©2019, by M. Keith Booker
Until the release of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in 1968, American horror film had still not fully pulled out of the tailspin into which it went with the full implementation of the Production Code in 1934. However, the power of the Code had been eroding for some time when it was finally abandoned in November of 1968. Rosemary’s Baby (released in June of 1968), was thus one of the last horror films officially released under the aegis of the Code, but by that time the Code was already more honored in the breach than in the observance. The early 1960s did produce a few memorable horror films (especially the cycle of Poe adaptations directed by Roger Corman), but most horror of the 1960s was low-budget, low-quality fare, largely aimed at teenage audiences—and at skirting the restrictions of the failing Code. Certainly nothing that had previously been released in the decade could compare with Rosemary’s Baby in terms of its budget, production values, and overall status as a prestige film. This film was a watershed in American cultural history because it was a self-consciously good film, artfully constructed by an A-list director and featuring top-notch actors, many of them older stars who had been prominent performers in Hollywood’s Golden Age. This film demonstrated that horror films could be subtle psychological dramas; here, in a film with no bloodshed, no special effects, and essentially no actual portrayal of violence (there is a horrifying rape scene, though it is more implied than actually portrayed), Polanski creates a slow and gradual accumulation of terrifying minor details, culminating in the final revelation that the baby just given birth by young Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is in fact the child of Satan, come to claim dominion over the earth. At the same time the film also addresses a number of crucial social and political issues that remain relevant even more than half a century later.
Of course, the American horror genre as a whole has numerous links with the early Puritan fascination with Satan as an ever-present threat, but with Rosemary’s Baby Satan at last emerges as a major player in the popular culture of modern consumerist America. To be precise, however, Satan does not literally appear in the film: we see him only through his influence on others (and perhaps in a glimpse or two of his claws). And it is indeed those others who are at the heart of the film’s terror. What is truly frightening about the predicament of Rosemary Woodhouse is not that she has been targeted by Satan, but that anyone she encounters (including her husband and her gynecologist) might turn out to be doing Satan’s bidding.
As the plot (in both senses of the word) gradually unfolds, Polanski manages to play, in a masterful way, on any number of central modern fears, building to the film’s shocking climax. Early in the film, Rosemary and her actor husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) move into an old New York apartment building that has long been plagued by rumors of strange (and possibly supernatural) goings on among its inhabitants. These hints, along with certain oddities about the apartment they rent, introduce a haunted-house motif that helps to prepare an atmosphere in which other minor peculiarities that the Woodhouses notice about the building and their neighbors take on an added weight and air of suspicion. These neighbors at first seem to be merely a collection of aging oddballs, but this atmosphere (and the generic character of the film) suggest to us that their eccentricities might have a sinister side.
Indeed, Rosemary’s Baby, despite its fundamentally supernatural plot, is very much a film about modern problems and in this sense can be seen as a forerunner of recent horror films such as Mulberry Street (2006), Insidious (2010), and Sinister (2012).The creepiness of Rosemary’s neighbors, for example, is enhanced by the urban setting, in which so many people live in such close proximity with so many others whom they hardly know, traditional close-knit urban neighborhoods having largely disappeared by the 1960s.In this sense, the film reverses the usual situation in which horror occurs in remote, secluded locations. Meanwhile, Rosemary’s betrayal by Guy (who essentially sells her to the Satanists) is a commentary on marriage and on the ways in which one often doesn’t really know what one is getting into when entering a marriage. It thus inserts itself into a tradition of films about the dangers of marriage (especially for women) that includes such films as I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958), The Shining (1980), The Stepfather (1987), and Honeymoon (2014). Finally, another mundane key to the plot is the precarious professional status of Rosemary’s actor-husband, and one of the film’s most important points has to do with the desperate measures to which people can be driven by ambition and economic precarity. After all, Guy is driven to sell out Rosemary not because he worships Satan himself, but because he hopes for (and receives) a supernatural boost to his acting career. As I have put it elsewhere,
Polanski carefully avoids making Satan (or even the Satanic child) the focus of the film by never showing either on the screen. This is not merely a tactic based on the supposition that “the devil you don’t know is more frightening than the devil you do know.” It is very much the reverse. The focus is not on Satan but on Guy, Dr. Sapirstein, and the neighbors, creating a conspiracy of the ordinary that is far more frightening than Satan to modern viewers, who must deal with such ordinary others on a daily basis. In this case, hell really is other people. (Superpower 135)
Even critics who have emphasized the Satanic aspects of the film have often noted how these aspects are connected in the film to contemporary anxieties and concerns in the real world. For example, David Frankfurter notes that Rosemary’s Baby both draws upon ancient cultural anxieties about cults and anticipates widespread fears about Satanic cults that later arose in America in the 1980s and 1990s. For him, that it can do so suggests that the film “also points to some deeper cultural patterns in thinking about evil: as something expressed in conspiracy, something ritualistic, and indeed something captured most focally in terms of women’s bodies” (76).
