My Baby Rose Marie: A meditation on Horror Film and Spiritual Understanding

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Detail from the original cover of Ira Levin’s novel, 1967.

This is not an easy article to write… and there are many ways of getting this wrong, or misinterpreting my intentions. This is a very personal article which does somehow relate to my fascinations with diabolical horror, religion and spirituality in my personal experience; please bear with me.    –   H.B.G.

My obsession with the story Rosemary’s Baby, as popular novel and film, goes way back into my pre-teen days; and my love of diabolical and occult horror in general goes back even earlier. After a brief look at this website my profound interest in Rosemary’s Baby will become quickly obvious. I won’t try to explain this general attraction towards occult horror; but, I first ought to try to express why I think this particular story has had such a lasting and personal significance to me.

I sympathize with the character Rosemary Woodhouse because she is a Madonna figure; or maybe, at first, after the horrific revelation at the end of the story, a reluctant Madonna. She loves her unborn child and does everything within her power to protect it from a perceived threat of harm from a coven of witches. After the discovery of her baby and the revelation of it’s satanic paternity, and after the initial shock wears off a bit, Rosemary comes to accept and love the child just as she always did. As she always knew she would.images-4

This causes sympathy at the end of Rosemary’s Baby for those sensitive souls who contemplate the mystery within the story. This is the main point: the limitless reaches of Mother Love, of complete parental acceptance of a child despite it’s demonic appearance or diabolical destiny. We question if it is not in fact a happy ending, or… what?!

As a youth I felt terribly flawed, imperfect, weak, and worse than worthless. My family loved me but I was “different.” Midwest American society and religion, in the form of my Protestant upbringing in a small city, was ever quick to point out a particular damning spiritual defect I noticed within myself, a defect I was desperate to conceal as much as possible. But to broach  this topic is to open a whole other can of worms I choose not to deal with here.

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Black Sabbath album cover 1983 This image has always reminded us of this line from The Raven: “And his eyes have all the seeming, of a demon’s that is dreaming….”        E.A. Poe

That a mother or father could love such a “damned” thing despite it’s “sinful” nature flies in the face of God and becomes heresy. Therefore, I developed heretical ideas and beliefs at quite a tender age. Stand unashamedly, even defiantly, before The Almighty with your child – whatever his or her nature, is one way of looking at it. After reading and watching Rosemary’s Baby, I wanted to have a devil baby myself, a child which would otherwise be shameful or unwanted, and love it as my own, and bring it up to be whatever it was meant to be, in perfect love and understanding. Like that devil baby image I saw on junior high  classmate’s Black Sabbath t-shirts back in the eighties. I would have loved to care for Rosemary’s Baby. Now, in hindsight,  I know it was my own self I wanted to love… but couldn’t. A monstrous view of myself caused by small-minded religious trauma.

Fast forward through years of spiritual questing, learning, depression, art, a little therapy – professional or otherwise, some very strange and wonderful religious and occult experiences and wide ranging experimentation and different relationships, and I’m now a married father of two beautiful children (one boy, one girl) living in Japan, until the birth of our third child last October, just a couple days before Halloween… It seemed only natural for us to call her Rose Marie, Marie being a family name on my mother’s side, asides from the 50th anniversary of Ira Levin’s diabolical fable.

We knew Rose Marie was a girl. We knew she would be delivered via c-section just as our previous two were because that’s the way it’s done in Japan. We knew the c-section was scheduled to be October 30th – also known as Devil’s Night (natural birth would have been a week later on November 6th – my own birthday). We knew Rose Marie was destined to be a Scorpio – like her daddy. We were a little surprised when the maternity clinic staff decided to do a c-section earlier than scheduled – on the 29th – due to my wife’s condition. We blamed it on the typhoon we were experiencing. What we didn’t know and were totally unprepared for was that Rose Marie had one extra chromosome number 21, technically called Trisomy 21, commonly referred to as Down syndrome.

We were not told right away. Not sure what the standard practice is in Japan but it was two days after the delivery, on Halloween, after they unexpectedly relocated baby Rose Marie from the maternity clinic to a university hospital. Quite possibly nobody on staff wanted the burden of breaking the news to me, the father, in English. We were told there were some  concerns about our baby’s oxygen levels, but she is doing alright. I was so busy looking after my other two that my time with our newest baby those first days was very limited. I thought she looked a bit funny but I thought nothing of it since all newborns look strange.

After being admitted into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and washing my hands I found two serious faced doctors standing by one of a dozen or so plastic bassinets and incubators waiting to see me. The first doctor spoke English and asked me if I noticed anything different about this baby from my other two children. Somewhat bewildered, I looked at my baby and commented something about her eyes and cheeks seeming swollen. All newborns look funny and squished after all. The first doctor (the second one didn’t speak at all, as I recall, probably not confident enough in his English ability) asked if I noticed something different about her ears, that they were set a little lower than normal. The bridge of her nose slightly squashed, a lack of muscle tone, the presence of extra skin on the back of the neck….

The word “shock” is appropriate here. You could have knocked me over with a feather were I not so numb and dumb. Did I stop breathing? I don’t remember what was said –  something about more tests being needed but that Down syndrome was likely. But that there didn’t seem to be any heart problems or other immediate concerns, and she seemed strong. The doctors faded away into the background to leave me with my baby.

“My explorations into the occult and mysticism have taught me much, one of the greatest and most persistent being to release fear and to embrace the darkness; it has so much wisdom to offer.”

I stood there in the NICU of a foreign land staring down into a plastic bassinet at a little creature resting uneasily with tubes and wires attached. Beeping, crying sounds, and staff speaking in Japanese in the background around me as they tended their precious charges. I was alone with this tremendous revelation, my wife back at the maternity clinic still recovering from c-section surgery – probably very worried. A chair was brought over and I was told to sit down.

I sat there and stared at Marie-chan. I laid my big hand lightly on her little body, above her heart; my hand covered her entire torso. I had no clue as to what to do. I was feeling a very heavy weight being dropped on my shoulders as I looked at her squished and swollen features. After a little time a nurse approached and asked if I’d like to hold her. “Can I ?” I asked, stupidly.

Can I? Can I do this?

I was so careful because of an IV tube and wires attached to monitors. So small and helpless. I held her. She was so light, so fragile. Happy Halloween, Mr Gardner. Trick or treat?

Such darkness. Such heaviness overwhelmed me. An unspeakable darkness. My hands hesitate to type for fear to implicate myself and my own dreadful thoughts. An evil born of fear and ignorance conjured the worst ideas into my head, then. Ideas masquerading as merciful, which must have been fairly common actions in the time of our ancestors a few generations back when faced with such a situation, when there were fields to till and mouths to feed and back-breaking labor and no time or economy for compassionate nursing.

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Artwork: uncredited, please enlighten us.

But this is my baby. The little Scorpio girl I’d been expecting. My little Rose Marie. Were my parents still alive how would they react? They adored their grandchildren.

I wanted to comfort the flawed and helpless little creature in my arms. She was surrounded by strangers, all good staff, I’m sure, but it’s their job. They weren’t family, and could not be completely loving, as such. How to do it? I stared at the cartoon fish, frogs and animals on the walls and over at the industrial sink. I tried not to stare at the other babies in the NICU, some looked much weaker and in more need than my little one. Well, I’ve always sung to my babies, or hummed, when so small, a way of affirming to the little consciousness snuggled in my arms that a caring presence was there. But at that moment, believe it or not, I could not think of a single lullaby, not a one could come to mind or memory! My brain and tongue were frozen. Now, of course, I can list them all: Hush Little Baby, Rock-a-bye Baby, Twinkle, twinkle little star…. But nothing, not a lyric or tune came to mind.

Irony of ironies, only one lullaby came to me as I sat holding my youngest in that NICU in Osaka University Hospital: the opening and closing lullaby theme to the film Rosemary’s Baby; the “La la la la….” sung by Mia Farrow herself. I began to hum it quietly, that sad, sweet, haunting and somehow comforting tune, as I looked down at my youngest, my Rose Marie.

