Roman Polanski took the traditional gothic horror story and moved it to New York in the 20th century (where it finds a home with surprising ease) in this superb adaptation of Ira Levin's best-selling novel. While trading in the frankly unbelievable throughout, Polanski always keeps one foot firmly in reality while the other gingerly dips its toe into the pool where things aren't quite right. Rosemary Woodhouse (played with perfect small-town reserve by Mia Farrow) is nearly the only recognizably "normal" character in the film (much more so than her self-absorbed actor husband, Guy, played with just the right touch of slime by John Cassavetes), and nearly everyone around her seems a tiny bit odd, especially her neighbors Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon), an eccentric older couple whose interest in Rosemary and her expectant child seems strange without being obviously evil. Ultimately, Polanski's greatest strength in this film is his subtlety; his pacing and sense of mood are masterful without calling attention to themselves, letting the horror of the premise sink its claws in so slowly and quietly that you don't notice how far deep they've gone until it's too late. It wasn't until The Exorcist that a horror film connected with audiences quite as strongly as Rosemary's Baby, and while The Exorcist threw a variety of wild and brutal shock tactics at its audience, Rosemary's Baby lured its victims in with such tender loving care that the horrible logic of its conclusion was all the more effective; it may well be the best and smartest horror movie of the 1960s.
by Mark Deming review