Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1968. William Castle Productions. Screenplay by Roman Polanski, based on the novel by Ira Levin. Cinematography by William A. Fraker. Produced by William Castle. Music by Krzysztof Komeda. Production Design by Richard Sylbert. Costume Design by Anthea Sylbert. Film Editing by Sam O’Steen, Bob Wyman. Podcast: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1968. Golden Globe Awards 1968.
The horror classic to end all horror classics! Mia Farrow ignited a successful film career with her star turn in this fantastic adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel, which also served as Roman Polanski’s major Hollywood debut. Farrow plays a housewife to a moderately successful actor (John Cassavetes, whose character’s three commercials and two stage plays finance a mammoth Manhattan flat, which comprises the fantasy element of the story), who makes friends with new neighbours soon after moving into her new apartment. After falling asleep in a drunken stupor with her husband, she has bad dreams about having sex with the devil and wakes up to find herself pregnant. Overjoyed at the news, she begins to worry when she starts to suspect that her nosy neighbours (Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer) are actually Satanists who want her child for rituals. Is it pre-pardum madness, or is she actually right about her suspicions? Polanski’s airtight direction brings out the marvelously claustrophobic atmosphere in Levin’s novel, twisting the screws tight until the climactic finale when it seems impossible to find room enough to breathe. Farrow is terrific, and she gets unbeatable support from the entire cast. Definitely one of the greatest highlights of late-sixties filmmaking, and manages amid all of its horrors to catch the most beautiful glimpses of Manhattan until Woody Allen came along.