Link to listen:

Krzysztof Komeda – Lullaby – (Rosemary’s Baby – 1968) sung by Mia farrow

My explorations into the occult and mysticism have taught me much, one of the greatest and most persistent being to release fear and to embrace the darkness; it has so much wisdom to offer.

Under the respectfully-distant-but-ever-at-hand-presence of the NICU staff I was able to change Rose Marie’s diaper and to bottle feed her that first Halloween. I feared the bond which I felt forming. I wasn’t sure I could nurture this bond. (Can I? Can I do this?) That night, Aidan and Lily, our two others at home with my mother in law, danced around a candle lit Jack O’ lantern as I stared numbly at the grimacing face of the flickering pumpkin. Trick or Treat, indeed. But those first few weeks following the birth were very difficult and dark and full of a bleak sadness for us.

“We now consider ourselves lucky, blessed, chosen.”

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Mia farrow in the final scene of Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

Fast forward to today. Rose Marie is nearly nine months old now and doing very well, despite the regular “irregular” digestive trouble common among Trisomy 21 babies. My wife and I have come a very long way since last Halloween; we have discovered a new kind of normal (whatever that means!). Rose Marie, or Mari-chan, is a special light in our lives and we cannot imagine life without her. We have reached epiphany after epiphany. About half of babies born with Down syndrome require neonatal heart surgery or some sort of digestive tract surgery. It is about a one in a thousand chance to get a baby with Down syndrome. Most do not even make it to full term and birth. We now consider ourselves lucky, blessed, chosen. Rose Marie is an angel who has enlightened our souls, and her smiles and giggles and cuddles are absolutely enchanting. She dispels the darkness and has ushered in so much light and opened us up to a wider world. It is amazing how the human heart can adapt, change, grow… how a tremendous spiritual upheaval which dashes the soul upon the rocks of harsh physical reality, shattering it apart from the frail and selfish ego, can strengthen one and raise the spirit higher.

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Me with Rose Marie

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Mari-chan

Thanks for reading.

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13 Ways You Can Celebrate “Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary”

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Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes in the greatest film ever: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

By: H.B.G.

Some of you know how “our” passion for Rosemary’s Baby goes way beyond any normal level of diabolical decency. Rosemary’s Baby is truly it’s own little world, one we’ve stepped into and walked around in many times (Believe us, we realize how that sounds and the danger we’re in of convincing you of our potential basket-weaving skills).

We have seen Roman Polanski’s film version more times than we can say and our current paperback edition of Ira Levin’s novel (we’ve gone through a few) is highlighted, dog-eared and underlined in. Along with it rests a notebook of details culled from the novel and film, and ideas (culled from our imagination) for every single character in the Castevet’s coven – a sincere (if misguided) attempt at study for a series of prequel related short fiction in relation to the novel, ( i.e. background stories for Adrian Marcato, Minnie & Roman Castevet, Dr Sapirstein, Laura-Louise and all the other coven members). Ideas for a collection of short fiction which would take us on a journey through events in these characters lives up until the very first page of the novel (or frame of the film).

We are pleased to see some recognition beginning to appear regarding this golden jubilee, which we’ve been promoting out of our own enthusiasm, for over a year now in our own little way, via this Devil In The Details site and our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary facebook page. We started the #RosemarysBaby50thAnniversary hashtag out of a genuine love for the novel and film.

Visit Ira Levin.org where you can enjoy Rosemary’s Baby Album – an online feature that celebrates the novel’s 50th anniversary with unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at it’s creation, using author Ira Levin’s actual notes, drafts and archival materials. There is also a  “making of” book about the 1968 film to be released this July (of course we’ve pre-ordered a copy  through Amazon).

So, how devoted of a Rosemary’s Baby fan are you? How far will you go to celebrate this landmark cultural phenomenon? We have a few ideas… Here are 13 ways (an appropriate number for a witches’ coven) to celebrate Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary.

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5oth Anniversary edition

 1. Read the novel by Ira Levin. It is still enjoyable, still relevant, still chilling and very good reading. Reading the novel last year or this year unlocks the Golden Jubilee level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

There are several details and insights to be found in the novel which didn’t make it into the film. For example, it describes Rosemary’s get-away to Hutch’s cabin for a week while she deals with feelings of neglect by her husband Guy; the novel also lets us know what exactly is running through Rosemary’s mind during that climactic final scene.

Subtle hints of the diabolical plot, which may go unnoticed in the film, are brought out in reading – like the significance of hearing the Castevet’s door chime is noticed at a certain point in the novel which a casual viewer may miss in the film. Subtle, but telling.

cropped-rosemarysbaby-mia-farrow-paramount.jpg2. Watch the 1968 film. It is truly one of the best suspense thrillers ever made. Make it a drinking game: take a shot of your favorite drink every time Mia Farrow appears in a different outfit. If you make it to the end of the film without passing out you have officially unlocked the “Hail Satan” level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

tumblr_oo7nizixwx1v00mydo1_500 3. Play a game of Scrabble. Extra points are due if you manage to spell “witch,” “Tannis,” “Satan,” or “Adrian“. This activity unlock’s the Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

rgeyes4. Mix up some vodka blushes. But be sure to spill a little on the carpet in honor of Roman and Minnie Castevet. This unlocks the Minnie and Roman Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

Vodka Blush Recipie:

  • 2 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 3/4 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice (strained)
  • Dash Grenadine
  • Fill shaker 2/3 with fresh ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with a fresh sprig of Rosemary.
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The most exclusive residence in Manhattan

5. Go to New York City and visit the Dakota apartment building (or Alwyn Court apartments building where author Ira Levin once lived and was the original inspiration for the Bramford). Tell the doorman that the Castevets on the 7th floor are expecting you (bonus points if you’re carrying a gift wrapped baby present with a black ribbon). If the doorman gives you grief, ask to speak to Diego because he’s always on duty. You may be forcibly ejected from the premises but you can rest assured that you have officially unlocked the Bramford level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. Alternatively, visit Yankee Stadium and ask when the Pope is expected to arrive. Consider traveling by Yamaha motorbike.

Unknown-2 6. Go to Vidal Sassoon and get a pixie cut. This officially unlocks the Mia Farrow level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

7. Make a chocolate mousse but call it “chocolate mouse” and bring some over to your neighbors. Tell them they’re extra and you don’t need them. This officially unlocks the Minnie Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom (bonus points if you ask your neighbors how much they paid for items inside their home)From the novel: “The cups were filled with peaked swirls of chocolate. Guy’s was topped with a sprinkling of chopped nuts, and Rosemary’s with a half walnut.” In case you were wondering, that’s how Rosemary got the “mouse” meant for her.

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Ruth Gordon and Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby 1968

8. Trade ties with someone you despise or covet and wish them to go blind. This unlocks the Guy Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. If the intended victim really does go blind, you have officially unlocked the Adrian Marcato level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. Alternatively, hide a friend’s glove – only one of a pair – and if your friend goes into a coma, you have officially unlocked the Mrs Gardenia/Hutch level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom (and you really ought to be ashamed of yourself!!).

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (AKA Angela Dorian).

9. Do your laundry in a creepy basement laundry facility. Bonus points if  “a dead infant wrapped in newspaper” has ever been found on the premises. If you meet a woman of Italian heritage, or hear glass breaking, you have officially unlocked the Rosemary Woodhouse and Terry Gionoffrio level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

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Patsy Kelley as Laura Louise

 10. Buy or make a set of black baby clothes, or knit a black baby hat with horns or cloven hoof booties for someone you know is expecting a baby. This officially unlocks the Laura Louise level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. In the novel we are informed that Laura Louise is knitting a pair of “shaped-all-wrong booties” for Rosemary’s baby.

images-2111. Buy a bunch of red roses for your wife and say “Happy Rosemary’s Baby‘s 50th Anniversary, Darling!” If she spits in your face, you have successfully unlocked the Guy Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom!