Gender, of course, is also a particularly key topic throughout Rosemary’s Baby. Rosemary is young, naïve, and somewhat lost in the big city without the protective embrace of her husband, making his betrayal all the more damaging. More importantly, she loses control of her body when she is raped by Satan, then convinced to bring the resultant fetus to term by a conspiracy that includes her own doctors. Reproductive rights and access to proper medical care and advice during pregnancy are thus key issues in the film—and the film’s atmosphere of brooding terror is one often experienced by pregnant women, especially by women in difficult circumstances that might make an abortion advisable—and especially when that abortion remains illegal. As Karyn Valerius puts it, “The story establishes a climate of fear and danger by invoking the coercive and sometimes deadly reality created by a conservative sexual morality in combination with the criminalization of abortion, where infanticide, suicide, and dangerous back alley abortions were the last resort of desperate women” (124).
In the film, Rosemary supposedly gains access to topflight medical care in the person of Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), one of the most prominent obstetricians in New York. But Sapirstein also turns out to be a member of the conspiracy, so Rosemary is once again betrayed by a male figure she should be able to trust. Even a cursory examination of Rosemary’s Baby makes it clear that Polanski is not so much interested in telling a story about Satan as he is in telling a story about life in a modern world made hellish by a variety of pressures and anxieties. Instead, the plot involving Satan is merely a device that allows Polanski to comment upon the nature of life in the modern city. It is no accident, for example, that the film is one of three Polanski films focused on this same topic. Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant (1976) all focus on the problems faced by modern urban apartment dwellers, together constituting the “Apartment Trilogy.” All are rightly considered horror films (and very fine ones), though only Rosemary’s Baby contains an important dose of the supernatural, the others focus instead on psychological horror. On the other hand, there is an important element of psychological horror in Rosemary’s Baby as well. Writing specifically of Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion, Rob Davies notes that
Within these films director Roman Polanski uses expressionistic techniques through claustrophobic settings of apartment buildings, dream-like editing sequences, and eerie music to reflect the inner-psychological terror of a young female protagonist within a foreign environment. The apartment buildings become “cranial” spaces which through their mise-en-scène display anxieties relating to dominant ideologies of religion and heterosexual union. (Davies 18)
The opening titles of Rosemary’s Baby are displayed over a panoramic scan of the New York skyline, establishing the urban setting, while the haunting title music helps to set an immediate tone of both innocence and threat. The camera gives us a quick, unromantic (and slightly out of kilter) tour of the city, then moves from modern skyscrapers to a rather Gothic-looking rooftop and looks down on the front entrance to the Bramford apartment building, just as some people are going inside. It’s an artful opening, a bit reminiscent of Psycho a few years earlier, and the obvious attention given to crafting this opening already announces both that this is going to be a horror film and that it is going to be a serious work of cinematic art. Everything about this film screams quality, which was very striking in a horror film at the time and brought newfound artistic credibility to the entire genre—much in the same way that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, released two months earlier, demonstrated that science fiction films (also at the time inhabiting a pop cultural ghetto) could be genuine art.
