I want to begin by writing about a film considered by many genre fans to be a classic: Rosemary's Baby. Back when I was first getting into cinema, and my father was a considerable influence, he told me of the film and how its slow burn suspense and creeping paranoia is one of the greatest examples of minimalistic filmmaking. Even though he considered it a classic, he told me about one Mr. Ray Bradbury, popular science fiction novelist and man who had (or I guess has since he is still alive) a bone to pick with the film. More on Ray's passionate idea in a minute.
Just so that we have some proper context, a brief synopsis is needed. Rosemary and Guy are a young couple who move into an old gothic apartment building in Manhattan. Included free of charge is a dark and troublesome past that is associated with the building. Guy is a fledgling actor and Rosemary is his eager counterpart, wanting to please and support him in any way possible at the expense of her own happiness. Despite her severe loneliness (as Guy is gone for lengths at a time trying to find work), she tries to maintain a level of calm as she knows she needs to be understanding.
To combat her loneliness, Guy states that he wants to become a father and that they should try starting a family. Around the same time that this decision is made, the couple makes friends with an elderly pair in the complex. Rosemary becomes worrisome when the wife pulls Guy aside and insists on talking to him in private. Much more concerning and terrifying is a dream that Rosemary has in which a dark creature has his way with her. Is it all real or just some awful dream? Rosemary soon finds out that she's pregnant and her soon-to-be motherhood eventually becomes a source of angst and paranoia. Coupled with her husband's new found success and their neighbor's extreme interest in the unborn child, Rosemary becomes even more anxiety ridden. But ultimately, when the nefarious intentions of all who are involved are revealed, she instinctively takes up that which she thinks she is supposed to do.
While Polanski's story is clearly about the fears of impending childbirth (being knocked up by the man downstairs notwithstanding), I always found the end to be flawed. Why would Rosemary, after all of the betrayal committed by those around her, succumb to their desire and raise the baby per their wishes? Granted, motherly instincts took over but wouldn't a mother's protective instinct have won out even moreso?
Enter novelist Ray Bradbury and a particularly impassioned speech he gave at an adult education series that was sponsored by the Santa Barbara City College in 1982. He had viewed the film and was fine up until the ending. After discussing similar gripes, he goes on to tell how he would have ended the film in a much more compelling way. He states:
"My ending is, My God, if your child has been condemned by all of these terrible people, and your child is a child of Lucifer, you've got to save him; you've got to get him out of there. You hold off all of these people with a knife and grab your child and run to the nearest elevator and down into the streets of Manhattan. You search for refuge somewhere and come to a lightly falling rain-not too much lightening or too much thunder, let's keep it subtle.
And you come to a synagogue, or a Catholic cathedral, and run into any one of them and take your child up to the altar and hold your child up in the light and say, 'God, Lord God, take back your son!'
And you've got an ending for your film.
You pull the camera away, because Lucifer was the son of God, huh? Lucifer lived in heaven. Have you forgotten that? Because of a monstrous act of ego, he was cast down to the pits and flames and remained there for a billion years. So now we have an ending for a film where we have a chance to succor Lucifer and heal the wound between Heaven and Hell. They missed the boat!"*
Bradbury's proposed ending is fascinating for a couple of reasons. The first being that Rosemary's natural instincts as a protective mother take over. Despite her pretty docile and subservient behavior throughout most of the film, her single focus is that which most mothers have: I must protect my child no matter the cost. When intentions are revealed and the whole coven is over to celebrate the birth, instead of falling in-line like she had before, instincts kick in and it's off to the races to get her baby as far away as she can from these lunatics.
Secondly, the play on religion would be unlike any other that I've seen in film. It not only acknowledges that good and evil are both at play but it also brings about something which is almost never mentioned in horror: that God and Satan are cut from the same cloth. Usually, you'll see an exorcism or some other type of ceremony performed which will keep the horned one at bay. But how often do you see something where a holy place, which is supposed to allow for a direct line to God, being used as a link rather than an intermediary like a priest? And how incredibly powerful would that last line be? 'God, Lord God, take back your son!' Fade to black.
Every time I watch the film now, this 'new' ending overwrites what I saw onscreen. I can't help it. Not only does it make more sense given a woman's instinct to protect her child, it would have made for a much more exciting and compelling conclusion to the film. They missed the boat indeed.
*Source: Ray Bradbury Uncensored: The Unauthorized Biography by Gene Beley