Alternatively, invite your friends and throw a loud party but be sure to exclude any nosey old neighbors. Afterwards, get in an argument with your spouse that ends in tearful laughter and an uncomfortably silent cleaning mode. This also officially unlocks the Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

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Kitchen Witchin’ : Mia Farrow as Rosemary and Ruth Gordon as Minnie with the “spice garden” in the background.

12. Start an herb garden. Rosemary dreams of having a spice garden of her own someday. Maybe you’ll select a witch’s pharmacy of either psychoactive or poisonous plants, but you should at least get a rosemary plant potted and set in a sunny location – tradition says that rosemary growing by the front door of a home will keep your spouse faithful. Being a green witch is another way to unlock the Minnie Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

rb1013. If you are expecting a child of your own, name him Adrian, or her Rosemary. We did this ourselves last October for our youngest ‘Rose Marie’ (born two days before Halloween) and have thereby successfully unlocked the Adrian Marcato level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. (Yes, seriously, but Marie also happens to be a family name).

Please visit and “Like” our Rosemarys Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook page:

Rosemarys Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook page

Use your own imagination and celebrate Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary any way you choose. Maybe you’ll write a love letter to Mia Farrow, or… you could send a book on witchcraft to a friend along with the cryptic message that “The name is an anagram.” Try arranging to have a screening of the film at a local cinema and have live performers act-out the characters and scenes a la Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast style. The possibilities are endless. WOW! 50 years! This is no dream! This is really happening!

Closest  to our hearts are: an interview we did with actor Ernest Harada who portrayed the Japanese photographer in the final scene of the film which you can read here: An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ which we did last year; our correspondence with actress Victoria Vetri, (AKA Angela Dorian)  who portrayed the character Terry Gionoffrio – the Castevet’s young houseguest – in the film, who is now free from prison but is occupied with adjusting to life “on the outside” and for whom we are praying for the best in her continuing rehabilitation; and last but not least, a source very close to departed author Ira Levin who complimented our Devil In The Details site for our efforts toward promoting Rosemary’s Baby‘s 50th anniversaries – novel and film – and who is also responsible for the exquisite #RosemarysBabyAlbum at IraLevin.org. These people, along with Mia Farrow, Roman Polanski, and Charles Grodin (surviving cast and crew of the film) – are due for recognition for their significant contributions to cinematic or literary history.

Let’s hope we see more recognition for this classic diabolical novel and film.

‘Rosemary’s Baby’: Raped by The Shadow

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In celebration of the 50th Anniversaries of our favorite  diabolical novel and film, we offer our Occult-Horror-geek purport on the abiding myth of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.

208d03584a685e2121942f28478d2a72Note: This article is one of our studied opinions and interpretations of the novel and closely adapted film version of Rosemary’s Baby. We make no claims or assumptions that the original author, Ira Levin, had the ideas presented below in mind when creating this story; far from. The perspective offered here is that gleaned from our knowledge of comparative religion and mythology and archetypal psychology. Our occult musings and psychological reflections constellating about these deep and thorny subjects are entirely our own. It is by no means the ultimate interpretation. H.B.G.

Author Ira Levin said in an afterward to the 2003 New American Library edition of his  novel Rosemary’s Baby: “Lately I’ve had a new worry. The success of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ inspired “Exorcists” and “Omens” and lots of et ceteras. Two generations of youngsters have grown to adulthood watching depictions of Satan as a living reality. Here’s what I worry about now: If I hadn’t pursued an idea for a suspense novel almost forty years ago, would there be quite as many religious fundamentalists around today?”

Ira Levin’s worry is a valid one. Has his highly acclaimed (and fiercely excoriated) novel of contemporary Diabolism indeed help motivate a surge in religious fundamentalism since it’s publication as a best seller and release as a hit film? Moreover, as it has often been observed that “life imitates art,” there must be some recognition paid to Rosemary’s Baby (and it’s many imitators) for it’s influence on the modern occult revival. Why the diabolical hangover which has inspired numerous reiterations in popular film and literature? Why has Rosemary’s Baby had such a long lasting cultural effect?

Some of this is due to it’s timely “Age of Aquarius” appearance just prior to the Summer of Love (1967 novel), and it’s delivery as an Oscar worthy film (1968) just after it. See: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! on this perspective.

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ succeeds in turning horror into the sublime by leading us through Rosemary Woodhouse’s harrowing conception, pregnancy and birth to a climactic revelation of a monster child which, we are left to presume, will bring destruction and devastation. And yet here – at this very point – comes the heart wrenching twist: the monster is undeniably and wholeheartedly accepted in love. “Hail Rosemary!” Full of grace; divine grace of The Mother is moved to embrace that which brings certain doom and destruction. We will attempt to show how the mytheme (myth + theme) of the abandoned child Pan – rescued by Divine Grace – is an acceptance of our dark drives and creative (destructive?) passions, is reflected in Ira Levin’s bestseller. Rosemary exhibits divine grace just as Dionysos and all the Olympians showed when Pan’s father Hermes rescued him from abandonment and took him to Olympus for presentation to the gods and goddesses. In short, a shattering of traditional values, morals and beliefs.

In short, a shattering of values and morals and beliefs.

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Original hardback copy of the novel by Ira Levin.

It is our studied opinion that the great and lasting success of Rosemary’s Baby, as novel and closely-adapted film, comes from the simple fact that it is mythic. Archetypal. It arises from, and touches upon, the deepest layers of Western religious consciousness and spiritual experience. It follows threads of ancient patterns inculcated by Western spiritual consciousness as exhibited in folk tales and in classical mythic motif – i.e.: Fear of  the Devil, cannibalistic witches and Witchcraft, the Faustian pact with the Devil, the semi-divine child who is secreted away somewhere,  the rejected monster child. Rosemary’s Baby also successfully encapsulates, quite simply and very believably, the ontological polarity within the Western religious Hebrew-Christian paradigm: Good vs. Evil; and then deftly turns that very concept on it’s head. See: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ on this last perspective.

Furthermore, as a fairy tale very much of it’s time, Rosemary’s Baby brings us face-to-face with a few thousand years of patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultural oppression and  repression of physical human sexual impulses which have long been projected into the Shadow (in the Jungian sense), or “Dark Side” within the human psyche – the suppressed dark drives and creative passions of our lives. As this article will attempt to show, Rosemary’s Baby is a story in which 1960’s American society’s  cultural shift towards an awakening to greater sexual freedom is reflected as a reawakening to primal Pagan archetypes suppressed within Western consciousness.

Let’s see how Ira Levin, probably unconsciously, helped unlatch the hidden closet door at the back of our minds – leading to the dark shadow side reflection of proper, day-to-day,  morally upright consciousness.

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The Devil got much of his character from Pan. (Google Image search attempts to credit this image only leads us to rants about steroids. Sorry. That right thigh though… could, at least in part, be interpreted as a megaphallic image).

The Resurrection of Pan

It is an old adage that the gods of an old religion will always become the devils of the new one. The Judeo-Christian Devil has been so conflated with various ancient pagan gods that they have become nearly identical in Western consciousness. In psychological terms, many centuries of zealous demonization of (and frenzied fig leaf adding to) the pagan roots of Western culture by puritanical Christians has forced these archetypes to become suppressed within our collective psyche, evidenced by C.G.Jung’s famous saying that the gods have become our diseases.

The image of The Devil of popular imagination is a complex amalgam of ancient pre-Christian gods and daemons, but is borrowed largely from the Greek untamed god of wild nature – the horned, hooved and ithyphallic Pan. Now, the myth of the birth or origin of Pan is part of an ancient recurring mythic motif of the lost, hidden or abandoned, child. This archetype was revived later in the Romantic period which saw a huge revival of Pan, especially in England, with the publication of Peter Pan and his tribe of “Lost Boys” dressed in animal skins and living in a wild Neverland – a stand-in for Pan’s native heathen Arcadia and his band of merry, hairy satyrs.

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Vintage illustration of Peter Pan

“…the myth of the birth or origin of Pan is part of an ancient mythic motif of the lost, hidden or abandoned, child.”

