Saturday, October 26, 2019

THE OMEN (1976) Blu-ray Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 24
Total First Time Views: 11
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $1,986.48

The Omen (1976) d. Richard Donner (111 min) (5th viewing)

While stationed in Italy, influential American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) receives the tragic news that the child born to his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) has died during childbirth. However, the kindly Father Spilletto (Martin Benson) suggests that the grieving father secretly adopt another baby – born the same night – and raise it up as his own. Five years later, Robert has been appointed U.S. Ambassador to England, he and Katherine are happy, and their son Damien (Harvey Stephens) is healthy and thriving. But following a series of strange, fatal accidents, Robert is compelled to investigate the circumstances surrounding Damien’s birth and, with the help of independent photojournalist Keith Jennings (David Warner), comes to believe that his son may in fact be the offspring of the Devil Himself.

The success of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist in 1973 sparked any number of cheapie imitations, spawning an entire subgenre of occult and possession-themed features. While at dinner one evening with his friend Robert Munger, aspiring film producer Harvey Bernhard hit upon the idea of an Inverted Nativity, i.e. what if the child of Satan were to be born and raised as a normal person as Jesus had been 2000 years prior?

Dashing off a ten-page treatment, Bernhard turned to writer David Seltzer, whose biggest credits to that point consisted of the 1975 tearjerker The Other Side of the Mountain and ghost-writing Walon Green’s Oscar-winning documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle and performing similar duties on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when author Roald Dahl proved too cantankerous (both 1971). Seltzer immersed himself in religious texts, especially the Book of Revelations, weaving an intricate but authentic-feeling tapestry where pure evil rises from within a place of seeming innocence.

Though he had been working in television since 1960, Donner had only directed a handful of theatrical features; when Seltzer’s script came his way, he recognized the property’s commercial potential and brought it to his friend Alan Ladd Jr. at 20th Century Fox who gave it the go-ahead. Not long after, they reached out to the semi-retired Peck who was reeling from the death of his son and desperately welcomed the distraction of work.

Peck’s star power lent the project legitimacy, leading to Remick, Warner, Billie Whitelaw (as Damien’s new nanny) and Patrick Troughton (as a fallen priest) coming aboard, not to mention a technical team that included celebrated cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (A Hard Day’s Night, Dr. Strangelove, Repulsion, Frenzy), editor Stuart Baird (Ken Russell’s Tommy), and special effects man John Richardson (Rollerball).

Even with all the proper players in place, the secret to The Omen’s success (in addition to a masterful marketing campaign) comes down to Donner’s insistence on adhering to a rigid universe of logic and plausibility; all of the bizarre tragedies surrounding the Thorns needed to be justifiable as pure coincidence and/or freak accidents, without any supernatural leanings. This grounding in reality, further anchored by Peck’s stolid authoritarian central presence, turned what could have been a schlocky exercise in exploitation into a prestige picture that demanded attention and (occasionally grudging) respect. Even critics who disliked the film could not argue its merits, with Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting choral-tinged score receiving the most praise (and an Academy Award).

Spawning two theatrical sequels, a made-for-TV sequel, a 2006 remake, and a 2016 television series (Damien), the influence of The Omen has been felt for over four decades, boosting the careers of many of its main players. Donner became a major Hollywood star, handling the reins for such successful ventures as Superman, The Goonies, Maverick, and the Lethal Weapon franchise, and Baird, in addition to becoming Donner’s go-to cutter, has handled the editing shears for Ladyhawke, Die Hard 2, Casino Royale, and Skyfall. Taylor went on to lens a little film called Star Wars, as well as Flash Gordon and John Badham’s Dracula, while Richardson did Aliens (for which he and his team won an Oscar), numerous 007 outings, and the Harry Potter movies.

Shout! Factory’s devilishly comprehensive five-disc The Omen Collection box-set is a supremely satisfying celebration of all things Damien and belongs on every horror fan’s Anti-Christmas wish list.


4K Transfer from the original negative, approved by director Richard Donner
NEW Audio commentary with special project consultant Scott Michael Bosco (not-great audio, but very informative)
Audio commentary with director Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird
Audio commentary with director Richard Donner and filmmaker Brian Helgeland
Audio Commentary with film historians Lem Dobbs, Nick Redman, and Jeff Bond
Isolated Score Track
NEW “The Devil’s Word” with screenwriter David Seltzer (23 min)
NEW “It’s All For You” with actress Holly Palance (13 min)
NEW “The Devil’s Music” with composer Christopher Young (19 min)
Richard Donner on The Omen (14 min)
The Omen Revelations (24 min)
Curse or Coincidence? (6 min)
666: The Omen Revealed (46 min)
“Screenwriter’s Notebook” with writer David Seltzer (15 min)
Introduction by director Richard Donner (2006) (2 min)
Deleted “Dog Attack” scene (with commentary) (2 min)
An Appreciation by Wes Craven (20 min)
Jerry Goldsmith discusses The Omen score (18 min)
Trailers from Hell featuring commentary by filmmaker Larry Cohen (2 min)
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Radio Spots
Photo Galleries (behind the scenes, movie stills, posters, and lobby cards)

The Omen is available now on Blu-ray as part of Shout! Factory’s The Omen Collection box set (which also includes Damien: Omen II, The Final Conflict, Omen IV: The Awakening, and the 2006 remake) and can be ordered HERE:


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