My love for Rosemary’s Baby is a paradox I navigate deftly, considering how much I loathe both Mia Farrow and Roman Polanski as human beings. With Polanski, my complaints are predictable, but Farrow is a far less frequent object of scorn, so I’ll just say I find her support of Polanski hypocritical, her kid-collecting a tad excessive, and her acting often cloyingly twee. I’ve long suspected the canned ingenue thing is really just an extension of her own affected persona; the woman makes Godard’s female characters look like Sarah Conner. Still, I’d argue that Mia Farrow’s simpering sweetness and Roman Polanski’s predatory instincts are exactly what make Rosemary’s Baby work so well—who better to paint a nightmarish situation in which women are repeatedly victimized and never believed? The 1968 mini-documentary on the making of that masterpiece—Mia and Roman-pretty much confirms my instinctual distaste for both of them.
Polanski’s pretentious and macho, driving race cars and callously expounding on how Farrow was not his first choice for the lead—“I saw a more healthier, more stronger maybe a little more sexy girl in the beginning.” Farrow—just back from the infamous trip to India where she meditated with The Beatles—fawns breathily and paints her trailer with flower-power schmaltz. Even Polanski admits there is something contrived about her public face. Perhaps portending of her future child menagerie, Mia goes on about her extensive pet collection.
I think the worst part is the charts they both make—Mia for the crew, and Roman for Mia—that attempt to measure the “good behavior” of their subjects. I’m not sure exactly what made Mia Farrow think this was cute and not crazy diva bullshit (Obliviousness? Did she think her unintimidating haircut inoculated her from accusations of prima donna eccentricity?) and Polanski’s elaborate revision of her original design has the additional feel of a creepy paternalism. I cannot imagine working with two such insufferable people. I checked though—Rosemary’s Baby? Still an amazing movie.
There’s no denying that Rosemary’s Baby is one of the scariest and creepiest movies ever made. The first time I saw it, I was up “late” with my mother, who was waiting for my father to come home from a night shift, and it was on TV. I don’t know how old I was—young—but even if I didn’t exactly get what was going on, I certainly got the gist of it and that was enough for it to be, well, fucking frightening.
The whole friendly old people and Satan routine was a new one in screen horror and when you throw in those primordial maternal fears of a pregnant woman, holy shit is that film intense. Rosemary’s Baby is an evergreen movie masterpiece. It’s a film for the ages and will still be watched as long as the human race exists. It’s a perfectly cut cinematic diamond.
This fascinating time capsule piece “Mia and Roman” was made soon after the film had wrapped production—this isn’t a made for DVD extra produced decades later—and features tons of behind-the-scenes footage. Polanski discusses how supreme attention to the smallest details are of paramount importance to him as a director and describes how he likes to watch the actors block out their scenes without any suggestions from him before he decides where to place his camera.
We also see Polanski driving race cars and fencing. Farrow lists all of the animals she has in her menagerie and spouts some “love and peace” stuff that she’d learned hanging out at the ashram with the Maharishi and the Beatles. Farrow says that she and Polanski just “groove together” and he (very sincerely) praises he professionalism as an actress to the hilt.
Krzysztof Komeda’s haunting score for the film is used throughout. Komeda would die from a head injury not long after completing work on Rosemary’s Baby.
One of the most somber scenes you’ll ever see, the raw film footage from the NBC News archives of Sharon Tate’s funeral. John and Michelle Phillips, Warren Beatty, Yul Brynner, Doris Tate and a visibly distraught Roman Polanski—he looks like he can barely stand and who could blame him—are seen.
Sharon Tate was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, with her unborn son, Paul Richard Polanski, cradled in her arms, on Wednesday, August 13, 1969. I can hardly imagine anything sadder than such an occasion.
The news report as it ran on NBC News can be seen here.
Save for the Kennedy assassination, coincidence has perhaps never coagulated with the same deeply improbable intensity as it did around the Manson killings.
Stranger still is the manner in which coincidence seems to knit the Tate/LaBianca murders together with both Rosemary’s Baby (a great film) and “the White Album” (a great record), as if all three were somehow of a piece—and in a sense that goes beyond the former’s being directed by Polanski, or the latter’s inspiring Manson’s derided “Helter Skelter” scenario.
Take, as a mere appetizer, the possibility that the Beatles may have stayed (and dropped acid) at 10050 Cielo Drive in the mid-sixties, something (apparently unwittingly) implied by John Lennon during a 1974 Rolling Stone interview.