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“What have you done to it?! What have you done to it’s eyes?!” we can imagine her screaming! Image: D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

Rosemary’s Baby is a modern reversal of the Christmas nativity story”

While Rosemary’s Baby is a modern reversal of the Christmas nativity story (we find in Rosemary’s Baby Album ((IraLevin.org)) that one original idea for a title was All Is Calm, All Is Bright), the myth of the lost or hidden divine child, or the monster child, has ancient roots. Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus were all hidden as babes, as was Moses. The Minotaur is a perfect example of a monster child that is secreted away in the labyrinth. According to ancient myths the god Pan was rejected by his wood nymph mother because of his frightful goatish appearance and uncanny laughter (“What have you done to it?! What have you done to it’s eyes?!” we can imagine her screaming). Besides baby Pan’s hooves and horns, the eyes of the goat (as well as those of cats and frogs – all associated with witchcraft) are notorious for their uncanny appearance. This trait derives from Pan’s father, the trickster shepherd god Hermes (Mercury) who oversaw all forms of trade and commerce, including thievery, but especially that of animal husbandry. As a son, or extension, of his father, Pan takes part in the sphere of Hermes and is closely connected with beastial providence. Hermes is the patron of herdsmen and always has his eyes upon their interests, which is to say their flocks (as for Pan, you might see this as a reinterpretation of “He has his father’s eyes.”). Moreover, this Mercurial aspect directly relates to the Faustian pact, or economical deal, struck between Rosemary’s satanic neighbors and her  husband Guy who will do anything to achieve success as an actor, including deceiving his wife and pimping her out to Satan as a breeding animal, in order to serve his own interests. This also reminds us of Hermes’ famous legendary exploits at deception and as protector of thieves.rgeyes

“…the myth of the monster child has ancient roots.”

Myth tells us the strange babe Pan, upon being rejected and abandoned by his mother, was rescued by his fleet-footed father Hermes,  bundled in a white hare’s skin (associated with fertility, the moon and Venus – indicating some of his attributes), and spirited away to Mt. Olympus where all the gods delighted in him – especially Dionysus (Bacchus), god of wine and religious ecstasy, with whom Pan is often closely associated. The crude and salacious nature of the young he-goat is partly concealed within the gentle appearance of a snowy white hare, much as the young couple’s innocent plan to make a baby conceals an insidious diabolical plot. The abandoned babe Pan, however, is universally accepted by lofty,  omniscient Olympian consciousness – for it is there that his divinity is recognized: the animal nature of human impulse, instinct and sexuality is revered as an essential and sacred component of life, nature and human existence itself by the divine powers. And as we know from the final scene in Rosemary’s Baby, the monster child is hidden away from the mother, and the demonic babe is accepted – not only by the supernaturally empowered and mysterious coven of witches overseen by Roman and Minnie Castevet – but later by Rosemary herself in a complete reversal of the initial attitude of horror. A manifestation of Divine Grace is thus an integral part of this satanic tale: accepting the monster within, the child she has loved all along during her pregnancy, despite the painful misgivings experienced. Soul-deep horror is surpassed by gracious and tender mother love, giving this dark fairy tale of the magical child a significant contemporary twist. See: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Rosemary’s “Dream” as a visitation by Pan, the Incubus

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Pan is the archetype of the incubus, the bringer of erotic nightmares.

Pan, from whose name we get  our word “panic,” is the god of the wild, shepherds, flocks, hunters and herdsmen; and his solitary, often melancholic, and “rough and ready” nature exhibits this. Pan was considered the instigator of panic, fear, terror, mental disturbances and the bringer of nightmares, prophetic dreams, oracles and possession. He belongs in consciousness as  the original archetype of the incubus. He is the sender of  erotic nightmares. His wild, instinctual sexuality is his most prominent characteristic (beyond the obvious physical signs), and it constellates about masturbation, beastiality, and the pursuit and rape of nymphs and handsome young goatherds. Pan is nature in all it’s fierce and unrelenting natural urge to merge, to couple, to unite.

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A Panic Nightmare Daemon/Incubus appears in The Cell, (2000), a film which explores the reality of dream consciousness.

But Pan is unlucky in love: he never marries (no wedding band on this old he-goat!), and he is always left longing for those just out of reach (Echo, Syrinx, Selene, Pitys). His divinity is a solitary existence apart from the Olympian gods. He is also the original archetype of the misunderstood and lonely musician. His music is said to stir the soul of man, beast and god. Pan dwells in the wild, unpopulated areas: where the lonely goatherd plays his pipes and contemplates his erection.

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The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781, depicts an Incubus squatting upon a troubled dreamer. The Night Mare intrudes from the shadows at left.

When Rosemary’s wedding ring is removed by her husband just before the rape scene we are being told that we are crossing outside the boundaries of morally accepted Apollonian consciousness. A law is being transgressed. Like an inverted cross, it indicates a reversal of what is considered acceptable. The Abyss is traversed as Rosemary, the good but lapsed and doubting Catholic, passes from her sunny, white and yellow apartment (egg colors: fertility), through the secret passage at the back of the closet, where hidden things are secreted or suppressed: remember old Mrs Gardenia’s big heavy furniture used to blockade the hall closet early in the story? Rosemary passes into the shadowy, Dionysian, chthonic and infernal world of the Castevet’s; the “Nightside” of dreaming and erotic nightmare consciousness, where nude witches cast spells and demons dwell. Indeed, Rosemary is young American consciousness with doubts about  organized religion who, after getting caught up in the herbally enhanced spirit of the 1960’s (“Tannis anyone?”), discovers the spiritual archetypal world of gods and monsters.

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The Pope appears in Rosemary’s dream to offer a Satanic benediction of forgiveness.

As the devilish dream begins with the removal of her wedding ring it ends with Rosemary being offered a ring as worn by the pope himself to kiss, a ring in the form of the silver pendant given to her by the Castevets (silver is the metal of lunar consciousness and witchcraft). The marriage vow is broken and a new sacrament is presented to Rosemary for this Panic marriage – bringing us, ring-like, full circle, just as Rosemary’s journey through her diabolical pregnancy comes full circle like the pitted, full moon-like orb of the evil smelling charm which mirrors the full-moon like belly of the puerperal mother: again reflecting (moon like) the charming young lady who carries something foul and foreboding within her swelling womb: the fulfillment of the Castevet coven’s greatest aim and achievement.

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A charming young woman with a foul-smelling, round silver charm… which she is soon about to, moon-like, reflect within her own swelling body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The image of a burning St Patrick’s cathedral  in Rosemary’s “dream” forebodes a future destruction of Christianity.

A “Panic Marriage”

On the morning after the “nightmare,” (remember Pan-morphed-into-the-Christian-Devil is an instigator of nightmares and the primal icon of the erotic Incubus) Rosemary awakes feeling pretty awful and complaining of her nightmare of being raped by “someone inhuman.” She discovers scratches all over her body. Guy admits to “doing it” to her while she was unconscious as he didn’t want to miss “baby night,” and  admits to having drank a bit too much himself  (laying the blame on ecstatic Dionysius). Rosemary is not only the victim of rape but also the victim of a mysterious nightmare brought on intentionally through witchcraft via Minnie Castevet’s narcotic, psychoactive “chocolate mouse” – an important reference to the Dionysian cultural experience exhibited in the bourgening experimentation with psychedelic drugs, which undoubtedly evoked visionary and spiritual revelations,  during the 1960’s counter culture movement. This  narcotic aspect is present as the evil-smelling Tannis Root in the novel, something Rosemary smells, along with sulphur, during the rape, and is subtly hinted in the dream sequence in the film by a greenish vapor veiling Rosemary’s face just before she looks up into the eyes of the Devil raping her. “Pharmakeia”, being the Ancient Greek reference for “witchcraft” or “sorcery”, reveals it’s connection to herbalism, veneficium and psychoactive plants as used in magic and ritual.

