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A Movie A Day: THE TENANT (1976)
I found a tooth in my apartment. It was in a hole.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition! [For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]

I sometimes hear horror fans, many of them younger fans, complain about how boring ROSEMARY’S BABY is. I can’t fathom being bored by that film… the central performances by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, the slow, methodical descent into hell, the iconic ending… all that makes it an endlessly fascinating movie to me. So, when I say Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT bored me out of my mind I want you guys to understand I’m not the kind of film watcher that is easily dissuaded by more cerebral horror or a deliberate pace on a genre film. I can’t help but feel a little bad for not digging the movie. It’s very possible I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but the movie lost me about 30 minutes in after a great opening introducing a creepy apartment complex in Paris filled with mysterious tenants. Polanski sets up a mystery to be solved… A single man takes an apartment recently vacated by a suicide. But the suicide doesn’t really add up. The people in the apartment are bizarre, obsessed with quiet… oh, and Polanski finds a tooth hidden in a hole behind the wardrobe. But after all the set up we get an hour of Polanski romancing a friend of the suicide as he slowly loses his grip on sanity. In the last half hour that lost grip makes for some really creepy imagery, but the hour it takes to get there felt like two.

This felt like Polanski trying to strike the same note that he struck a hundred times better with Rosemary’s Baby. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the ambiguity of the story. In the movie Polanski’s character, Trelkovsky, starts as a mild-mannered introvert and begins to think his neighbors and landlord are trying to turn him into the previous tenant and drive him to suicide. He’s got a hell of an arc in the movie, going from an average guy to a cross-dressing paranoid lunatic over the course of 125 minutes and like I mentioned above the imagery of his delusions is pretty striking. There’s one particular shot of Polanski looking out a window and seeing himself watching him from a window across the way that got to me. There’s also another moment when a bouncing ball turns into a decapitated head. Great moments, but I wasn’t plugged into the whole so I didn’t find these bright spots worth the rest of the journey. Ambiguity is a big part of this film, just as it is in Rosemary’s Baby. Are the creepy neighbors out to get him or is he projecting that onto their stricter-than-usual characters? I liked that aspect, but it takes too long to resolve and when it finally does I couldn’t shake the feeling of just being glad the movie was ending. The finale itself is pretty fantastic, I have to say. When Trelkovsky goes up the stairs the second time I was actually pretty impressed with how everything was wrapping up, but like I said above the overriding feeling was just gratitude that the film was finally coming to an end.

It was fun seeing Shelley Winters pop up as the rude concierge of the apartment complex, but she’s in maybe 5 minutes of the movie. Same goes for Melvyn Douglas playing the landlord from hell. He’s great when he’s in the movie, but he felt underused. The beautiful Isabelle Adjani (NOSFERATU) pops up as Polanski’s love interest. She’s the innocent of the story, possibly Trelkovsky’s only salvation. If that had been the main thrust of the movie I could have been along for the ride, but Polanski insists on a scattershot approach, throwing as much at the audience as possible. That helps in creating a “What the fuck is going on here?” atmosphere, but that’s a double-edged sword. In my case it caused me to disconnect from the film. Final Thoughts: It’s possible I may re-watch this film at another point and fully get it, love it, want to marry it. I can’t tell you. It’s not like I had my mind on other things when I sat down to watch this movie, but it didn’t engage me. I can appreciate what Polanski was going after, but it didn’t work for this constant viewer. We have another of Polanski’s films coming up in a week or so that I hope I don’t feel the same way about. Currently in print on DVD: NO
Currently available on Netflix Instant: NO

Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles: Sunday, October 10th: MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953)

Monday, October 11th: NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980)

Tuesday, October 12th: PROPHECY (1979)

Wednesday, October 13th: THE OTHER (1972)

Thursday, October 14th: THE MUMMY (1959)

Friday, October 15th: THE GORGON (1964)

Saturday, October 16th: MAD LOVE (1935)

Tomorrow is vintage freaky Jack Palance! See you then! -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Previous AMAD 2010’s: - Raw Meat (1972)
- Ghost Story (1981)
Two on a Guillotine (1965)
- Tentacles (1977)
- Bad Ronald (1974)
- The Entity (1983)
- Doctor X (1932)
- The Return of Doctor X (1939) Click here for the full 215 movie run of A Movie A Day!

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST

    Some good stuff so far

    by Kammich

    A little more "vintage" than what I'm used to, but I love the Halloween themed AMAD.

