Baby Rosemary (John Hayes, 1976)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
Despite the obvious promise of the title, John Hayes’ 1976 porn film Baby Rosemary has nothing at all to do with Roman Polanski’s decidedly non-porn 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby. This is, of course, a great disappointment, as a porn parody of Rosemary’s Baby made back in the days when porn was still a transgressive form of filmmaking would have had the potential (or, at least, the chance) to be a great piece of work in itself. Alas, while such a thing may exist, this ain’t it.
As a piece of that transgressive seventies-porn filmmaking, though, it is entirely fascinating in its own way. I will warn younger members of the review audience, those to whom the term “pornography” conjures up sterile sets, safe sex, and silicon, that if you’ve never seen adult films from the pre-AIDS and pre-political-correctness era (think of it as pre-code porn and you actually won’t be far off), this ain’t your mama’s porno. (Or, in this case, it ain’t your kids’ porno.) In seventies porn films, anything went, and anything often did. Those obsessions we ridicule the Japanese for having in their softcore flicks these days? Americans had them all in seventies hardcore flicks. In spades. Thus, if you’re used to the sanitized stuff that started showing up just around the time Traci Lords had her eighteenth birthday (after four very productive years in the business—that, I have always hypothesized, was one of the incidents that killed the glory days of the industry), earlier porn is liable to be quite an uncomfortable viewing experience for you. That or a liberating one, I guess. Depends on your outlook. One way or the other, though, it’s fascinating to look at how far we’ve regressed in our depictions of sex over the past thirty-odd years. This is as good a movie to do it with as any. Maybe even more so, given that Hayes obviously had pretensions to artistic filmmaking, given the climax (no pun intended) of this movie.
What seventies porn lacked in grace, sterilization, and political correctness, it made up for with such minor things as plot and characterization, so with seventies porn films, I can actually give you a synopsis. Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe) starts the movie out as an innocent young thing who will do anything but with her boyfriend John (John Leslie, one of the two people in this movie who still has a career in movies). After Rosemary’s father dies, in what may be the world’s weirdest nursing home, Rosemary goes to gather his effects, and discovers a couple having sex in the room across the hall. You can see where this is going. (This is one of the more potentially uncomfortable scenes, as it involves rape; be warned.) There’s a great deal more that comes after this, but you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
It is, of course, pornography, with all the technical tomfoolery that implies; you don’t go into a porn film expecting great acting, great direction, great sound, great lighting… you get the idea. And yes, this is pretty substandard on all accounts (the movie is, these days, only remembered for being one of megastar/producer Candida Royale’s first roles). But as an artifact of the way things used to be in the American adult film industry, as opposed to the way they are now, it’s fascinating viewing, as are many porn films from the early days. Recommended, with a lot of reservations and more than a few warnings. ***
No trailer, unfortunately. Which is too bad, because you really need to see this. If I can figure out how to extract a clip and post it, I will. Watch this space!