For those of you who have never seen it, tis’ the season to rent Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The titular horror movie of the late 60’s holds up better than almost any horror movie of it’s time, aside from Psycho (1960) of course. And the biggest and best reason for this is the singular, star-making performance of Roman Polanski’s leading lady – the lovely doe-eyed Mia Farrow. Long before Woody Allen, Mia was Mrs. Frank Sinatra, a TV star of Peyton Place and a relative unknown to movie audiences. But that was all about to change in the blink of a devil-baby’s eye.
I rented Rosemary’s Baby again after having not seen the movie in over ten years. Quaint by today’s extreme horror movie standards, the film has nonetheless retained its slow-boil tension up to the still terrifying reveal (I’m not going to spoil the ending but it’s pretty hard not to figure it out early on). But aside from the sheer craft of Polanski’s horror-show is the real reason to watch a movie that is over 47-years old: The beautiful Mia Farrow. This is an actress in a role that allows her to use every ounce of her formidable talent, spirit and energy. She is so compelling, so convincing and so apparently vulnerable that she draws the audience in with every fiber of her being.
Mia’s greatest feature (in my humble opinion) are her eyes. She has these large, gumball-sized blue eyes that are made all the larger by her famous, fashion-statement on steroids Pixie cut. Ms. Farrow recent corrected the historians who attributed the iconic cut to Vidal Sassoon (Mia’s character even attributes the cut to him in the movie). However, it was Farrow herself that cut her own hair within-an-inch of its life and caught the attention of the world with its fashion-forward playfulness. Granted, Mia’s bone-structure and light features make her face glow to begin with but add the Pixie cut and her face and EYES are the main attraction in Rosemary’s Baby.
The duality of Mia’s persona in the film is that a woman who looks so frail, so frightened can be so strong. She is all of 23 in the movie and her face literally glows (with youthfulness, and then illness as the movie progresses thanks to white make-up that Polanski had her wear to give her a sickly pallor). The young actress was famously married to Frank Sinatra at the time she took the role. He didn’t want her to do the movie and it’s a credit to Mia that she told her old man to go to hell. The subsequent divorce made the way for Mia to become a major star in her own right and no longer hidden in the shadow of the Chairman of the Board.
Mia went on to become as big a fashion icon as she was a movie star. Like Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark before her – the hidden strength of her character shown through in her movie persona – a perfect meld that stands the test of time even as most movies of the 60’s appear so dated because of the fashion, music and style of the times. Mia’s personality is of the 60’s but transcends the time period because of the allegory inherent in Rosemary’s Baby; that of a young mother fearing for the safety of her unborn child as well as her own – surrounded by evil in a world gone mad. Maybe that’s why it resonates so well today.
This Halloween, treat yourself and the kids with this amazing, elevated horror movie. The thrills and chills are tame next to today’s average video-game let alone horror movie. And be warned, there is some nudity (albeit of a beautiful young woman in her absolute prime). But if you want to be spellbound by one of the most amazing screen performances ever captured, mesmerized by a woman who is more than the sum of her (movie) parts before or since – watch Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Even before the climax at the end, you’ll know why the devil just couldn’t help himself when it came to those deep, giant blue eyes of hers.