And then, well, we just decided to take LSD again in California…We were on tour, in one of those houses, like Doris Day’s house or wherever it was we used to stay. And the three of us took it. Ringo, George and I… And a couple of the Byrds… Crosby and the other guy, who used to be the leader… McGuinn. I think they came round, I’m not sure, on a few trips.
Terry Melcher, of course, was Doris Day’s son, the Byrds’ producer, Manson’s almost-producer, and Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski’s predecessor at 10050 Cielo Drive.
In normal circumstances, Mother Superior could very well be accused of having jumped the gun were we to therefore conclude that the Beatles probably had sat turning their minds inside-out within the very walls that would—a few years later—have their as-yet unwritten song-titles scrawled upon them in blood (as if the killers were tracing indentations made by psychic shrapnel). Circumstances, however, are anything but normal…
In the spring of 1968—a handful of years after those mooted sojourns at Cielo Drive—the Beatles made their pilgrimage to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Valley of the Saints in Rishikesh, part of a sparkling celebrity coterie that included Mia Farrow and Mike Love. For the next couple of months, the days were mostly spent in epic bouts of Transcendental Meditation, as the Maharishi attempted to guide the most famous men in the world—who he himself described as “angels”—towards “total consciousness.” The Beatles, though, would spend much of their spare time writing songs – particularly Lennon, who found they were veritably “pouring out.”
Many of these new tunes would find their way onto the Beatles’ next LP, “the White Album.” One such was Lennon’s “Dear Prudence,” which playfully chided Prudence Farrow, Mia Farrow’s sister, for excessive metaphysical studiousness.
Mia Farrow herself had only recently completed filming Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. Her exquisite performance as Rosemary—a resident of New York’s Dakota building, impregnated with an anti-Christ by a coven of neighboring witches—surely meant she arrived in the Valley of the Saints carrying some very interesting inner baggage. Certainly her stay would leave its mark on history—most chroniclers ascribing some rumored sexual impropriety (or worse) on the part of the Maharishi towards Farrow as being the principal reason for Lennon and Harrison’s (the last remaining Beatles) acrimonious departure that August.
Lennon later claimed that, while packing his bags, he came up with the rudiments of another tune destined for “the White Album,” “Sexy Sadie,” four syllables that supplanted the original—and extremely libelous—“Maharishi.” The same four syllables would also find themselves supplanting the name of Manson Family Tate/LaBianca murderess Susan Atkins—known in the Family as “Sadie Mae Glutz” prior to Manson’s fateful encounter with “the White Album.” Before falling in with Manson, Atkins was an associate of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. LaVey is said to have served as an unaccredited technical adviser on Rosemary’s Baby.
Incidentally, Lennon and Harrison’s jaded view of the Maharishi was such that, when their protracted flight from Rishikesh was impeded by a series of disruptions—they were abandoned in a broken-down taxi, and Harrison soon thought he was coming down with dysentery— our ruffled angels feared they had been cursed by their unceremoniously discharged guru. (Echoes, here, of Bobby Beausoleil’s attempted escape from Kenneth Anger, legendarily curtailed by Anger’s magickal locket.)
Around the very time the Beatles were arriving in Rishikesh, meanwhile, Mike Love’s cousin and fellow Beach Boy Dennis Wilson would reportedly pick up hitchhikers (and Manson Family members) Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey in Malibu.
Whether or not this actually happened (Charles Manson, for one, would later contradict this account, saying he first met Wilson at the house of a mutual friend’s) Wilson would definitely spend the following months as a sponsor and de facto member of the Family—footing the bill for their VD treatments (and much more besides), introducing Manson to industry figures like Neil Young and Terry Melcher, and so on.
Although Death Valley—in apparent contradistinction to the Valley of the Saints—sounded like an overtly hedonistic and nihilistic environment, Manson arguably presided over a commune no less spiritually preoccupied than the Maharishi’s, and Mike Love and Dennis Wilson seemed similarly as well as simultaneously attracted to their Ying/Yang gurus. But it appears positively miraculous that Wilson would be fraternizing with Manson while his cousin, on the other side of the world, would be fraternizing with the Beatles at the very time the songs were “pouring out” for “the White Album,” some of which would find themselves daubed on the walls at Cielo Drive in Sharon Tate’s blood, and two of which concerned Prudence and Mia Farrow, the latter having only just starred in a role once earmarked for Tate herself…
And that, as aficionados know only too well, ain’t even the half of it. (A little more to come from me on the topic though, shortly.)