The people entering the building are, of course, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, who are coming to check out a vacant apartment they are considering renting. The building seems to have once been a grand one, but is now beginning to show signs of its age. The apartment itself is elegant, if old-fashioned, still containing all the effects of its previous tenant, an old lady who had been one of the first women lawyers in New York City, having passed away only a few days earlier. It even has a nice view of Central Park. And controlled rent. As Joe McElhaney puts it,
What the middle-class Rosemary and Guy walk into is, as any New Yorker would immediately recognize, a real estate coup of monumental proportions, one that can immediately inspire envy if not outright resentment from many residents of the city. However, this vast apartment, this dream space, quickly becomes for Rosemary a site of nightmare. (201–2)
In any case, Rosemary is immediately charmed, and the Woodhouses agree to take the apartment, despite a few oddities—such as the fact that a large piece of furniture has been positioned for some reason in order to block the door to a seemingly innocuous closet. They also hear from their friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) that the building has had something of an unsavory reputation for odd goings-on in the past, including cannibalism and witchcraft. Such hints will build throughout the film, moving toward the ultimate revelation that the Bramford is the headquarters of a Satanic cult. By the time the Woodhouses move into the now-empty apartment (less than ten minutes into the film), the stage has been well set for subsequent developments.
The Woodhouses seem to be a loving couple—if possibly a bit mismatched. Guy is clearly a bit older (Cassavetes was 39 in 1968, while Farrow was 23) and appears to be a typically cynical New Yorker. The younger Rosemary seems more innocent and naïve, a bit out of place in the big city. There is no indication that Guy is in league with the Satanists before the Woodhouses move into the Bramford; indeed, he seems as surprised as Rosemary when they hear odd chanting coming through the thin wall that separates their bedroom from the apartment of the old Castevets (Hollywood veterans Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) next door. At this point, in fact, the Satanists seem to have another young woman earmarked as the mother of Satan’s child—Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri), whom the Castevets have taken in off the street, precisely to groom her for that purpose. It is apparently only after Terry falls to her death onto the sidewalk from the Castevets seventh-floor apartment (leaving behind a suicide note) that the Satanists turn to Rosemary, enlisting Guy in their plan.
That enlistment is apparently not difficult. The ebullient Minnie Castevet quickly moves to befriend Rosemary after Terry’s death, though Rosemary finds her a bit intrusive and nosey. Guy, though, falls quickly under the Castevets’ spell. When they have dinner with the Castevets (over Guy’s initial objections), the Catholic-raised Rosemary is clearly a bit uncomfortable with their hosts’ critical remarks about the Pope and the Catholic Church, but Guy is immediately won over by Roman Castevet’s suspiciously effusive praise for his acting work, with which the old man seems to have a surprising familiarity. Guy also enjoys Roman’s stories about his own experiences, gained (so he claims) as the son of a turn-of-the-century theatrical producer. Rosemary, meanwhile, notices that Minnie seems oddly interested in matters related to fertility and reproductive health. Rosemary is also a bit put off when Minnie gives her a necklace bearing a pendant containing “tannis root,” because she knows that Minnie had previously given the necklace and pendant to Terry. But, as Rosemary grows more and more suspicious of the Castevets, Guy seems to grow more and more enthusiastic about them. He begins to visit the Castevets without Rosemary; Donald Baumgart, a rival actor who had just beaten Guy out for a big part is suddenly and mysteriously struck blind, so that the part reverts to Guy. Other offers begin to flow in as well, making Rosemary suddenly feel left out, pushed to the back burner while he concentrates on his suddenly hot career. It is clear that Rosemary is very dependent on Guy for validation, that she needs support from him in order to feel that she has value. Then Guy suddenly proposes that they immediately have a baby. He has even, oddly enough, calculated her ovulation cycle so that they will know when to start.
