I finally got around to seeing Rosemary’s Baby the other day.
It wasn’t the movie I’d hoped it would be. In all fairness, there’s no way it could have been. I’d been waiting 38 years to see it and it turns out that Sondra’s father had lied about the ending.
When I was a kid I went to the movies every great once in a while. Other kids went more often, so those of us who didn’t lived vicariously through them. We would listen slack jawed as our friends reenacted what James Bond was up to in Thunderball, or how Matt Helm had put the kibosh of Big O’s latest plan for world domination in The Silencers. Between what we saw on television commercials, heard from friends, or read in the MAD magazine parodies, we got the bulk of what we were missing.
There were two movies that I would have killed for to see in the theater when I was young: Rosemary’s Baby and Planet of the Apes.
The first ‘adult’ or grown up movie I saw in a movie theater was The Godfather. (I do have a fond memory of seeing a re-release of The Great Escape at the movies with my sister Nancy in the late 1960s, but even though it was a war movie and lots of people got shot up, it was pretty tame. The only nudity I recall was a shot of Charles Bronson’s butt when he’s hiding from the Nazis in the shower.)
My mom traded paperbacks back and forth with friends and relatives and I remember we had a copy of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather floating around for a while. There were a couple of choice dirty parts that I recall reading and rereading with great gusto, so when the opportunity to see the movie version presented itself I jumped at the chance.
The precise details of the circumstances for my getting to go see the movie have gotten fuzzy over the years, but it involved my friend John Sivak’s older sister and her boyfriend being forced to bring John along on a movie date, and somehow I got pulled in.
It was fantastic. I had never seen such unadulterated violence in all my twelve years on the planet. There was garroting, stabbing, guys getting shot in the face, Jimmy Cann getting plugged with more lead than a case of #2 pencils, and the pièce de résistance—full frontal nudity.
When Al Pacino’s young bride dropped her undies I was flabbergasted. I may have even been flummoxed. I tried to play it cool, like seeing nude women was an everyday occurrence, but it took me a while to get my sea legs after that.
This was of course years before the invention of Cinemax. Back when I was twelve the only nudity I’d been exposed to was in the pages of the odd issues of Playboy I’d come across, and in an arcane publication called The Policeman’s Gazette, which my neighborhood barber kept in his magazine rack. I’d never seen it living and breathing up on the big screen.
Two weeks later I dodged a major bullet. My parents, along with one or two of my sisters and myself were out shopping at a neighborhood mall and it was decided that we should see a movie. The two choices available were The Poseidon Adventure and The Godfather. My mom was really pushing for The Godfather. I nearly jumped out of my skin. Saying that I grew up in a repressed household would be the understatement of the 20th century. The very concept—or for that matter, the very thought of the concept of seeing a movie that featured nudity in the company of my parents—was unthinkable. I would have imploded in a cloud of embarrassment. The only trace of me that would remain would be my smoldering Buster Brown shoes. Thankfully the decision was made to see The Poseidon Adventure instead. My heart skipped a few beats when we saw Stella Stevens swimming around in her panties, but I managed to survive the experience.
With the advent of home video in the late 1970s I’ve had the chance to see a lot of the movies I missed while growing up, but I never got around to seeing Rosemary’s Baby until a recent showing on one of the movie channels. I was a bit shocked by the nudity. Mia Farrow is a bit too boyish for my tastes, but she wasn’t altogether hard on the eyes.
The moment I was waiting for was the ending. When I was a kid I was good friends with the girl who lived next door to us. Her name was Sondra and I used to like to hang out at her house at night because her dad watched Star Trek. Sondra’s parents had seen Rosemary’s Baby and had told her all about it. In the television commercials we never saw the baby, just the crib, so I asked her what the baby looked like. She told me that her dad said they only showed it for a second. The way she explained it, which sounded logical at the time, was that the people who’d made the movie showed the baby so fast that only the parents could see it. That way little kids wouldn’t see it by accident and get freaked out.
For years afterwards I would think and marvel over how hideous the baby must have been for the filmmakers to take such preventative measures. This thing must have been so evil looking kids would rip their eyes out or jump in front of an oncoming bus.
So guess what?
Guess what I’ve spent the last 38 years wasting my time wondering about?
Sondra, if you’re out there and you happen to be reading this, please email me your father’s telephone number. I’ve got something to say to him. I don’t care if he did introduce me to Star Trek. I still have a bone to pick.
The image up on top is from the U.S. release of the movie. Here’s the Polish release poster. Polish posters kick royal ass.