Here’s a Halloween treat for Dangerous Minds readers: one of my all-time favorite Roman Polanski movies, The Fearless Vampire Killers.
Polanski directed and stars in this delightfully warped horror/comedy which features his stunningly beautiful wife Sharon Tate and the very funny Jack MacGowran. When it was released in the USA in 1967 (in a version butchered by MGM Studios),The Fearless Vampire Killers was ignored by audiences and trashed by film critics. But over the years, the film has developed a cult following and has been subject to critical revision that has shifted in Polanski’s favor. FVK may not be in the same league as Polanski’s masterpieces, but it is highly entertaining and beautifully crafted.
Anyone who is a fan of the lushly produced and oftentimes sexy vampire movies that came out of Hammer Studios in the Sixties will appreciate Polanski’s highly-stylized Technicolor take on Transylvania with its elegantly decadent vampires flitting through gorgeously gothic boudoirs and ballrooms.
The Fearless Vampire Killers presented in its uncut European version:
Roman Polanski’s new film, Carnage, looks like a juicy combination of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf, Knife In Water and Repulsion.
Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly appear to be bringing some very edgy performances to the project. Roman is a great director of actors and he has a knack for bringing out their dark side. Love the Winslet freak out in the clip.
Carnage, based on a play by Yasmina Reza, opens the 2011 New York Film Festival which runs from September 30 until October 16. It opens in select theaters in December in order to qualify for Oscar nominations. I predict it will receive noms in the acting categories, screenplay and director. I’ll put money on it.
Alfred Hitchcock made a habit of appearing in his own films, it became such a distraction that the great director ensured his trade-mark profile appeared soon after the opening titles, so audiences could concentrate on the intricacies of the plot rather than play Where’s Alfie?.
Over the years, other directors have adopted the Hitchcockian cameo (M Night Shyamalan being the most irritating), or turned it into a memorable scene - Martin Scorsese’s creepy cameo as a cuckolded husband in Taxi Driver is a small film all of its own. There have also been the directors who give cameos to the film-makers who influenced or inspired their careers - Jean-Luc Goddard’s homage to the genius Sam Fuller in Pierre le Fou, where the legendary director of The Steel Helmet, Underworld USA, The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor expounds on cinema:
“Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. Death. In one word . . . emotion.”
Here is just a small selection of some notable cameos by directors in their own and in other director’s films.
Legendary director Sam Fuller appears in this party scene from Jean-Luc Goddard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou’ (1965)
More directors in front of the camera, after the jump…
Backporch Tapes have just uploaded these two incredible recordings purported to be of Roman Polanski’s lie detector interview with the LAPD August 16 1969, just one week after the murder of his wife, after Sharon Tate.
The overall sound quality is poor, and Polanski sounds confused and upset, but certain questions and answers can be heard clearly - Polanski’s psychological state, his medication, his knowledge of the Polish army, and on the second clip, Polanski’s thoughts about the killer’s motives, and his suggestion of looking for something much more “far out.”
Lie Detector Test: LAPD interview Roman Polanski August 16 1969
Lie Detector Test: LAPD interview Roman Polanski August 16 1969, in which he discusses possible motive.
Françoise Dorleac made her first film when she just 15. “A photographer asked if I would model for some fashion pictures and I said fine. A producer saw my pictures in the press and hired me for a small role for a film during the school holidays.” Acting was in her blood. Her father, Maurice Dorleac, was a veteran character actor of stage and screen; her mother, Renee Simonot, was an actress who revoiced Hollywood films, including Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz; her younger sister is Catherine Deneuve.
Françoise was as beautiful, as talented, and as big an international star as her younger sister. However, Françoise wasn’t as ambitious or as wild as Catherine.
“I see myself as a girl who is always dreaming of romance, and the man she wants to marry, a girl who dances when she is happy.”
Françoise made sixteen films during her short career, including Roman Polanski’s classic film Cul de Sac, in which she brilliantly captured the self-obsessed Teresa against the weak and dominated, Donald Pleasance, as George. Françoise gave substance to Francois Truffaut’s tale of adultery La Peau Douce (aka The Soft Skin), and was almost a match for Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer in Ken Russell’s greatly under-rated The Billion Dollar Brain .
On 26 June 1967, Françoise died in an horrific accident when she lost control of her rented car on the Esterel-Côte d’Azur freeway. She was traveling to Nice airport to fly to London, where she was to finish filming on The Billion Dollar Brain . The car flipped over and burst into flames. Witnesses saw the actress struggle to escape the vehicle, but she was unable to open the door. Police identified Dorleac from a stub of her check book, her diary and her driving license.
