The American Society of Cinematographers

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Zero Dark Thirty
Presidents Desk
Dean Semler, ASC, ACS
ASC Close-Up
DVD Playback
Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Blu-ray Edition 1.85:1 (High Definition 1080p) Digital Monaural LPCM 1.0 The Criterion Collection, $39.98




“This apartment house has a high incidence of unpleasant happenings,” warns a friend as young marrieds Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) move into The Bramford. This looming, baroque building on Manhattan's upper west side is rumored to have an unsavory history including hints of witchcraft, cannibalism and murder. The couple is quick to dismiss the gossip and instead instantly charmed by vacant apartment 7E's cavernous space and rehab possibilities in spite of the unusual gloom of its long shuttered rooms.

Guy, a struggling actor, auditions while Rosemary spends their savings transforming the dark space into their dream apartment. Soon the Woodhouse's meet their eccentric, elderly next door neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) who seem eager to help with anything. They introduce the Woodhouses to many of The Bramford's other elderly, long term tenants.

The pleasantries of the new nest wear off abruptly when Guy gets his big break - a lucrative lead role because the actor he lost the role to has, inexplicably, gone blind. As a result, guilt-ridden Guy has not been himself worrying Rosemary who has begun to have unusual dreams and nightmares. She's relieved when Guy admits he's been ignoring her because of his guilt about getting the role and delighted when he insists they start a family.

When Rosemary gets pregnant, the thrilled Castevets insist she become the patient of a well known “celebrity” obstetrician, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) who is their close friend. Rather than be happy as her pregnancy develops, Rosemary is worried. She's got sharp abdominal pains, unusual cravings and is loosing a dramatic amount of weight. It seems that none of Dr. Sapirstein's attention or the “fresh herbal drink” he's asked Minnie to prepare for Rosemary instead of daily vitamins seem to be helping. A veil of paranoia eventually grips the young mother to be who feels isolated and eventually terrified as warning signs begin to appear that all is not what it seems. As her due date approaches it's very clear something is terribly wrong with Rosemary's baby.

The film rights to Ira Levin's best-selling, suspense novel, Rosemary's Baby were quickly purchased by venerable schlock director, William Castle, known for his gimmicky horror fare. When Paramount Studios' maverick production head, Robert Evan's managed to talk Castle out of directing the picture and allowing European “art house” newcomer Roman Polanski to direct instead, he paved the way for one of the most successful pictures of 1968 and also one of the titles that heralded what is now referred to as the “American New Wave” cinematic era. With Castle producing, Polanski, eager to make his first film in the U.S, quickly put together the film's legendary production team including Director of Photography, William Fraker, ASC, BSC (Bullitt). Going for an ultra contemporary, urbane visual quality that moves in reverse of most horror films, with images getting lighter as the film progresses rather than darker, Fraker worked closely with Polanski to give Rosemary's Baby its colorful but slightly sinister visuals. On the film's blu ray debut, Polanski remarks on Fraker's work and his creative contributions. “Bill was such a wonderful person to have around,” notes Polanski on the disc. Indeed, Fraker's memorable visuals and popularity with collaborators helped earn him the ASC's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

The Criterion Collection has debuted Rosemary's Baby on blu-ray with precision. Fraker's work has been carefully replicated with Polanski overseeing the transfer that is excellent and sure to please the film's legion of fans. Colors pop with density and zero chroma noise while shadows have solid black levels. Details from surface dust on the apartment's floors to textures on costumes and sets are vividly clear and reveal an amazing new sharpness not evident on the previously released, standard def DVD version. The image, scanned at 4K digital resolution from the original 35mm negative elements is truly impressive. The monaural audio track is clean and effective with no audible traces of its age.

Included with the film is a 70 minute documentary from Polish Television about the film's composer and frequent Polanski collaborator Krzysztof Komeda, the 47 minute Remembering Rosemary's Baby which offers new interviews with Polanski, Evans and Farrow and a 20 minute audio interview with novelist Levin from 1997. Levin's afterword to the 2003 edition of the novel is reprinted alongside a new essay by Ed Park in a supplemental booklet. These informative supplements shed immense light on the production of one of American Cinema's most accomplished, clever and trendsetting genre outings. Polanski's moody, tense and wry horror film continues to cast its spell with this new blu ray where fans and first timers will nervously witness the unforgettable delivery of Rosemary's Baby.


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