Whatever your opinion of the current Roman Polanski controversy, one thing is clear: “Rosemary’s Baby” is a heck of a movie.

Whatever your opinion of the current Roman Polanski controversy, one thing is clear: “Rosemary’s Baby” is a heck of a movie.

Directed by Polanski in 1968 (a year before the Manson family killed his wife, Sharon Tate), “Rosemary’s Baby” takes an outrageous story — a woman gets knocked up by Satan — and sets it in late ’60s New York. That juxtaposition of ancient evil with modern Manhattan creates an unnerving sense of plausibility. Obviously, this never could happen — but if it did happen, this is exactly how it would happen.

Mia Farrow (against then-husband Frank Sinatra’s wishes) plays Rosemary, with actor/director John Cassavetes as her husband, Guy. He’s creepy, but even worse are their neighbors, the Castavets. Played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, they seem like a nice enough old couple, but they’re not. They’re about as bad as you can imagine.

Polanski continues to crank up the tension by placing you in the middle of Rosemary’s nightmare. Then, at the end, when most other directors would break out the special effects and rub the horror of that hellish infant in your face, Polanski does something brilliant — he pulls back and lets you imagine what the baby looks like. Now that’s scary.

Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Fridays. Contact him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/.