Her early death at the age 25, has often over-shadowed the quality of her work - both as actress and singer - and it robbed cinema of “a tried and true talent and incomparably beautiful mademoiselle who showed every sign of taking Hollywood by storm.”
Here is something to remember her by: the beautiful and wonderful Françoise singing, Mario J’ai Mal. Plus a bonus clip of Françoise with her sister Catherine Deneuve in the candy-colored musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (aka The Young Girls of Rochefort), in which they co-starred with Gene Kelly.
Bonus clip of Françoise Dorleac and Catherine Deneuve, after the jump…
I’m shocked—I shouldn’t be, but I am—shocked at all the Hollywood celebs who are standing up for Roman Polanski. I think Polanski is a truly great film artist, a genius, I really do and I have sympathy for a man who went through what he went through with the Manson murders, but this does not excuse what he did. Towering cinematic great, yes, but he’s also a man who drugged and anally raped a 13-year old child! Time doesn’t really erase a crime like that—or shouldn’t.
I thought it was poor taste when everyone suddenly had amnesia about Michael Jackson, too. Musical genius, sure, but it was the first time I ever found myself 100% in agreement with Bill O’Reilly, I just could not stomach the sight of people lauding this kiddly fiddler like he was fucking Gandhi!!! It stank to high heaven and so does this Polanski episode. Once again, I find myself in agreement with O’Reilly and even with his guest, the utterly insufferable, Dennis Miller. I don’t like it any more than you do, but they ARE right:
[An old friend of mine, Michael Kurcfeld, introduced Polanski and Miller in Paris. Miller refers to this in the clip.]
Not long after I watched the above segment, I then read an article on the Daily Beast titled Polanski’s Victim And Me by the celebrated novelist Robert Goolrick. It’s a horrifying, eyes wide-open confessional so skillfully written it breaks your heart. Trust me, you won’t be on the fence about Roman Polanski’s fate after you read it. Bravo to Goolrick for the essay. I think it will set a lot of people straight on this one.
After getting nabbed in Switzerland over the weekend, film director Roman Polanski is now “wanted and desired” back in the States. Judging, though, by the picture above, extraditing Polanski won’t be easy. As the Huffington Post corroborates, he still looks “very determined to defend himself!”
Yes, Woodstock, but last week also saw the 40th anniversary of LA’s darkest campfire tale. You probably know the story by now (and if you don’t, you can read about it here, or here), but the shorthand goes like this…
On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles Manson disciples Susan Atkins, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian stormed the rented home of Roman Polanski on 10050 Cielo Drive. Once behind its gates, they brutally and systematically took the lives of 5 people—including the life of Polanski’s eight-and-a-half months pregnant girlfriend, actress Sharon Tate. Tate was the last to die, knived by Watson while she was pinned down by Atkins, who then took some of Tate’s blood and used it to scrawl “PIG” on the porch wall. Manson had ordered her to leave behind a sign, “something witchy.”
The tragic events of that night, spilled into the following night and continued to ripple out through the decade(s) to come. Even today, the events of August ‘69 provided Pynchon with the darkly seismic backdrop to his new novel, Inherent Vice. The fallout was felt everywhere—even I had nightmares. Not about the events themselves (I was too young to remember those), but about Manson someday going free, and moving down the block.
After losing his wife and unborn child, Polanski was understandably devastated, and his life, eight years later, would go on to take another troubled turn. And Sharon Tate’s legacy? Beyond a still-loyal fanbase, all she left behind is a smattering of films and the promise of what might have been. And that promise, in my eyes, is at its most tangible in Tate’s American debut, Don’t Make Waves.
What’s it all about? Not much beyond The Byrds’ winning title track and Tony Curtis’ “Carlo Cofield” moving to Malibu and mixing it up with the town’s free-lovin’ oddballs. It was directed by Brit Alexander Mackendrick, a decade past his Sweet Smell of Success, and features one of my all-time favorite character actors, the criminally underappreciated Robert Webber. Curtis and Webber aside, though, it’s Tate who steals the show as the always-bikinied skydiver, “Malibu.” In fact, Tate made such a strong impression, she served as the inspiration for Mattel’s “Malibu Barbie.”
A physical copy of Waves is hard to come by. But you can still catch it for yourself, in its 10-part entirety, on YouTube. Part 1 starts right here. The trailer follows below.