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Pan and a Maenad

In myths, human women are often visited or seduced by Gods in various guises, and such unions often result in the birth of semi-divine heroes… or monsters; Zeus is notorious for his philandering exploits with mortal women. Rosemary, in an inversion of the Annunciation and Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary by The Holy Spirit, is the victim of witchcraft, and rape – called by some Ancient Greek writers a “Panic marriage,” in reference to Pan’s fierce and sudden couplings.  Rosemary rather weakly complains of this non-concensual coupling to her husband but she remains submissive to her circumstances. However, there is no denying there has been a penetration by the inhuman, the beastial-divine, and that a tremendous upheaval within her has taken place. Mother Earth herself, as The Nymph, has been violated; but the protest has been, at least up to this point, weak: the traditionally accepted submissive attitude of the patriarchally conditioned wife, just as the unrestrained pollution and exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources went largely uncriticized until the strong push for ecological reforms which started gaining momentum in the “flower power” era of the 1960’s. The “Father” of Rosemary’s baby is conspicuous by his “absence” after the conception, both literally and figuratively, in the forms of both The Devil and Guy Woodhouse respectively.

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Rosemary may be conscious but she has not yet awakened to her circumstances

Rape transgresses the boundaries of most any human law – represented by the removal of Rosemary’s wedding ring in the “dream,” – and is a key element in the story. Reports of sexual assault is a fact we often encounter in the news and, these days, in the #MeToo movement. Rape is also a phenomena which follows in the panic and wake of war and invasion – significant here as the U.S.A.’s direct involvement in the Vietnam War began around the time Rosemary’s Baby as novel (1967) and film (1968) appeared. Pan also appears in connection with war, as for instance his assisting the Athenians by causing the retreat of the  Persians at the Battle of Marathon, and Olympian Zeus’s battle against the monster Typhon, as well as Pan being Dionysius’s shield bearer in his campaign to India  – all occasions in which Pan’s influence, usually by causing panic terror, decided a fortunate outcome.

Rape is an overpowering of animal drives that unfortunately, yet undeniably, occurs within human nature: has ever a day passed upon human-dwelling Earth in which a rape, or sexual assault of some kind or other, has not been committed? Yet, it is such a universally taboo subject that even today it is still barely understood within the study of psychopathology: we all know what rape is, but understanding and charting how it happens within the landscape of the human soul is extremely difficult. It is significant to note here the emergence of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at the start of America’s involvement in Vietnam in which, as in all wars, rape occurred – including G.I on G.I. rape (here: Vietnam war rape), and simultaneously at the heralding of The Summer of Love in 1967, and The Sexual Revolution which followed in Western Culture – about the same time as the first gay pride, feminist and ecology movements.

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 Story: This ancient statue of Pan coupling with a she-goat was unearthed from the Villa dei Papiri in 1752 and the King and Queen of Naples and all the court were present as it was brought to light. They were horrified when they saw what it depicted. The King was so shocked that he ordered the excavation to be halted and the statue was thereafter hidden away and kept under lock and key in the gabinetto segreto. It was not actually viewable  to the general public until the year 2000. We are lucky it survived at all. More info about the sculpture here: Pan: “disreputable objects of pagan licentiousness”

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Nightmare Daemon. The Cell, 2000

PAN, whose name means “All” (e.g.: Panasonic, Panavision, panorama, pandemic etc…) transcends  even human bisexuality and emerges as a kind of omnisexual (Pansexual?) creature: He is God, man and beast. Awareness of Pan touches upon religion and sex. His nature is to force himself upon consciousness – thereby often causing panic – another key factor in Rosemary’s experience in the story. According to psychologist James Hillman, Pan’s rape is not an urge with intent to destroy, nor even to merely “deflower,”  but to force awareness of the primal animal body upon lofty, rational “Apollonian” consciousness. And this is what Rosemary’s Baby did in it’s day: it forced upon Christian, middle class, American consciousness the imminent sexual awakening and changing of traditional religious values. (See: Pan and the Nightmare’  by Hillman).

And this is what Rosemary’s Baby did in it’s day: it forced upon Christian, middle class, American consciousness the imminent sexual awakening and changing of traditional religious values.

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Cult-ivated for great things.

Rosemary is not a virgin – a qualification required as we learn from Minnie Castevet in the novel, but she is, at first, naive and unexperienced with the Shadow.  Rosemary’s condition changes drastically after the diabolical rape and conception. Like a victim of  an Incubus or nightmare daemon, she begins to appear and feel vampirized. She has been infected by the fever dream awareness of religious doubt and repressed sexual urges amid contemporary society which were exploding in the U.S.A. in the Sixties. She is in constant pain. She cuts her hair boyishly short in a “pixie cut”reminding us of many young actresses who have portrayed Peter Pan. This is the beginning of her transformation and the gradual appearance of a subtle “masculine” aggression to her character, which before was only hinted at e.g.: she initiates sex on the couple’s first night in their dark, empty, cavern-like, new apartment – Pan was worshipped by lovers in caves and grottos. Guy also instills a brief moment of panic fear in this scene as they begin making love by referring to a pair of cannibalistic, Victorian era sisters who’d lived in the building. Later, perhaps due to her awakened consciousness raising brought on by the Incubus infection, Rosemary instinctually begins to use powers of deception, an art within the sphere of Pan’s father Hermes, herself as a survival mechanism (e.g.: the phone call to tease some information from the actor blinded by witchcraft, the lie she tells to Dr. Sapirstein’s receptionist while escaping his office, the spilling of the contents of her purse as a distraction by the elevator, the secreting and hoarding of sleeping pills…).

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All of Them Witches is a fictional book created by author Ira Levin.

As a distraction from her excruciating pregnancy, she plans a party for her young friends (a service to Dionysos) which intentionally excludes the strange, elderly neighbors. The women who attend her breakdown in the kitchen during the party offer advice, insight and validation for her unusual circumstances. The kitchen as heart(h) of a home and traditional place of women’s power is the place of Olympian “family” goddess Hestia/Vesta. After the party, when panic over her degenerating condition finally threatens to overwhelm, her anger irrupts and the pain suddenly stops. The “feminine” – finding it’s inner “masculine” strength – has found it’s voice and begins to take on it’s own instinctual power – separate from patriarchal conditioning – from then on in the story: a symptom of Incubus/Pan’s (instinctual) animal influence coursing through her blood at this point. The submissive and assertive qualities are balanced, and the violated nymph is finally transformed into the powerful and avenging Mother Goddess. We seem to be witnessing a related uprising in consciousness in the #Me Too movement of today. Rosemary’s suspicions increase after she attempts to protest when Guy bullies her into surrendering her book on witchcraft before setting it out of easy reach for her on a high shelf – across the tops of a two volume set of Kinsey’s ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Male/Female’ in both the novel and film.

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Pan o’ Mantic

Pan is also a mantic god, i.e. He is a god of divination and prophecy. He is said to have taught the art to the god Apollo himself – lending some chthonic prestige to The Shining One when Apollo took over the oracle at Delphi. Rosemary’s prudent friend Hutch tries to dissuade her from impending doom, even prophetically appearing in her narcotically induced dream-nightmare to warn her of “Typhoon !” – a subtle  reference to the Devil as Typhon. Even from beyond the grave, good ol’ Hutch, in a strange and ironic feat of necromantic divination,  manages to communicate the awful truth to her via a clue in a book on witches and a modern spelling game. Thus, Rosemary is pulled ever deeper into Pan’s witchy sphere as she deciphers the name of Steven Marcato in the letter tiles of a game of Scrabble.

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Casting the runes to discover… “The name is an anagram.”

“The great god Pan is dead”

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If the Great God Pan is truly dead, then Is God dead?

