- Year: 1976
- Director: Sam O’Steen
- Starring: Stephen McHattie, Ray Milland, Ruth Gordon
In 1968, Roman Polanski directed one of the greatest (if not the greatest) horror films of all time. Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t rely on cheap scares, but rather uses deep psychological torment and paranoia to make comments on social issues. Featuring fantastic performances by Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, deeply unsettling music and imagery, and a terrifying whopper of an ending, why would anyone think they should follow it up?
In the film’s famous climax, Rosemary looks at her baby and is told it has Satan’s feet and eyes, and while she is obviously terrified, we never see its face. Producer William Castle, famous for his fun schlocky b-horror, wanted to show a terrifying image, but Polanski vetoed this. He knew that the audience’s imagination could make up something much more terrifying than any special effect. If you make a sequel focusing on her son, you have to show him.
So what’s he look like in his first scene?
Oh great, just a normal kid. Maybe you could make the thin argument that Rosemary raising him has made him more “normal,” but it’s also clear that the cult still has an influence in his life. His eyes glow in one scene, and that’s even stupider than what you’re seeing here, but they could have at least gone all out with something.
Again, why would you make a sequel? It had been eight years since the original, and Ira Levin wouldn’t write a sequel himself until 1997 (and we do not talk about that one). It’s not like Roman Polanski had a new story to tell or Mia Farrow was dying to reprise her role. Well, you have to look at the air date of this television film—October 29, 1976. Just a few months earlier in July, The Omen was released. Staring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, The Omen told the story of the Antichrist as young child named Damien Thorn. It was a smash hit, winning an Oscar for Best Original Score (in a fantastic movie year), and is considered a classic today. In a way, The Omen is a sort of spiritual successor to Rosemary’s Baby, so someone decided to quickly rush out a TV sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, regardless of what kind of integrity it went against.
Look What’s Happened is divided into three half-hour parts or “books,” making it kind of hard to sympathize or care about the new characters popping up. We start with “The Book of Rosemary,” picking up eight years after the first one left off. Rosemary is now played by Patty Duke, who auditioned for the role in the original film, and she does fine with what she’s given. Rosemary apparently still lives right next to the cult with her son Andrew (The cult insists on calling him Adrian after Roman Castevet’s father, so there’s a bit of a struggle).
For some reason, Rosemary decides that right now is the time to run away with Andrew. As to why she hasn’t done this before, we’re not given a reason. Anyway, the cult (who dress more modestly now because TV movie) try to locate her by placing her personal items on a board of mysticism (from Hasbro). The cult only locates her and Andrew by using his personal items, but at this point, the two have sought sanctuary in a synagogue.
The next day, Guy Woodhouse (now played by George Maharis) gets a call from Roman Castevet (now played by Ray Milland). Guy is of course now a huge movie star, and although he’s still legally married to Rosemary, they live on different coasts. Even though the end of the first one made it seem like she would never speak to him again (and rightfully so), they’re still married? This completely goes against her character. Why couldn’t they have given her some agency and made her be divorced instead? The plot wouldn’t play out all that differently.
Ray Milland replaces Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet, and I’m really split on this casting. Milland is obviously a great actor (Dial M for Murder, The Lost Weekend), and he looks and sounds a good bit like Blackmer from the first. That said, there’s just something off. He’s playing it just a tad too over-the-top or cocky perhaps, but it’s hard to pin down. The writing doesn’t help either, as the original Roman didn’t show off his power, while this one kind of throws it around a bit. It makes him seem a bit less intelligent. Sure, this sounds like a minor thing, but it occurred to me every time he was on screen, so maybe it isn’t.
Rosemary has escaped on a bus, and Roman believes she will call Guy for help soon. Roman tells Guy he must do whatever she asks, which turns out to be sending $5,000 to 12 different cites, so no one is sure where she ends up. However, before Rosemary gets too far, Andrew/Adrian gets into a fight with some kids. Rosemary and Andrew quickly leave the scene, but a prostitute named Marjean (Tina Louise) claims that she saw the kids die. She promises to protect Rosemary and her son, and watches as Rosemary gets on a bus.
However, before Andrew/Adrian/Ambrose can get on the bus, the doors close and Rosemary is trapped. She starts hearing the cult chanting throughout, although there is no one on the bus and…NO DRIVER?
OK, it’s not surprising at all that this evil bus has no driver. It just feels so out of place in a Rosemary’s Baby sequel. Let’s see how the characters died in the first Rosemary’s Baby:
- Terry Gionoffrio: Corpse discovered after falling out of window. May have been suicide after discovering the cult’s plans, may have been murder.
- Hutch: Dies from a coma brought about (presumably) by the cult putting a curse on him.
Now let’s see how some of the characters die in The Omen:
- Damien’s Nanny: Hangs herself in front of a party crowd
- Father Brennan: After running from a storm, gets impaled by a lightning rod.
- Katherine Thorn: Pushed out of a top-floor hospital window, crashing through an ambulance.
- Keith Jennings: Decapitated by a sheet of glass that falls off the back of a truck.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love both films. They both rank among my all-time favorite horror movies, as The Omen also has plenty of tense, subtly creepy moments. All I’m saying is which of these does a driver-less bus to hell bring to mind?
“The Book of Adrian” takes place twenty-ish years later in presumably the ’90s (that happen to resemble the ’70s quite a bit). Adrian (Stephen McHattie) is an adult who lives a pretty hedonistic lifestyle. He still lives at home with Marjean who now runs a casino and told him his parents died in a car accident, and Marjean and Adrian are awaiting his birthday where his Uncle Roman and Aunt Minnie will come visit.
