and deathly humor. There is literally no other film quite like Harold and Maude.

I give it 4 Jaguar hearses out of 5.

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