Here we must note the appearance in the story of the April 1966 issue of TIME magazine which carried the stark ‘Is God Dead?’ cover. In the history of the god Pan a major event is considered to be recorded by the Greek historian Plutarch ( 45 AD – 127 AD). During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore “with groans and laments.” The legend of the fateful crying out, and of the news spreading, that “The great god Pan is dead” has inspired many a poet through the ages. Christian apologists such as G. K. Chesterton have repeated and amplified the significance of the “death” of Pan, suggesting that with the “death” of Pan came the advent of theology. To this effect, Chesterton once said, “It is said truly in a sense that Pan died because Christ was born. It is almost as true in another sense that men knew that Christ was born because Pan was already dead. A void was made by the vanishing world of the whole mythology of mankind, which would have asphyxiated like a vacuum if it had not been filled with theology.”

6bb940fe474470ceb6c8fb77addff3f11f3e1c90_hqThe final chapter or scene of Rosemary’s Baby depicts Roman Castevet’s pronouncement that “God Is Dead!” Considering all this, and that the solemn question “Is God Dead?” appears on the cover of TIME as used in Rosemary’s Baby, begs the question whether history really does repeat itself, and if it is not true that “the gods of the old religion will always become the devils of the new.”

“the gods of the old religion will always become the devils of the new.”

Since the publication of Rosemary’s Baby in 1967, there has been a mounting surge in throwing off the shackles of thousands of years of patriarchal Judeo-Christian suppression, especially in the realms of sexuality and women’s bodies. The ecology movements have adopted Pan as a sign under which to rally to save Mother Earth. Pan is himself noted as a devotee of the Great Mother Goddess in Ancient Greek religion, and in classical literature he is even referred to as “Her dog” by other gods. It is a testament to Ira Levin’s creative genius – what the Romans called a “Dæmon,” the Latin word for the Ancient Greek daimōn (δαίμων: “god”, “godlike”, “power,” or “guiding spirit,” that he was able to reach deep into the zeitgeist of his age to stir up such a potent and delicious witch’s brew; one which brings us face-to-face with the ancient shadows of our psyche which have continued their assault and penetration of the consciousness of modern culture’s grappling with religion and sexuality. By crafting a dark modern legend which people still enjoy and analyze 50 years after it’s publication and release, Ira Levin has made us a little bit more aware of just what is going on “down there” in the subconscious.

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The Summer of Love is a perennial affair… Image: D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

*One thread we decided not to follow here but offer as a point of consideration is Rosemary’s own complicity in surrendering to her situation by… 1. ignoring the advice of Hutch – a trusted, fatherly friend of upright moral standing (comfortable traditional values) to live somewhere other than in the Bramford apartments and 2. Rosemary’s own longing for motherhood which so often leads to her suppressing her own instinctual misgivings in order to achieve her own desires.

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Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pan flute, Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BC, second century AD, found in Pompeii,

Sources:

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…and our sick little minds.

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From Matthew 25:31–46: “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Goats are notorious for their rowdy behavior. While sheep may mindlessly wander, goats will intentionally leap. BAAAAH!!

‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’: Legacy of a Classic Diabolical Thriller

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IraLevin.org now presents ‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’ on it’s website, and it is a very special treat for Rosemary Fans!

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

The novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by renowned author and playwright Ira Levin has had a wide and abiding impact upon all things thriller, mystery, and horror since it was first published 50 years ago in March 1967. Levin himself said in 2002, “I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen.’ A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books […] Of course, I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.” 

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of this classic diabolical occult thriller, IraLevin.org now presents ‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’ on it’s website, and it is a very special treat for Rosemary Fans! With Ira Levin’s personal archival materials and notes tastefully arranged and many exciting insights into the writer’s creative process.

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

Note: #RosemarysBabyAlbum hashtag for easy sharing via social media.

ONLINE FEATURE “ROSEMARY’S BABY ALBUM”CELEBRATES NOVEL’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY WITH UNPRECEDENTED BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT ITS CREATION, USING AUTHOR IRA LEVIN’S ACTUAL NOTES, DRAFTS AND ARCHIVAL MATERIALS

(New York, March 20, 2018) Ira Levin’s perennial classic “Rosemary’s Baby” turned 50 in 2017, and in celebration of that milestone, IraLevin.org has released “Rosemary’s Baby Album,” a new 28-page online feature which traces the archetypal work’s development using high-resolution scans of Levin’s actual notes, drafts and related ephemera from its writing, starting with the first known setting-down of its premise on a single notepad page, in 1960.

#RosemarysBabyAlbum provides an unprecedented opportunity to peek over Levin’s shoulder, as the author that Stephen King called “the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel” conceives and structures his iconic tale – considering, tweaking, or outright rejecting alternate titles, character names and plot trajectories. The album also reveals some fascinating connections between real life, and the world of “Rosemary’s Baby”.

“Rosemary’s Baby Album” can be viewed online now at http://www.iralevin.org

About IraLevin.org: IraLevin.org is the official Ira Levin website, created and maintained by his estate to serve as a comprehensive source of information about his works.

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

Levin’s worth as a literary craftsman is exemplified not only in the perpetual in-print status of his novels or the fact that his best-known play, Deathtrap, holds the record as the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway; his competence as a storyteller is also apparent in the adaptation of nearly every one of his novels (and his play Deathtrap) into popular cinematic film versions. Also to be noted are his novels ‘A Kiss Before Dying,’ ‘Sliver,’ and ‘Son of Rosemary’ (a sequel which he dedicated to Mia Farrow who portrayed Rosemary in the now classic horror film version). A few of his novels have even worked their way into our idiomatic language within popular culture – making  The Stepford Wives, The Boys From Brazil and Rosemary’s Baby into a kind of cultural shorthand for ideas represented in these compelling and believable stories.

Unknown-2 copyAnd that is a skill Ira Levin truly had and which lives on in his work: he made the unthinkable into wholly believable parables of modern existence. We step into an Ira Levin novel on firm concrete, with matter-of-fact details both mundane and familiar, yet somehow he cleverly manages to sweep the rug out from under our very feet, so that we lose our balance with an ever increasing sense of panic-dread at the strange and unforeseeable circumstances which draw inevitably tighter around the characters we encounter there. Indeed, it is due in part to the film maker’s close adhesion to the novel – nearly word-for-word – that gives Roman Polanski’s 1968 film version it’s high quality.

images-6 copy 3We may take “Stepford Wives,” “Boys from Brazil” and “Rosemary’s Babies” for granted today because these premises have been lifted from their novel (and cinematic) sources so often – and repeated in any number of various media formats – from the plethora of Devil Baby movies to TV comedy sketches – that they have become part of our collective consciousness, and have even developed into tropes of their own! But we shouldn’t forget the origins of these stories, or Ira Levin’s ingenuity at placing them so deliberately and carefully packaged on our front doorsteps that we don’t notice the dangers hidden within them until it’s too late (and, by then, you are unable to stop turning the pages)!

Article by H.B. Gardner

#RosemarysBabyAlbum

#RosemarysBaby50thAnniversary 

‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

Note: ‘Angel Heart’ is a difficult film to discuss without giving away key points of the story and spoiling the plot. This is a film to be relished, so we will simply laud the film here, give our Occult Purport, and hopefully not divulge too much. It’s darkly delicious.

Amongst our many favorite Satanic or Occult themed Horror Films ‘Angel Heart’ (1987), which was released 31 years ago this month, still stands among the best. It’s excellent cast and production and it’s sinister, occult-noir atmosphere – deftly blended with a haunting soundtrack – separates this masterpiece of Diabolical Cinema from the many ham-handed attempts at the Diabolical Horror subgenre. The production is pure movie magic of the highest calibre in our opinion. With a Faustian premise set in 1955’s New York City, and a story that takes us to steamy New Orleans, Angel Heart unsettles us from the very start and then proceeds to take us on a journey into the heart of one man’s personal Darkness and, finally, the discovery of an impending evil carrying a one way ticket to Hell.

