ByKen Anderson, writer at
Ken Anderson

Now that the green haze of tannis root has lifted, and the public’s memory of NBC’s four-hour Miniseries Event “reimagining” of Rosemary’s Baby (May 11th and 15th, 2014) is as murky and nebulous as Rosemary’s own chocolate mousse-induced dream; the votes are all in (not very good), the results have been tallied (a ratings bomb, Rosemary en France proved to be no Maria von Trapp), and the line for the I-told-you-so’s starts to the right.

The idea of adapting Ira Levin’s 1967 novel, Rosemary’s Baby and its much-reviled 1997 sequel, Son of Rosemary into a TV-miniseries has been bouncing around Hollywood for years. In 2005, ABC Television acquired the rights and announced a Rosemary’s Baby miniseries for its Fall 2006 schedule. When that project failed to materialize, the network made a similar announcement (to similar result) in 2008. In each instance, I breathed a sigh of relief and optimistically attributed the failure of each project to an 11th-hour attack of common sense on the part of the producers, or, at the very least, a dawning awareness of the fool’s journey involved in remaking a film widely believed to be a modern classic, and regarded by many as one of Hollywood’s few faithfully-adapted, near-perfect films.

Thus, in having already been down this road several times before, when I learned that NBC had actually made good on this lingering threat…I mean, promise…to turn Rosemary’s Baby into a four-hour telefilm, my natural curiosity trumped my innate cynicism. I knew I was going to watch the TV remake, even if only to satisfy my curiosity over what degree of hubris could possibly inspire the kind of delusional, presumptuous, thick-headed arrogance necessary for one to think they should try their hand at Levin’s modern gothic masterpiece, when, in 1968, a young, pre-felony Roman Polanski fairly batted that particular Satanic ball well out of the park.And that was just my curiosity side.

My cynical side suggested to me that the producers, in lieu of trying to arrive at a reasonably fresh approach to justify the need to retell a story already quite expertly told (one more compelling than it simply being “newer” –a lazy pandering to those factions devoted to never watching any film older than their cellphones), merely went in search of a marketing hook. Since the FX Network’s anthology series, American Horror Story: Coven has made witches relevant again, and the success of NBC’s own blood-soaked Hannibal has shown there to be a viable market for network-suitable horror; Rosemary’s Baby: the redux had at last surmounted its most significant production obstacle: the ascertaining of a distinct ratings demographic to which to pitch its advertising.

The cast of Rosemary's Baby
The cast of Rosemary's Baby

Well, after much ballyhoo and yo-yoing anticipation on my part, Rosemary’s Baby: The Miniseries Event finally premiered. Two evenings, four hours, and countless commercials later, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised it wasn't the unmitigated disaster it could have been (à la, the dreadful remakes of Carrie and Sparkle), but annoyed that the filmmakers hadn't been able to seize upon anything pertinent enough to the times we live in to either justify a remake, or discourage comparisons to Roman Polanski’s incontestably masterful 1968 original. (Two excellent examples of “remakes” successfully distinguishing themselves from their originals are Kate Winslet’s HBO miniseries adaptation of Mildred Pierce [2011], and Martin Scorsese brilliantly intense revisit to Cape Fear [1991].)

The original Rosemary’s Baby is more than just an ingeniously realized thriller; it’s a deceptively subtle commentary on the enduring nature of evil, the vulnerability of innocence, and the uncertain relevance of religion in the modern world. It's a film that concludes on a note of moral and psychological ambiguity, leaving you contemplating issues extending far beyond the parameters of Levin's story. By way of contrast, NBC’s version, with roughly 30 more minutes at its disposal, was so plot-driven and devoid of subtext, I found myself not even thinking about the broader “Is God Dead?” ramifications of what it means for the living son of Satan to be born into the world today (neither does the film), merely wondering about plot points that led nowhere (the whole Roman Castevet/Steven Marcato, eternal youth thing) and scratching my head over how a longer version of Rosemary's Baby managed to have less character development. The miniseries left me with nothing, not even a chalky undertaste.

Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary's Baby

Read the rest of the article at Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For


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