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:32 p.m. CST

    No One Does It To You Like Polanski...

    by Kirbymanly

    Very, very true.

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:42 p.m. CST

    I like the Tenant. I love Rosemary's Baby.

    by future help

    Also love "Don't Look Now."

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:43 p.m. CST

    I knew that "no one does it to you like Polanski" blurb...

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    ...would open up the usual AICN can of worms.

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:44 p.m. CST

    Even I have to laugh...

    by ROBRAM89 "no one does it to you like Polanski." It's like somebody went back in time just to troll the future.

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 10:45 p.m. CST

    Don't Look Now

    by Kammich

    Its really a rather dry movie, just a lot of beautiful photography of the scenic Italian landscapes... until that ending happens, and you sit up and yell "WTF?!" at your TV. one of my favorite endings, ever

  • Oct. 9, 2010, 11:28 p.m. CST

    I just watched Let the Right One In...

    by ConfusedPanda

    ...on blu-ray again. After reading this article, I must say I'm happy that I couldn't find The Tenant to rent on iTunes or Amazon tonight.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:03 a.m. CST

    creepy vibe in this movie..

    by nolan bautista

    w/ a proper dose of black humor..and that ending! what a mind fuck!

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:09 a.m. CST

    Had basically the same reaction.

    by AugustusMacReady

    I'll watch anything with Adjani in it...but there are limits man.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:25 a.m. CST

    Great film

    by AlibyebyeEssmob

    Sorry to hear not many enjoyed this film here. I found it to be darkly comic, haunting and existential; more than a little reminiscent of Kafka.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:26 a.m. CST

    Best tag line ever

    by liljuniorbrown

    "No one can drug and butt rape your kids like Polanski...nobody" fucking creep.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:41 a.m. CST

    Egyptian Imagery

    by GhostofCicero

    What was up with that? I can buy the unexpected lapse into insanity but why all the Egyptian references? Am I missing something?

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:44 a.m. CST

    I thought this was a DR Who documentary.

    by Arcadian Del Sol

    color me disapointed.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:45 a.m. CST

    Quint I agree...

    by ufoclub1977

    Watch "The Tenant" again. If you don't like it, watch it again. If you don't like it, watch it again. Till you like it.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 1:34 a.m. CST

    Never dug this either

    by sonnyfern

    Not much going on in it...

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:09 a.m. CST

    I respectfully disagree

    by RoarsLoudly

    Maybe because I say this as a child and it scared the living daylight out of me! I 've seen it again like 10 years ago and was still creeped out by the ending even though for me the film had not aged well. But boy that ending really gets under my skin!!!

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:12 a.m. CST

    This is one movie that could successfully be

    by RoarsLoudly


  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:19 a.m. CST

    I think Le Locataire...

    by lovesamuelfuller

    is one of his best films. After China Town it's my favorite Polanski films. Closely follewed by Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion. I never liked The Ninth Gate and even the classic Dance of the Vampires a.k.a The Fearless Vampire Killers. I think you might want to try seeing it again at a later date. You might find that it's just as good and as strong as his other classics. But then again; to each his own. Cheers from Amsterdam.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:22 a.m. CST


    by Geekgasm

    is dog shit.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:29 a.m. CST


    by billyhitchcock1

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:29 a.m. CST

    isnt The Tenant part of a Trilogy?

    by KilliK

    in the same vein that the Man with No Name Trilogy is? i think Rosemary's babe is the first part of the trilogy,Tenant the second,i dont remember which movie is the 3rd party.maybe ll look it later in imdb.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:34 a.m. CST

    REPULSION is the other movie

    by palimpsest

    THE TENANT is the last in the "trilogy", and ROSEMARY'S BABY is the middle one.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:42 a.m. CST

    "No one does it to you like Polanski."

    by blackflowerX

    So ironic, so fucking true, especially if your a little girl... Where's the Gary Glitter talkback?

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 3:06 a.m. CST

    Polanski's best.

    by HornedGramma

    Straight up.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 3:16 a.m. CST

    Brilliant companion piece to "Rosemary's Baby"

    by BenBraddock

    Quint, what happened? How could you have been bored by it? You complain younger horror fans are bored by the slow pacing in RB and then turn around and say the same for "The Tenant"!! It works for me anyway, cos it's an intelligent, atmospheric mystery with lots of black humour and creeping paranoia... there's plenty going on to keep your interest. Anyone out there who hasn't seen it should do so and find out for themselves - sorry Quint but you got this one wrong!

