The Movie: 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)
The Scene: A struggling actor, Guy (John Cassavetes), and his doting wife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) move into the Bramford -- an ominous New York City apartment building with a mysterious past and strange, elderly residents. When Rosemary becomes pregnant (by nefarious means) things start to take a turn for the worse. She finds herself completely isolated from everything she once knew and her nosy neighbors, the Castevets, practically run her life. Rosemary's paranoia increases and her worst fears are brought to a diabolical climax after she gives birth and realizes the truth about her son and the Castevets' creepy circle of friends. Hint: it's all in the eyes.
Why It's Iconic: If you're wondering who helped initiate the wave of satanic panic horror that ruled the 70's, then look no further. 'Rosemary's Baby' inspired other creepy kid movies like 'The Exorcist' and 'The Omen' -- where big daddy Satan reigned supreme. Polanski's film expertly combined supernatural chills with the mundane reality of traditional married life in a disquieting way. There's a constant ebb and flow to the film, where urban anxiety butts against the slow and steady pace of the story (mirroring Rosemary's crumbling sanity) -- twitching with gender/sexual frustration.
The most gruesome details of Rosemary's disintegration are left to the imagination and reflected in the apartment building and sinister cast of characters that surround her. This trickles down to the very end of the movie (our scene) when Rosemary finally gets to meet her baby, who she was told had died during childbirth. By this point, she's a mere shadow of her former self -- gaunt, sunken and shorn -- looking more like a concentration camp victim than a new mother. Her face is animated with sheer terror, however, when she pulls the curtain back and finally sees the thing that was growing inside of her. That Polanski can keep us in suspense until the very end and get away with showing only Rosemary's reaction and not the baby is a testament to the film's power.
Imitators/Flatterers: 'Rosemary's Baby' has been parodied, referenced and copied dozens of times over. Musicians, TV shows, films, and more have paid homage to the iconic movie in various ways. I'm sure Polanski never imagined that television programs like 'The Office' or that action films like 'Children of Men' would find inspiration in his terrifying and sometimes darkly humorous story, but it seems clear that over 40 years later 'Rosemary's' legacy will never fade away.