Rosemary is so thrilled with this idea that she begins to ignore all the odd hints that something is not quite right in the Bramford. She even ignores the fact that Minnie Castevet supplies her with a chocolate mousse with a “chalky undertaste.” And it seems even more suspicious that Guy badgers her into eating the dessert over her objections. By now, in a sort of dramatic irony, alert viewers are perfectly well aware that Minnie is attempting to drug Rosemary in some way so as to prepare her for her pregnancy, and that Guy is somehow on board with the plan. Of course, such a thing does not occur to Rosemary herself at all. We’re also not surprised when, after eating the mousse, Rosemary becomes woozy.
Rosemary’s drugging, of course, leads to the fateful night when she is raped by Satan, with the help of Guy, the Castevets, and their circle of Satan worshippers. After she collapses from the drugged dessert, Guy carries her to bed and undresses her as she drifts back and forth between an unsteady consciousness and a vivid dream, indicating at this key moment the way in which the entire film often seems to hesitate between fantasy and reality. Her dream visions meanwhile, intertwine images from her Catholic past and the Satanic present, reinforcing the way in which Satanic rituals are often imagined as obscene parodies of Catholic ones. At one point, she exclaims, “This is no dream! This is really happening!” but is unable to regain full consciousness as the unholy rite proceeds. She does not fully become conscious until the next morning, when Guy shakes her awake, rudely slaps her on the behind, and claims to have caused the scratches that she now finds on her body while having sex with her in her unconscious state. “I didn’t wanna miss baby night,” he sheepishly explains. Rosemary is a bit put off, but she accepts the situation, almost as if in a daze.
Going forward, she continues that state, while relations between her and Guy seem more and more distant. Even the news of her pregnancy brings a rather muted reaction from her—while audiences, of course, are even less enthusiastic. We don’t know exactly what is going on, but we know it doesn’t appear to be good. It appears even worse when Guy’s main reaction to news of the pregnancy is to rush off to tell Minnie and Roman, who then take charge of the pregnancy, including shifting Rosemary to a new obstetrician, Dr. Sapirstein, supposedly one of the best in the country.
Rosemary just passively goes along with it all, and even begins wearing the tannis root necklace. She doesn’t even seem suspicious when Dr. Sapirstein recommends that she dispense with taking vitamins and instead rely on an herbal concoction to be supplied by Minnie Castevet. Nor does it seem odd to her that he insists that she not read any books on pregnancy, though she doesn’t actually follow his advice, despite her seeming passivity. The short haircut that she gets soon after she discovers she is pregnant might also be regarded as a sign of resistance and attempted declaration of her own autonomy (Guy certainly doesn’t like it), but the main effect of the haircut is to increase her waifish appearance and the sense that something is wrong as she grows more and more thin and wan as her pregnancy proceeds.
Polanski does a superb job of planting clues, slowly building a case against the Satanists. When Hutch seems to be attempting to come to Rosemary’s rescue, he mysteriously falls into a coma (later to die)—just after he has lost a glove that the film suggests might have been taken by either Guy or Roman Castevet for use in placing a curse on Hutch. Castevet’s name, meanwhile, turns out to be an anagram for “Steven Marcato,” the name of the son of a former resident of the Bramford who had been suspected of practicing Satanism. Rosemary, during her problem pregnancy, develops a taste for raw meat. Guy seems weirdly adamant about helping Sapirstein and the Castevets maintain control of Rosemary’s pregnancy. And so on.