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 3:30 a.m. CST

    palimpsest thanx for the clarification

    by KilliK

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 3:53 a.m. CST


    by Shoegeezer

    Shame you didn't get this. I've always found it to be a very funny and dark comedy as well as a nightmarish scenario. There are so many great scenes, such as when the guy comes into the bar and buys everyone a drink, apart from the guy who is crying. So many completely off the wall weirdo bits too like the hieroglyphics, etc. It's beautifully shot too, I think they used one of those Louma cranes that was so revolutionary (Superman, Raiders, Outland, Tenebrae, etc). Plus it's got Adjani who is pretty easy to watch. I first saw this film when I was a teenager and there's something unique about it that just drew me in, you have to let it dictate the tempo, if you're out of sync with it or impatient or trying to second guess it then you'll be lost and/or bored.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 4:54 a.m. CST


    by macheesmo3

    It's a decent film but really would be better suited to a vignette format or a Twilight Zone episode... I just don't think the subject matter and/or themes lend themselves to long subject...

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 5:56 a.m. CST

    Isabella Adjani...

    by KubricksBellEnd

    ...One Deadly Summer...yum!

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 6:04 a.m. CST

    The Tennant is a great film

    by Seph_J

    and a great companion piece to Rosemarys Baby

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 7:10 a.m. CST

    Yup, it's a good one..

    by Lao_Che_Air_Freight

    He can do it to me anytime...

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 7:16 a.m. CST

    Oh man, "The Other" is a good one too

    by Lao_Che_Air_Freight

    This month's list needs more Lee/Cushing, but I think I recall last year had a good amount..nice to see a lot of the ones here that scared the crap out of as a kid..

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 8:12 a.m. CST

    Master director

    by proevad

    Directs himself in his best performance. (channeling Woody Allen when building this character?) Just saw it a month ago for the first time. As far as the child fucking goes...I never feel more "douchelike" than after watching and enjoying polanski. Stunning how well humans can compartmentalize.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Que some douchebag saying...

    by Sailor Rip

    "Que Roman Polanski jokes in 5,4,3,..."

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 8:42 a.m. CST

    Hmmm. I guess I'm that douchebag.

    by Sailor Rip

    "Hold it there kitty cat." I'll always love Chinatown and his brief performance in it.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 10:44 a.m. CST

    Que? You mean Cue?

    by Disgruntled_Chinaman

    Cue the dirty jokes in... <p> Like that?

  • Only because you expressed doubt in your own convictions do I suggest you review Tenant with an analogy in mind: Jack Kirby's Thing: Paul Chadwick's Concrete :: Rosemary's Baby: Tenant In Rosemary's Baby the coven is so powerful and so accurate that they convoke the devil himself. In the Tenant the coven is feeble and has applied a binding spell to preserve their spirit beyond the mortality of their bodies. It goes awry because... Roman ponders for us "If you cut off my head do you say there is me and my head or do you say there is me and my body." We do not know where the soul is. We do know the soul moves with the whole body from Los Angeles to Paris if you get on a plane. If you feel as though a buried fetus and butchered wife were once flesh of your flesh, then... has your soul been diminished? The Tenant - as a film suggests a subtle horror that not only is magic imperfect, but that we surrender and inherit slivers of the soul clumsily tugged upon by amateurs. Tenant is immutably in my top ten film list. I'm biased when it comes to defending it.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 11:02 a.m. CST

    thing:concrete::rosemary baby:tenant

    by JRKerr

    sorry my analogy grammar got broken by character limits. sigh.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 11:03 a.m. CST

    or even hotel california

    by JRKerr

    it was recently a line in BBC's being human "you can check out, but you can never leave."

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 11:10 a.m. CST


    by MainMan2001

    How the fuck don't you like the Tenant!!!! It's the fucking Tenant. Amazing film. I have never seen a film like it scary and funny at the same time. Polanski is making fun of Rosemary's Baby and doing it again at the same time. It's brilliant. It's like a commentary on that film whole being a different take on very similar material. The Tenant Rocks.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST

    The kid crying by the river...

    by DickBallsworth

    You know the one, with the oversized mouth and fucked up teeth? Always messed with my head. But it's awesome when Polanski walks up to him and slaps him.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:16 p.m. CST

    Couldn't agree more - a dreary watch

    by Aloy

    I watched this for the first time a couple of years ago and it's a great example of a film that hasn't aged at all well.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 12:31 p.m. CST

    Enter the Void!

    by ufoclub1977

    See it!

