Director: Sam O’Steen
Writer: Anthony Wilson
Producer: Anthony Wilson
Stars: Stephen McHattie, Patty Duke Astin, Broderick Crawford, Ruth Gordon, Lloyd Haynes, David Huffman, Tina Louise, George Maharis, Ray Milland, Donna Mills
Rosemary’s son grows into an adult under a new identity, but the coven he fled as a boy refuses to let him escape his heritage.
Successful commercially and critically as Ira Levin’s original novel and as Roman Polanski’s film adaptation, “Rosemary’s Baby” has the dubious dishonor of spawning a separate sequel in each medium that met with public indifference before being largely forgotten. Levin’s last published novel was 1997’s “Son of Rosemary.” Despite reaching bestseller status, the literary follow-up to Rosemary’s story encountered a lukewarm critical reception and irked audiences with its “it was all a dream” insinuation regarding the birth of the Antichrist.
Yet more than twenty years earlier, it was ABC who beat the story’s creator to the disappointing sequel punch with the 1976 made-for-television movie “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.” In a fate that would be echoed decades later by its printed page counterpart, the TV movie spawned high hopes before airing and rolled eyes afterwards.
However, living up to the high standard set by the original film was always going to be an impossible task with pared down star power and the neutered format of a broadcast slot in network primetime. Instead, reduce the contents of the film to a deliberately glib description and it is easy to see how viewing “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” through a haze of nostalgia for bygone cinematic sensibilities can make for a deliriously batty experience. Consider that the film includes Ruth Gordon reprising her Academy Award-winning role of sweetly satanic Minnie Castevet, Ray Milland offering Rosemary’s adult son a joint, random name drops of Paul Newman and Charlton Heston, a biker gang rumble, Stephen McHattie combining Marcel Marceau and The Crow for a demonic disco impersonation of Joel Grey in “Cabaret,” and Ginger from “Gilligan’s Island” as a devil-worshipping trailer park prostitute.
Presumably meant to echo The Bible for some reason, “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” is divided into three “Books.” The first chapter, “The Book of Rosemary,” is the film at its most interesting. It is also the only segment that features Patty Duke in the role that Mia Farrow made famous, save for brief flashback moments later on. This is where the movie shows that it truly does have an ability to crawl under the skin in a manner that can only be accomplished by depicting middle-aged men and elderly women chanting in black robes by candlelight on 1970’s film stock. These scenes carry the same effective creepiness as similar moments in “Devil’s Rain,” “Brotherhood of Satan,” and comparable films from the same era.
The chills dissipate in “The Book of Adrian” as the tempo slows down to focus on the life of Rosemary’s baby as an adult. Fortunately, the performance by Stephen McHattie as Rosemary’s grown son shows an early example of the actor’s impressive talents and fits as a perfect precursor to McHattie’s extensive career in genre roles.
Indeed, the entire cast is much better than the material they have on hand. Ray Milland picks up where Sidney Blackmer left off as Roman Castevet in a seamless transition. Unfortunately, the screenplay gives him little to do aside from providing exposition. George Maharis takes the reins from John Cassavettes as Rosemary’s husband, yet he too is relegated to a mostly singular purpose. Even Ruth Gordon is misused as Minnie. Her role does not have the same effect that it did in the original film since the audience is already privy to the revelation of her true allegiance. Her snarky old lady attitude comes off as more gratingly campy than endearingly charming this time around.
“The Book of Andrew” continues the more leisurely pace of the second act, although it does return the atmosphere to 1970’s television conventions of fugitives on the run to groovy tunes while finishing things off in a deliciously devilish climax. As a cinematic sequel darkened by the shadow of its highly respected predecessor, “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” is hardly fodder for college term papers on academic values of film as social commentary. This is a movie for horror fans that have an appreciation for 1970’s shamelessness and retro production stylings. “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby” is not a hidden gem, but it is an entertaining curiosity in an “I can’t believe they actually made this” kind of way.
Review Score: 65