If you’re like Ankhie, you’ve watched Rosemary’s Baby 30 or 40 times. The dream/rape sequence may be the single most terrifying moment in 1960’s cinema, not for its explicitness (it’s not, really) but for the terror it conveys when Mia Farrow shouts “This is no dream, this is really happening!” I get the shivers just typing it. It is a movie that exploits our darkest fears about the occult, the perceived medical cabal, and the vulnerability of women. The child-like appearance of Farrow and the haunting, wordless melody that opens the film only add to the sense foreboding, emphasizing the fragility of innocence, both physical and spiritual. But what really makes this movie work is the levity brought to it by Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet. She is a maternal busy-body, humorous and full of home-spun observation. She is also a very dangerous character. And one can’t help but love her a little, despite everything. The combination of funny and frightful – something many actors and directors have tried to pull of with disastrous result – works brilliantly here.
Judika Illes – pop culture maven and occult history scholar gives Mrs. Castevet her props in The Weiser Field Guide to Witches:
Veteran actress Ruth Gordon portrayed Minnie Castevet, the elderly but vivacious Upper West Side New York City witch in director Roman Polanski’s 1968 film, Rosemary’s Baby. Her husband Roman Castevet, also a witch, is played by Sidney Blackmer.
Although the movie, a huge box office success, is famous now, those unfamiliar with the plot might not immediately realize that Minnie and Roman are witches. The plot hinges on how long it takes their victim, Rosemary, to recognize that the Castevets, her next-door neighbors, are more than just an eccentric older couple. They lack the stereotypical, tell-tale clues that would identify them as witches: no pointy hats, no black cats, no flying broomsticks. The closest thing to a “telltale sign of witchcraft” is Minnie’s knowledge of herbs and her production of homemade healing potions.
Minnie and the other witches in Rosemary’s Baby correspond to the deepest fears of medieval witch hunters—and apparently modern many movie-goers, too. They hide in plain sight, living right next door and blending in perfectly. Rosemary’s Baby is based on author Ira Levin’s 1967 bestselling novel of the same name. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar and Golden Globe awards for best supporting actress for this role, becoming the first person to win an Oscar for portraying a witch.