In the opening scene of this portion, Adrian (now having dropped Andrew and any other names) is pulled over for speeding with his friend Peter Simon.
PETER SIMON! Sorry, I need a moment.
What, did they cut the scenes where he is flown around by his pilot friend Pontius or goes on a date with Judy S. Cariot?
Anyway, Antichrist McAntichristyburg and his friend Peter Simon go to the bar where Adrian orders a Bloody Mary.
Minnie and Roman are planning to hold a ritual on Adrian’s birthday on which Satan will enter him and usher in his new era. However, they worry that Adrian hasn’t done enough evil to be ready. At one point, he gets in a fight with some bikers to show he’s becoming more evil, I guess.
Minnie and Roman knock Adrian out with a laced drink and prepare him for the ritual with what seems to be mime makeup.
Guy is also there for some reason. Apparently Minnie and Roman want Adrian to learn who his real step-father was. It’s confusing.
At first, it seems like the ritual fails and Roman and Minnie encourage Guy to kill Adrian to harvest his organs or something… it’s really confusing now. However, Adrian soon rises up, apparently possessed by Satan. So how does he spread the Devil to the world? By dancing to rock music. Seriously.
Who wrote this thing? JIMMY SWAGGART?
Guy gets stopped by Peter Simon on the way out, and they get into a fight. Peter cuts off his ear… OK no I’m kidding, but I was honestly expecting it at this point. In another death out of The Omen, Guy kills Peter with a power cord.
In “The Book of Andrew,” Adrian/Andrew/Whatever his name is now wakes up in a hospital, apparently believed to have killed his friend Peter Simon. In this scene we find out that he has been living under the name Adrian Dorn.
He’s apparently completely unpossessed now, and he falls for a nurse (Donna Mills) who helps him escape. Meanwhile, Guy worries that Andrew might want to kill him, and when he asks Minnie and Roman for help, they turn their backs on him and leave Hollywood. Apparently, Minnie wanted to meet Charlton Heston first, which is kind of bizarre knowing his own religious beliefs. Maybe she wanted to tell him that even Satan thought he was laying the NRA stuff on too thick.
The nurse gives Andrew a drink that knocks him out, because apparently he’s still trusting on this kind of thing. She too is a member of the cult, and she rapes him so she can create the new Antichrist. Roman and Minnie are really making this up as they go along, aren’t they? Even though every detail in the first was meticulously planned, they’re now like “Oh yeah that didn’t work. Moving on…” What, are they in league with Winterbolt now instead of Satan?
I wish they were, because it would at least make this movie interesting. Guy gets drunk and chases down Andrew, but instead hits Ellen, causing Andrew to run off and leave the movie.
In the final scene, Roman and Minnie see that Ellen is giving birth to the new Antichrist, and Roman calls it a “resurrection,” putting us exactly back where we were, just with uninteresting characters and undoing everything that made the first great. Also, that’s not what a resurrection is, but that’s beside the point.
I really don’t understand why this movie is the way it is, barring the total cash-in on The Omen. Why does the cult suddenly have people of all ages and races? If the cult had young women, they wouldn’t have had problems finding a young woman to impregnate in the first! It was much creepier when it was a bunch of old people in an old apartment building (even if they were connected to a greater network).
It’s never as painfully boring as High Noon II, but it angers me way more. If you wanted to make an interesting sequel, you should never have shown the Antichrist at all, but rather Minnie and Roman trying to set things in place for his rise. You got Ruth Gordon back, and Ray Milland is in the movie. Make them worth it! Stephen McHattie is not good, and his character should have been left in the shadows anyway.
What’s with the exploitative title? Were they planning on calling it O-man, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby? Why do characters age 20 years but look the exact same? How are Minnie and Roman still alive 20 years later? Why do they still think Guy needs to be a part of the happenings when he was just Adrian/Andrew’s step-father? Why do they refer to the year Adrian gets possessed as the Year One, when they called the year he was born (1966, because 66) that in the original? There is not one scary or tense moment, which is great for a follow-up to one of the scariest and tensest films ever made. Worst of all, it’s divided into three separate chapters, so even if something remotely interesting is about to happen, it ends and suddenly we’re on to the next one.
Story (6/30 Points)
The middle portion almost has a few interesting moments, but getting possessed by rock music ruins it.
Returning Characters (4/15 Points)
Ruth Gordon returns as Minnie, but she doesn’t add that much. I want to like Ray Milland as Roman, but there’s just something off, and the characterization of Guy Woodhouse is a bit weird. Patty Duke is perfectly fine as Rosemary in the opening third, but Stephen McHattie is just dull.
New Characters (3/15 Points)
OK, moving on. There is not one memorable new character here. Broderick Crawford cameos. Why? I don’t know. He does for some reason. No one ruins it, I guess, because there’s so little to ruin.
Experience (4/20 Points)
It’s not scary. There are a few moments that border on atmospheric, perhaps because director Sam O’Steen was the editor of the original and other great films like Chinatown, but since it’s a TV movie, he’s really limited here.
Originality (5/20 Points)
Well it’s not Rosemary’s Baby again—it’s just The Omen instead. There’s even a moment where they use a knock-off version of Jerry Goldsmith’s score from the original.
FINAL SCORE: 22%
It’s two points better than High Noon II, because I wasn’t bored for every minute of the thing. The middle act could have been interesting if it was actually allowed to be scary, and it would have been interesting to see where Rosemary is a few years later if they actually wrote it believably. This was rushed out for Halloween and it shows.