There are enough clues that Rosemary herself begins to play detective to try to decipher them, perhaps having been prepared by her Catholic upbringing to accept a supernatural explanation for all the strange goings on. In her case, however, she concludes (with the help of a book that Hutch manages to transmit to her before his death) that a coven of witches is plotting against her, but that their plot involves a plan to take her baby after it is born and then to use it in some sort of unspeakable sacrifice. Her further research seems to confirm this theory and to provide explanations for other events as well—such as the blinding of Baumgart. When Rosemary confirms that Guy acquired a tie belonging to Baumgart just before the blinding, the evidence begins to seem overwhelming—not only to Rosemary, but probably to most members of the film’s audience.
Panicked, Rosemary goes off to see Sapirstein, whom she still regards as reputable. While sitting in his waiting room, she flips through the April 8, 1966, issue of Time magazine, which bears the iconic cover reading “Is God Dead?” in giant red letters. Rosemary might well conclude that the answer is “yes,” because, as she chats with the receptionist, she learns that Dr. Sapirstein also frequently smells of tannis root. Realizing that Sapirstein must also be in on the plot, she rushes from the office and goes to see her former obstetrician, Dr. Hill (Charles Grodin). Her story to Hill, of course, sounds absolutely paranoid. The doctor seems to listen seriously, though, raising just the slightest sliver of hope that he might come to Rosemary’s aid. But Sapirstein’s name appears to carry weight with Hill, and it comes as no real surprise when he ultimately responds to Rosemary’s story simply by calling Guy and Sapirstein to come pick her up. By this time, we’re paranoid enough to wonder if Hill is in on the conspiracy, but there is no indication of this—though he is in on the American patriarchal tendency not to take women seriously or to believe their stories of abuse.
Despite the way in which the film slowly builds a mountain of evidence in favor of a Satanic conspiracy, like a patient and careful prosecuting attorney, it also leaves the door open just a bit for the possibility of alternative explanations—reportedly because, as an agnostic, Polasnski simply didn’t believe in the supernatural and was therefore unwilling to commit fully to a supernatural storyline. In this sense, Rosemary’s Baby is an excellent example of the what the French-Bulgarian theorist Tzvetan Todorov has called the “fantastic,” a concept that is often invoked in critical discussions of supernatural horror films. For Todorov, the fantastic occurs whenever there are events in a text that might be of supernatural origin but when it is still possible that there are natural explanations. Thus, audiences (in the case of film) are uncertainly poised between supernatural explanations and natural ones. If it becomes definitive that something supernatural has occurred, then we enter the realm of the “marvelous”; if it becomes clear that the events in questions are of natural origin and that there is ultimately a rational explanation for them, then we enter the realm of the “uncanny.”
Most viewers (and critics) of Rosemary’s Baby seem to have concluded that this film enters the realm of the marvelous in its final scene, in which Rosemary is introduced to her newborn infant by the Satanists. However, this closing scene—which could easily have been a final “reveal” that neatly wrapped up the plot—actually raises more questions than it answers, ending the film with a flourish of uncertainty that tops off the interpretive instability that has prevailed throughout the film. For example, at the end of this scene, Rosemary appears to accept her son and to agree to nourish it. Robert Lima, in one early reading, sees this as a sort of final act of resistance, arguing that Rosemary hopes to influence the infant to become good, rather than follow the lead of its evil father: “She accepts her grotesque motherhood as a divinely instituted mission. Like Mary, mother of Jesus, she will crush the head of the serpent. The Satanic rape of Catholicism has had a salutary end” (220). The film, however, gives no real indication that Rosemary in fact intends to follow this course. Moreover, even if Lima is correct, his vision that this is a “salutary end” is highly debateable: Rosemary is still the mother of Satan’s child and still remains in the grip of a Satanic conspiracy.
