Making a sequel to a beloved horror film is a daunting proposition. Making one with practically none of the creative elements in place is a dangerous one. Using the medium of television to tell it has more than a hint of insanity to it. Yet here we are, or rather were, for ABC’s Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976), an ultimately slight yet entertaining turn with everyone’s favourite Antichrist. (Damien notwithstanding, of course.)
Originally broadcast as the ABC Friday Night Movie on October 29th, Look was up against The CBS Friday Night Movies and The Rockford Files/Quincy, M.E. over on NBC. But everyone wanted to see what was up with the Woodhouse kid, and ABC always won when it came to thrills cheap and/or earned. (And Look has a little bit of both.)
Let’s open our blessed Satanic faux TV GUIDE to page 66 to see what awaits:
LOOK WHAT’S HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY’S BABY (Friday, 9pm, ABC)
You can steal the boy away from the Devil, but you can’t rid the Devil from the boy. Or can you? Patty Duke, Stephen McHattie star.
Our teleplay opens with a voice re-enactment of the final scene from Rosemary’s Baby (1968), as Rosemary learns to accept the son who has “his father’s eyes”. It is a re-enactment, as the voices are now provided by Patty Duke (The Babysitter), Ray Milland (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) filling in as Roman Castevet, and Ruth Gordon reprising her Academy Award winning turn as Minnie Castevet. Fast forward eight years, and Rosemary decides it’s time to get Adrian, whom she calls Andrew, away from the Castevets and her extended “family”. (Guy, now played by George Maharis, is long gone and living the movie star life in L.A.) She absconds with Adrian but it isn’t long before the cult catches up with her and takes him back.
Cut to twenty years later, and Adrian (now played by McHattie – Pontypool) is a carefree, wanna be rocker who lives with his “aunt” (Tina Louise – Gilligan’s Island) in a mansion that’s been converted into a cheap casino, and is in constant companion with his best friend, Peter Simon. (Subtle, this thing ain’t.) Anyhoo, Adrian’s birthday is approaching and Roman and Minnie are flying out for a very special birthday party in which Adrian’s fate is to be decided – will he bow to his dark father, or will he choose the light?
Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (the title sounds like it was ripped from the headlines of The National Enquirer) isn’t particularly great compared to its precursor, but is fascinating in several ways, some even intentional.
First off, the telefilm is divided into three chapters: The Book of Rosemary, The Book of Adrian, and The Book of Andrew. A fantastic idea, unique, and gives the film a distinct three act structure. Unfortunately, Adrian’s section somehow sags; this shouldn’t be, what with the sex, drugs, and no name rock and roll on display. But sag it does, until Adrian is adorned with makeup left over from Godspell and entices the casino kids with a serpentine dance. Okay, this segment only drags in the first half of its thirty minutes, so ignore my demented rantings. Just hang through the lag and you’ll be fine.
Look could never hope to come close to replicating the original’s sly charm or insidious malevolence, nor does it really try to; instead it settles for black robed Satanists and glowing eyes standard for the Lucifer-happy era. Which certainly works for me; I’m a sucker for demonic chanting, histrionic Patty Duke, and Ruth Gordon anything. And it’s important to remember that the filmmakers, director Sam O’Steen (editor of the original film, as well as Carnal Knowledge and Chinatown among many others) and scriptwriter Anthony Wilson (a long time TV vet who developed the Planet of the Apes series), opt to take the idea in a way they see fit; author Ira Levin was still decades away from penning his own follow up, Son of Rosemary, and the two projects couldn’t be more different. (Other than the Adrian/Andrew namesake, which stays the same.) So while they could have merely rehashed a lot of the same beats as the original – the paranoia, the urban angst – they choose to further the story instead. Perhaps not in the most compelling way (two hours including commercials doesn’t buy a lot of breathing room), but one that most definitely veers left from the ’68 model.
And this is why I dig it. Compare it the O.G. and you will lose; see it as an entertaining coming-of-Satan tale and you may be pleasantly surprised, with one or two chills along the way. And check out that cast! Duke, Milland (who becomes the Dark Prince of Exposition here), Gordon, Louise, Broderick Crawford, and of course Donna Mills as a third act nurse realize where they are and perform accordingly. And as our troubled soul Adrian, McHattie is lively, conflicted, and far from the grizzled skeleton we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s to all their credit that this comes off a lot less ridiculous than it has any right to be.
Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby is merely a footnote, forever in the shadow of the New York nightmare that shot Mia Farrow to stardom. But remove it from that framework (I beg of you) and you’re likely to fall for the tale of the aspiring rocker with the deadbeat dad who’s come back to reconnect. I know I did.Next: It Came From The Tube: THE DEAD DON’T DIE (1975)