The film was adapted from William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1985), in which Tim Curry so adeptly brought Darkness to life…

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

Like our beloved Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), there are no overt supernatural occurrences taking place in the story (at least, not perhaps until the very end – and even that is subtle and may be up for interpretation), placing the narrative firmly in reality and from the point of view of an unsuspecting protagonist. Our protagonist is one Harold Angel (wink), a gumshoe detective hired by a Mr Louis Cyphere (wink, wink) – an unusual client with some unsettled business. Harold Angel is sent on a manhunt for ‘Johnny Favorite,’ a famous crooner who’s gone missing since the War (WWII). As our Harry Angel falls deeper into a Black Magic Mystery peopled by corruptible characters of dubious interests and backgrounds, we find ourselves intrigued by the suspicious strands of destiny and danger which draw ever tighter around our detective.

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When Harry met Louis. Curious to know whose portrait that is above De Niro.

Occult Purport

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One traditional French title for this Key is: Force majeure,

Every significant relationship our detective discovers about the missing singer – be it physician, lover, or friend – is tainted with unwholesome or diabolical elements, linking the baneful Johnny Favorite and everyone involved with him to Evil Forces.

This strongly reminds us of The Devil XV Arcana in the Tarot. Johnny Favorite and each of his accomplices are bound to Evil. The chains that bind the demons to the black half-cube (unbalanced energy) pedestal of The Devil are of their own making. They choose to remain at the feet of The Devil (notice how loose the chains are about the demon’s necks in the Tarot card shown – they could choose to leave The Devil if they were not so  enjoying being held under His power). Every “evil” act perpetrated – whether out of addiction (Dr. Fowler), Fear, Greed, Anger, Lust, Vanity or Pride – inflicts another  karmic link in the chains binding these characters to Johnny Favorite (and towards an inevitable and sticky end). Johnny Favorite binds himself to Evil and does what he does out of his own self interests without giving any thought to how it effects those around him (who are likewise bound by their choices to involve themselves with such an unsavory character), or for when it comes time for his own eventual atonement.

eac79530007a85c007c0b6ee764f9d9fInteresting to note here is that a traditional French title for The Devil Tarot key is Force majeure, meaning “superior force”, also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin) “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident”, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Force Majeure, The Devil tarot card (coloured engraving) Above: Two Devil cards from two different Etteilla style French Tarot decks explicitly state Force Majeure. Silly Mr Etteilla felt the need to renumber this key 14 (among other changes made by the demented wigmaker).

In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure. Hmmm…

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Charlotte Rampling as Madame Krusemark spreads the Tarot in a promo shot.

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

When Louis (Robert De Niro) blows salt from his egg onto the restaurant table, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) takes a pinch and throws it over his left shoulder. The superstition is that by doing so you blind the devil (or your evil angel). The Left being the “sinister” side where the demon sits.Angel-Heart-Unsung-Films

And… The law firm Winesap and Mackintosh are two types of apples, traditional agents of the Devil tempting mankind. (Even though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not identified as an apple in any Bible translation.)

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Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel with Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark. Angel Heart, 1987.

Angel-Heart-Ascensore-per-linferno-di-Alan-Parker-con-Mickey-Rourke-Robert-De-Niro-Lisa-Bonet-Charlotte-Rampling-Brownie-McGhee-streaming-2-300x161Edward Kelley (the fake name used by Mr Krusemark when he bailed Johnny Favorite out of the “nut-hatch” in upstate New York) is also the name of a famous sixteenth century English alchemist and magician (1555-1597/8).

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Robert De Niro as the deliciously diabolical Mr Cyphere reminds us of a sober and well-dressed satyr who’s just had a manicure.

The poem about Evangeline and her lover, to which everyone refers, is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie” (Link: Evangeline) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

The line “How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise” is drawn from Sophocles“Oedipus The King”. The quote is appropriate as the “final horrific revelation” trope in the story of Oedipus somewhat parallels that in Angel Heart.

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Twin Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 1/2 oz. light rum 1/2 oz. spiced rum 1 dash lime juice 1 dash Coca-Cola Directions: Shake with ice and strain into shot glass. Best served in a shot glass.

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

“The Year One”: A Rededication

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By: H. B. G.

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Actress Hazel Court, as the Lady Juliana, betrothes herself to Satan in Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, 1964. This is the first instance in cinema history where an inverted cross is used as a symbol of Satanism.

We have managed to maintain this WordPress-fueled website for one whole year now. We are delighted at this meager accomplishment by one man (who may, or may not, be possessed by many incubi). What started off as an obsession with the film Rosemary’s Baby and an intention to make a single blog post delineating the minor characters in it has expanded into a repository for our occult horror obsession – here: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films and on our Devil May Care Facebook page , as well as our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook Page.

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) in Rosemary’s Baby.

This past year we have, out of our own zeal, interviewed a surviving cast member of Roman Polanski’s film of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ( An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ) and have been keeping a correspondence with the actress Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) who played Terry Gionofrio – the Castevet’s ill-fated houseguest in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – from her prison cell in a California Institution, but who is now nearing a release date.

We have never before been a collector of autographs, but 2017 was our year for them due to our commitment to our writing on this site.

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Our Holiday card and an autographed picture from actress Victoria Vetri who is nearing her release from prison.

This month, We rededicate ourselves to this project. So, in the spirit of Rosemary’s Baby (the 50th Anniversary of the Satanic classic film thriller is this year) and “The Year One”:

Black candles are lit, the chalice is filled, and the cross-shaped brand smolders in the brazier…

We remain committed to keeping this site as a means of exploring the diabolical, the occult, and religion (and the things it demonizes) in horror films – and in reality – out of our own pleasure, and as a serious interest in the sway that religion and the mysterious, unseen forces of existence inspire and motivate the minds and hearts of individuals, groups and nations worldwide.

We have managed one year with at least one monthly contribution to our site, some are in-depth articles such as our explorations of Suspiria ( SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock , SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2 etc..)

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We were able to get Jessica Harper’s Suspiria autograph with a modest charitable donation to the Houston Food Bank last year.

and Rosemary’s Baby ( ‘Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! ), etc…

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Ernest Harada was very kind to give us an interview as well as autograph a photo for us.

Some other posts are much lighter fare but are hopefully at least entertaining brain candy for the diabolically inclinedAll of Them Witches: A”Who’s Who” in Rosemary’s Baby , Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ 2017 Fantasy Remake & Dream Cast.

Indirectly related to all this is the work we started in 2017 with the Arcana Tarot Study Group in Osaka, Japan where we currently reside. This group’s mission is to help spread knowledge of using the Tarot via the medium of English; and to improve the skills of English students via the Tarot, here in Japan.

As a father, husband, teacher, writer, reader, mystic and artist, our energies are rapidly absorbed, day-by-day, by our esoteric interests and the gaping jaws of Time; yet we inevitably find ourselves drawn back to exploring the shadowy realms of occult horror, like a sincere Seeker of Truth…, or a dog to it’s vomit.

“But whatever lies behind the door, there’s nothing much to do,

Angel or Devil, I don’t care,

For in front of that door… is you.”

                                                    – Bowie     ‘My Death’

 

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 !

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By: H.B.G.

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Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes toast to an imminent conception with far-reaching effects.

Caution: This article contains some spoilers! If you have not read the novel or seen the film (what the Hell are you waiting for?!) you might want to save reading this article until after you have!

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In 1967 American culture was exploding on all levels. This was the year of the so-called “Summer of Love”.  The Civil Rights Movement headed by Martin Luther King Jr. was in full swing, as was the Vietnam War, the Sexual revolution, and activism for Women’s Rights. Andy Warhol was making instant movie stars in The Factory. Timothy Leary, a psychologist and researcher with the Harvard Center for Research in Personality who oversaw Harvard’s Psilocybin Project, instructed a crowd of 30, 000 hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” LSD drenched Rock ‘n Roll and psychedelic art was unleashed as an endless parade of young, long haired hippies and flower children, defying all social norms, made transcendental pilgrimages – both near and far – towards a purple-hazy ideal of freedom. Young men were burning their draft cards and the youth in general were motivated towards social change while shaking off the grip of their families long-held belief systems. Things were drastically changing! Utopia was at hand!