Or does she? In fact, very little about this final scene seems certain. This final scene is shot in an out-of-kilter tone—with strange camera angles and odd music—that certainly reinforces the strangeness of the situation but that also (especially when combined with the various dream sequences that we have seen throughout the film) leaves open the possibility that this final scene is simply another dream (or possibly even a hallucination) on Rosemary’s part. Even Rosemary seems to think so. When Roman Castevet supposedly out of the country, attempts to address her, she simply dismisses him as unreal. “Shut up,” she says. “You’re in Dubrovnik. I don’t hear you.” After all, the scene is set up as Rosemary lies in bed, having been told that her baby is dead. Then she hears a baby crying through the thin wall that separates the Woodhouse bedroom from the Castevets’ apartment. She digs her way through the back wall of that closet from early in the film (surely it had to factor in at some point), entering the Castevets’ apartment bearing a large knife, in a fashion that seems very much like something from a dream. The “witches” seem oddly unresponsive and allow her to approach the infant, to which she reacts in shock after seeing it (which we never do). “What have you done to his eyes? She cries. “He has his father’s eyes,” says Roman, calmly. Roman then supplies the explanation that Satan is the boy’s father, but the possibility that this is a dream leaves that explanation somewhat in doubt. The following bevy of “Hail, Satans” only makes the scene seem more dreamlike. Then it gets even weirder when she appears to accept the baby, while a stereotypical Japanese tourist-witch snaps photos. The film then ends as the opening theme begins again and we see another moving overhead shot of Manhattan. As McElhaney puts it, Rosemary’s Baby is “a film that firmly answers none of its own questions” (213).
The refusal of the film to supply such answers is one of the reasons why it is so regarded as a work of cinematic art, though it does leave open the possibility of some unfortunate interpretations—such as that Rosemry really is paranoid and delusional. Indeed, many early reviewers believed that there was no Satanic plot at all and that the entire conspiracy plot was a product of Rosemary’s paranoid fantasies. Such readings appear rather misguided (if not downright misogynist) from a twenty-first-century perspective. However, reviewing such readings, Sharon Marcus notes that they were already misguided in the late 1960s. She grants that there is, in fact, a sense of paranoia that runs through the film: it is, in fact, this sense that gives the film much of its dramatic tension. But, for Marcus, this paranoia does not arise from Rosemary’s mental illness; in fact, she notes that, if anything, Rosemary is vulnerable to the plot because she is too trusting—essentially, not paranoid enough. Instead, Marcus argues that the paranoia that permeates Rosemary’s Baby derives from social anxieties that were prevalent in the 1960s, including anxieties about privacy (in the light of the growth of surveillance technologies) and about pregnancy itself.
Valerius usefully builds upon Marcus’s reading of the film to place it even more firmly within the historical context of the 1960s, particularly with regard to current debates over abortion, largely illegal in the United States at the time, except in extreme circumstances. In addition, Valerius notes how many attitudes common in the late 1960s combine to enable Rosemary’s exploitation by the Satanists:
The antagonistic relationship between pregnant women and fetuses formulated by medical and legal discourses takes an aggravated form in the satanic fetus and the toxic effects of the pregnancy on Rosemary’s body, while commonplace characterizations of pregnant women as needlessly fearful and even prone to insanity undermine Rosemary’s credibility and put her in jeopardy. (120)
For Valerius, meanwhile, Rosemary’s Baby is a “feminist” film that clearly critiques the conditions and attitudes that contribute to Rosemary’s plight. Indeed, she sees even Rosemary’s capitulation at the end of the film as a “feminist provocation” that renders maternal self-sacrifice as a horrific resolution to a pregnancy engendered by violence and misappropriation. The drama of fetal perniciousness performed by Rosemary’s Baby makes abortion a compelling alternative to the exploitation that defines Rosemary’s predicament. (Valerius 129)
In Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski proved that a film with essentially no bloodshed or special effects could be made terrifying through a slow and gradual accumulation of terrifying minor details. Partly, he was able to generate an atmosphere of fear and dread through the extremely careful construction of his narrative. But he also demonstrated that one of the most effective ways of generating this atmosphere was to link the terrors experienced by Rosemary to real-world terrors that effect us all.
Booker, M. Keith. Superpower: Heroes, Ghosts, and the Paranormal in American Culture. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010.