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 2:34 p.m. CST

    Just watched "The House Of The Devil"

    by DigitalBeachWar

    What a complete fucking bore with no atmosphere. Seriously. The movie doesn't even start until about 50 minutes in. Rosemary's Baby is a true classic that manipulates human emotion and creates tension through the pacing of the film.. The House Of The Devil tried and failed. I almost believe it was so drawn out because the editor has no concept of how to edit.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 3:36 p.m. CST

    A great movie

    by DonRivella

    Better than Rosemary's baby, IMO. Creepier and more cerebral, less pulp. Both movies work partly because of their meticulous (slow) pacing - they don't make them like that anymore. The shot with the people standing at the windows still freaks me out.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 4 p.m. CST

    DigitalBeachWar: Agreed!

    by mrgray

    Can't believe House of the Devil gets so much indie horror cred. Boring, boring, boring.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 4:06 p.m. CST

    If you cut off my head...

    by delvarner

    "If you cut off my head do you say there is me and my head or do you say there is me and my body?" This line is sampled in a Skinny Puppy song, and I always wondered where it came from...

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 4:21 p.m. CST

    The movie is far better then Quint make it out to be

    by AsimovLives

    Seems Quit got a case of the Harrys, as in, he missed out understandign a great movie because of self-caused boredom the same way Harry slept throughout INCEPTION.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 4:29 p.m. CST

    Not liking THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL?

    by AsimovLives

    You guys can just hand over your horror geek credentials. Hell, hand over your movie geek credentials as well.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 6:12 p.m. CST

    Once upon a time, a Polanski talkback would have


    set this place off. <p>I guess all the anti-pedo folk left the site. <p>Never fear, though, CHOPPAH's here. <p>Fuck pedo Polanski.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 6:26 p.m. CST

    Delvarner, Skinny Puppy actually sampled a lot from this film

    by prof_zoom

    You can hear lines of dialogue from this flick in at least two of their songs. That's the reason I first saw it. "Fritter (Stella's Home)" is the most noticeable, but also the one you mentioned from "The Choke" along with that whole bit about the kidneys and stomach. Awesome flick. Real creepy imagery. Especially at the end. One of the most WTF moments in cinematic history.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 7:03 p.m. CST

    Asi, your talents are wasted here.


    Head over to my blog.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 7:16 p.m. CST

    78 Days

    by Countdown_to_Vader

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 7:54 p.m. CST

    So, Polanksi got away again. I mean...

    by ricarleite2

    ... he could do the Superbowl halftime show, and he would get away with it. Just fucking arrest him or let him go. Stop this.

  • Oct. 10, 2010, 8:04 p.m. CST

    I enjoyed Ghost Writer immensely

    by T 1000 xp professional

    I thought it was one of his best. I might've even liked it more than this one. I'm also surprised that Knife in the Water and Frantic (with Harrison Ford oozing some of that golden charisma) don't get spoken about more often.

  • Oct. 11, 2010, 4:40 a.m. CST


    by AsimovLives

    Wasting my talents is the story of my life.

  • Oct. 11, 2010, 4:43 a.m. CST

    T 1000 xp professional

    by AsimovLives

    Too true. FRANTIC is terribly underrated. FRANTIC was also one of those movies where Ford was trying to prove he was a real actor instead of just being Han Solo or Indian Jones. His urge to prove himself an actor stoped after PRESUMED INNOCENT, hwere he acted the shit out of his part and all the geeks and critics comented about the movie was his hair-do. Ford then said "fuck this shit, it's not worth the trouble" and became just an actor for a paycheck.

  • Oct. 11, 2010, 4:57 a.m. CST

    "Dude, i got bored with a great movie"

    by AsimovLives

    I cannot uderstand how people can be bored with good movies. Specially if they are watching it for the first time. I can understand a certain boredom or inuit if one is already very familiar with the movie, that's natural. But for the first time? Não compreendo!

  • Oct. 11, 2010, 7:46 a.m. CST

    Fareal, don't push it

    by AsimovLives

    Remember, humility in victory.

  • Oct. 11, 2010, 8:14 a.m. CST

    House of the Devil: Proof that Horror fans make bad films

    by MST3KPIMP

    horror movie fans don't make good horror movies. theyre too busy trying to recreate the movies they loved when they were 12 and forget to be original and forge an interesting story. HOTD was 90 minutes of recreating the look and feel of the late 70's to give "horror geeks" some kind of quasi-Carpenter experience. Recreating a time period or style is just self-masturbatory and a waste of time and resources. Everyone loses with this approace.