An exotic and colorful bouquet of new cults, old religions, gurus and esoteric magic in the Age of Aquarius burst upon the scene: Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Occultism, TM, Scientology, Jim Jones, and the Process Church to name just a few. At the same time, Charles Manson was lurking in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Just the year before there was some publicity when Anton LaVey established the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the first legally recognized Satanic organization in history. Americans took notice of all this and wondered just what in the Hell was going on? The entire world had been turned topsy-turvy, seemingly overnight.

In the midst of this chaotic, sweaty, ecstatic rebirthing of the American Dream (which would quickly burn itself out and awaken into a full-blown nightmare) a book was published that March. Ira Levin’s thrilling best-selling suspense novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was born. A year later on June 12th, 1968 the faithful  film version directed by Roman Polanski was delivered to the world just 6 days after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. We feel it is not quite overstating the matter when we claim that the world has been feeling the effects of this counter-culture ‘Baby’ ever since.

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Hardcover 1967 edition

This was The Mother Of All Devil-Baby Films. It sent some people away from the theaters visibly shaken and muttering “Blasphemy!” under their breaths. It ushered in a flood of Devil and Child-of-Satan themed films and books of both epic and lowbrow proportions. Dozens of various evil incarnations of the premise have followed in the malodorous wake of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, including a made for tv sequel (‘Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby,’ 1976) and a 2-night NBC primetime remake in 2014. Ira Levin himself wrote a sequel: ‘Son of Rosemary,’ (published 1997) which he dedicated to Mia Farrow, who so excellently portrayed Rosemary Woodhouse in the now classic film.

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A challenge to Christian faith

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ appeared at a confrontational time in American society. Remembering this may help explain the nerve that this story hit for many people who were floundering or feeling washed-up by the counter-cultural wave of the day. The most firmly established, traditional and holy things were suddenly no longer sacred. In the film, Rosemary herself says “I was brought up a Catholic, now I don’t know.” Indeed, a stark TIME magazine cover from 1967 plainly asked: Is God Dead? This smacked of sacrilege and blasphemy to the majority of church-going middle America. The 60’s were a time when more people dared to openly doubt and question, not only established religion, but everything they had been taught or told! The hippies were busy rejecting, exploring and unlearning. Everything having to do with “The Establishment” was in doubt. The popular American consciousness was awakening to it’s own sense of independent thinking regarding reality apart from traditional authoratative religious ideas about morality as well as the corruptibility of a once esteemed government.

While ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is a slow-building, intellectual suspense – horror film with practically no blood or violence, it was the climax – a definitive casting down of established Faith in the absence of any God – which sent some believers to confession and nudged some others towards the New Age. It spoke directly to those who felt ill-fitted and hypocritical sitting dutifully in church in their Sunday best as the white Christian  centered society they grew up in collapsed around them. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ threw down the gauntlet; it forced believers to think hard for themselves about some deep questions, the kind that matter: Is there a God? and, If so, where the Hell is He now?

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Abortion was a topic not much discussed in polite company back before the movements towards change in the 60’s and 70’s. It was practically a taboo word, only whispered by mothers gossiping about some unfortunate neighbor’s daughter. In the film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the word is spoken twice within a few seconds, which in itself was quite significant for the time of it’s release. Of course even this splinter of dialogue takes place in a scene within which a few women are speaking privately in a kitchen, in hushed voices and with the doors secured. We are given even deeper insight into Rosemary’s thought processes in the final pages of the novel where Rosemary, after the diabolical revelation of the baby’s paternity, considers throwing first the baby and then herself out of the seventh story window. “Choosing life,” to use a pro-life phrase, had never before had quite the same dire intimations. Abortion, Suicide and Satan are all a part of the spell conjured by Ira Levin’s novel and Roman Polanski’s faithful cinematic version of it. I have elucidated a few of these aspects of the book and film in this article: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Maybe that’s all a bit heavy. Plenty of people enjoyed ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ the film as art, and rightly so. It is still widely considered to be not only Roman Polanski’s masterpiece but a watermark in cinematic history, and not only for suspense and horror. It is quite possibly the best horror film ever made. The seamless hand-held camera work, the realistic performances, the perfect casting, the elaborate sets, the 60’s fashions, and the understated horror of it all weaves an effective spell that has rarely been rivaled in cinema since it’s release in June 1968. It has been critiqued, studied, and analyzed; it was also condemned by the National Legion of Decency.

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Cover for the 50th anniversary edition

Yet, despite it’s Hellish premise, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is not without it’s own darkling undercurrent of black humor. Even as  Rosemary’s painful pregnancy intensifies and the stranglehold of suspicion and paranoia increases into a palpable threat, there is a snide kind of wit that permeates the film, like a chalky under taste, right up to the very denouement. New York City in the Swinging Sixties – the materialistic agnosticism of urban culture influencing the good Catholic school girl from Omaha. The strange neighbors all but hiding behind carnival devil masks. Rosemary’s husband Guy Woodhouse is an aspiring actor focused on name, fame and wealth: he’s a materialist interested in the supernatural only for whatever material benefits can be gained by it. He makes fun about seeing the Pope performing a Mass at Yankee stadium on TV: “That’s a great spot for my Yamaha commercial,” he laughs, shortly before pimping his wife out to You-Know-Who. It’s the film’s realism, along with a judicious use of subtle irony and sly wit, that makes the psychological terror all the more palpable.

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L to R: Bruno Sidar as Mr Gilmore, Patsy Kelly as Laura Louise McBurney, Charlotte Boerner as Mrs Leah Fountain, Almira Sessions as Mrs Sabatini with her cat Flash.

And we can’t help but relish Minnie and Roman Castevet and the other lurid characters surrounding Rosemary. Polanski mostly cast theater people and prolific film extras in these roles as witches, so we get an odd feeling of something not-quite-right and familiar about them at  the same time. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal as Minnie Castevet; a role she killed – leaving it impossible for anybody to match it. It is fun to think of the Castevets and some of the other extras as demons trying (a little too hard) to pass themselves off as human. We smirk at the irony  of a young, naive first-time mother’s helplessness before a coven of smiling, well-meaning old geezers who are (she thinks)  plotting against her and her baby. And, when there are no witches hovering around Rosemary, there are several authoritative men “mansplaining” things to her.

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“look at his hands!” Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

Want to know more about the witches in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’? Read our article: All of Them Witches: A ‘Who’s Who?’ in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Read our Interview with cast member Ernest Harada who appears in the film’s climax: An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 Years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

The deal is made with the Devil of course, but Rosemary, ignoring warnings from a dear old friend, has already sold her soul (and good sense) by falling in love with the old apartment building’s gothic charm and by begging her ambitious actor husband Guy to get them out of “the other lease” in order to take the apartment in the looming Bramford (need we mention the infamous Dakota where the exterior shots were filmed?). After moving in she does her best to redecorate the rather solemn interior with white and yellows; but as Rosemary remakes the Bramford’s interior to suit her tastes, the Bramford remakes Rosemary’s interior to suit it’s own sinister plans. That’s because Rosemary’s metamorphosis is America’s metamorphosis. Innocence is lost. Once the post WWII “high” of the 1950’s and ’60’s faded, the public  grew numb after numerous political and social upheavals, celebrity deaths and the consumer complacency which ushered in the 1970’s. Off come the pig tails, gone is the girlish smile, and a pain – “like a wire inside of me getting tighter and tighter” as Rosemary laments – settles in our core.

We can argue that things are still changing drastically today, perhaps in even more ways than they were in ’67. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is now 50 years old and still walks among us like a smug iconoclast at a cocktail party – sneering and scoffing at our outmoded ideas regarding religion or morality – wearing a cheap Halloween Boogey-man mask as he laughs at our nervousness at letting go of our old fears and inhibitions. And yet we wonder after the final revelation at the end of the story: is it a happy ending or a terrifying one? The answer of course is “Both.” Rosemary’s baby is alive, safe, adored, worshipped; but that in itself spells certain doom to the world we know, or at least to the world we used to know “back then.”

– H.B. Gardner