Davies, Rob. “Female Paranoia: The Psychological Horror of Roman Polanski.” Film Matters 5.2 (June 2014): 18-23.
Frankfurter, David. “Awakening to Satanic Conspiracy: Rosemary’s Baby and the Cult Next Door.” Deliver Us from Evil. Eds. M. David and Bradley L. Herling. London: Continuum; 2008. 75–86.
Lima, Robert. “The Satanic Rape of Catholicism in Rosemary’s Baby.” Studies in American Fiction 2 (1974): 211-22.
Marcus, Sharon. “Placing Rosemary’s Baby.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 5.3 (1993): 121–140.
McElhaney, Joe. “Urban Irrational: Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski, New York.” City That Never Sleeps: New York and the Filmic Imagination. Ed. Murray Pomerance. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007. 201–13.
Valerius, Karyn. “Rosemary’s Baby, Gothic Pregnancy, and Fetal Subjects.” College Literature 32.3 (Summer 2005): 116–35.
 One of the key actors in the film, John Cassavetes, was also a top-notch director, but one whose rough-edged films were almost the diametrical opposite of the precise and polished filmmaking of Polanski. This difference might account for the fact that Cassavetes and Polanski apparently clashed repeatedly on set. And Mia Farrow, while relatively new at acting (and known mostly for her role in a soap opera), was the daughter of John Farrow, a well-known director, and Maureen O’Sullivan, a Golden-Age star. She was also, when filming began, married to Frank Sinatra (thirty years her senior), in some ways still America’s biggest star at the time.
 McElhaney notes that, during this tour, the camera pans from right to left, rather than the more natural left to right, helping to create a vague sense of “unease,” which is reinforced by odd camera angles (206).
 Interior shots of the building were filmed on the Paramount lot in California. Exterior shots of the building are actually of New York’s Dakota Building, an upscale apartment building built in 1884, making it one of the oldest apartment buildings in New York. The Dakota, of course, is now more famous as the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon was shot and killed in 1980 in front of the same arched entrance used by the Woodhouses in the film.
 The film notes, though only in passing, that Rosemary is from Omaha, though she describes herself as “a country girl at heart.” Guy is also not a native New Yorker, having come from Baltimore, but he clearly seems more acclimated to the city than does she, having doubtless been there longer.
 In one amusing little in-joke, Rosemary mistakes Terry for Vetri (who is credited in the film as Angela Dorian) when she first meets her in the creepy basement where the residents of the Bramford do their laundry.
 The circumstances of Terry’s death seem suspicious, though they are never fully explained. Most commentators assume that she committed suicide to escape the plot to have her bear Satan’s child. It is possible, though, that she might have been murdered, possibly because she balked at doing the Satanists’ bidding.
 These remarks are triggered by the visit of Pope Paul VI to New York in October, 1965, which also helps to locate the action of the film in time.
 Mr. Castevet is also named “Roman” in the novel by Ira Levin on which Rosemary’s Baby is based, so the correspondence with the first name of Polanski is merely coincidental.
 Tannis root is a fictional herb invented by Levin in the original novel, it is supposedly a favorite substance used by witches in their conjuring.
 Rosemary states in the film that she went to famed (and trendy) hairstylist Vidal Sassoon for the cut, and publicity shots showing Sassoon cutting Farrow’s hair were widely distributed, with the information that Sassoon was flown in to Los Angeles from London at a cost of $5,000 just to do the cut. That seems to have been a stunt, however, and more recent information indicates that Farrow cut her own hair before filming of Rosemary’s Baby even began, wearing a wig in the scenes of the film that appear before the haircut. Interestingly, this cut was apparently a way of declaring her own independence from new husband Frank Sinatra, who soon began divorce proceedings that were finalized during the making of the film.
 Abortion would become widely legal in the United States with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973. It still, of course, remains a hotly-debated issue.