I’ll be up front: 90% of my love for Rosemary’s Baby revolves around Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet. She is glorious in this movie. She’s a fantastic mix of batty old auntie/scary witchypoo, with her ham-fisted makeup application, gregarious manner, and off-handed impositions – absolutely believable, which somehow makes her even more sinister and yet, you can’t help but LOVE her. I wish Minnie was my neighbour; I’d just avoid taking anything from her, and make sure she didn’t take anything with her when she went.
Another 5% of love is due to the amazing interiors of the famous – and infamous – Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, which features gorgeous and labyrinthine architecture of the 1880s. Such a perfect setting for a story that ends up swallowing the innocent hopefulness of the newlywed Rosemary into its dark woodwork and imposing structure.
The last 5% is devoted to the aesthetics. I adore the 60s fashions and sensibilities, with Mia’s little babydoll maternity dresses and cheery yellow bedroom, yarn flower and white daisy throw pillows, and that horrid olive/rust upholstery. And there are some great casting choices – who knew that sweet old Clara Edwards of Mayberry was a Satanist? Or that Charles Grodin could be such an asshole? Even William Castle makes a cameo outside of a phone booth, and Tony Curtis has a voice-over. There’s a lot of playfulness in this movie, which is pleasantly unexpected. Or maybe I’m unusually gleeful about this genre, and it probably did come across as a lot more sinister in 1968, when the fear that very ordinary people held very dark Satanic secrets was a real thing.
Now, the confusion between witch and Satanist is a bit of a stumble. Very much not the same thing, as witches are pagan and Satanists evolved from Christian tradition. But it was the 60s, Satanism was the big bad back then, and witchcraft was interchangeable in the eyes of the general public. It’s easy to let it go.
But Ruth Gordon. Ruth Gordon, sloppily serving cake to her guests using her own fork, donning some perfectly horrible hats, and orchestrating the coupling to bring forth Satan’s spawn in a very no nonsense manner – “As long as she ate the mousse she can’t see nor hear she’s like dead now sing.” – is everything in this movie. Indulge in a bit of mindless Minnie fun on a dark and stormy night, preferably while eating chocolate mousse. Just make sure to have your gloves with you when you leave.