The Omen (1976) - Illustrated Reference

The Omen was directed by Richard Donner and premiered on June 25, 1976. Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson and Leo McKern. Screenplay by David Seltzer. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. 111mins.

Rome. The wife of US Ambassador Robert Thorn gives birth to a stillborn baby, a priest suggests substituting the dead child with a recently orphaned healthy baby boy without the mother knowing. Thorn reluctantly agrees. As the child grows a series of unexplained events and freak accidents begin to happen.

One of the most successful horror movies ever made, The Omen was based on the novel by David Seltzer (1940-) who also wrote the screenplay for the film. Basing his story on the Biblical prophecy of Armageddon written in the Book of Revelation, the Beast would rise up out of the sea heralding the coming apocalypse, and the mark of the Beast is... 666.

Revelation 13:18 “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”

Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck and Lee Remick
Gregory Peck and Lee Remick
Lee Remick
Lee Remick
David Warner
David Warner
Billie Whitelaw
Billie Whitelaw
Harvey Stephens
Harvey Stephens
Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and Harvey Stephens
Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and Harvey Stephens
Patrick Troughton
Patrick Troughton
David Warner and Gregory Peck
David Warner and Gregory Peck
Martin Benson
Martin Benson
Leo McKern
Leo McKern
Gregory Peck and Leo McKern
Gregory Peck and Leo McKern

Gregory Peck (1916-2003) / Robert Thorn

Born in La Jolla, California, Hollywood legend Gregory Peck won a Best Actor Oscar for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 as Atticus Finch), he has also been nominated Best Actor for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and Twelve O’ Clock High (1949).

Lee Remick (1935-1991) / Katherine Thorn

Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, Lee Remick was Oscar nominated Best Actress for Days of Wine and Roses (1962). Her films include – Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Experiment in Terror (1962), The Hallelujah Trail (1965), The Detective (1968), Telefon (1977), The Medusa Touch (1978) and Tribute (1980).

Jennings: Look, I'm not just some bystander. I was the one that found him.
Robert Thorn: And I'm the one that's supposed to kill him. These are knives. He wants me to stab him! He wants me to murder a child.
Jennings: It's not a child.
Robert Thorn: How can he know that? Maybe he's wrong. It's insane. I won't have anything to do with murdering a little boy. He's not responsible. I won't do it!
Jennings: Well if you won't do it I will!

David Warner (1941-) / Keith Jennings

Born in Manchester, England, David Warner was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Saturn Award for Time After Time (1979 as Jack the Ripper). His films include – Tom Jones (1963), Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), Straw Dogs (1971), Cross of Iron (1977), Time Bandits (1981 as Evil Genius), Tron (1982 as Ed Dillinger / Sark), The Man With Two Brains (1983), Star Trek V The Final Frontier (1989), Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country (1991 as Chancellor Gorkon), Titanic (1997) and Planet of the Apes (2001).

Mrs Baylock: Have no fear, little one... I am here to protect thee.

Billie Whitelaw (1932-) / Mrs. Baylock

Born in Coventry, England, Billie Whitelaw won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress for The Omen (1976). Her films include – The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), Charlie Bubbles (1967), Twisted Nerve (1968), Gumshoe (1971), Frenzy (1972), The Dark Crystal (1982 voice of Aughra), The Krays (1990) and Hot Fuzz (2007).

Harvey Stephens (1970-) / Damien Thorn

Born in England, Harvey Stephens received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture – Male for The Omen (1976). Harvey is currently working as a property developer in Kent, England.

Father Brennan: I was at the hospital, Mr. Thorn, the night your son was born. I witnessed the birth.
Robert Thorn: What do you know about my son?
Father Brennan: Everything.
Robert Thorn: And what is that?
Father Brennan: I saw its mother.
Robert Thorn: You saw my wife.
Father Brennan: I saw its mother.
Robert Thorn: You're referring to my wife!
Father Brennan: Its mother, Mr. Thorn!
Robert Thorn: This is blackmail! What is it that you're trying to say?
Father Brennan: Its mother was a jack...[last word interrupted]
Security Guard: Everything okay?
Robert Thorn: I want this man escorted out of here.

Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) / Father Brennan

Born in London, England, Patrick Troughton’s films include – Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1955), The Phantom of the Opera (1962), Jason and the Argonauts (1963 as Phineas), The Gorgon (1964), Scars of Dracula (1970) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977 as Melanthius). Patrick was the second actor to play Dr. Who (1966-1969) on TV.

Bugenhagen: This is not a human child. Make no mistake.
Robert Thorn: Is there proof?
Bugenhagen: Oh, yes. He bears a birthmark. A sequence of sixes. So says the Bible do all the apostles of Satan.
Robert Thorn: He doesn't have it.
Bugenhagen: He must have it.
Robert Thorn: I've bathed him. I know every inch of him.
Bugenhagen: If it is not visible on the body, it will be beneath the hair. Remove it. You must be devoid of pity.
Robert Thorn: And the woman?
Bugenhagen: She is an apostate of hell. She will die before permitting this.

Leo McKern (1920-2002) / Carl Bugenhagen

Born in Sydney, Australia, Leo McKern’s films include – X the Unknown (1956), The Mouse that Roared (1959), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), A Man for All Seasons (1966 as Cromwell), Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Damien Omen II (1978 as Bugenhagen) and Ladyhawke (1985).

Father Brennan: "When the Jews return to Zion, and a comet rips the sky, and the Holy Roman Empire rises, then you and I must die. From the eternal sea he rises, creating armies on either shore, turning man against his brother, till man exists no more."

The huge success of The Exorcist in 1973 resulted in a torrent of devil-themed horror films in the 1970s. But The Omen more closely relates to Rosemary's Baby (1968) than The Exorcist, in the film Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse is drugged and unknowingly has sex with the devil himself, she gives birth to the child which is protected by Satanists.

Director Richard Donner (1930-) had previously worked mostly on TV, he directed three films before The Omen, they were X-15 (1961), Salt and Pepper (1968) and Twinky (1969). Following The Omen, Donner directed the superhit Superman the Movie (1978). He also directed the popular Lethal Weapon movies.

The Antichrist was a title considered for the movie before sticking with The Omen.

In Charlton Heston’s autobiography he says he regretted turning down the role of Robert Thorn after seeing the finished film.

William Holden also turned the role down but he signed on for the sequel playing Robert Thorn’s brother, Richard.

5 year old Harvey Stephens got the part of Damien Thorn after Donner asked each kid at the audition to attack him. Stephens was the most aggressive kid, screaming and clawing at Donner’s face and kicking him in the groin too.

Stephens had naturally blonde hair but Donner decided the Antichrist should have black hair.

The nanny who hangs herself at Damien’s birthday party is played by Holly Palance, the daughter of Hollywood tough guy Jack Palance.

In the scene where the baboons attack the car in Windsor Safari Park, Lee Remick’s frightened reaction was real.

One of the cleverest tricks in the film was showing Lee Remick fall off the balcony and hitting the floor with a thud. Was she on wires? No, the scene was filmed with the camera pointing to a wall made to look like the floor. Remick was standing on a track and wheeled towards the ‘floor’.

The most memorable and shocking scene in The Omen is the death of Jennings the photographer, played by David Warner. Early in the film he accidentally takes a picture of himself in a mirror, the developed photo shows a strange gash across the image and across his neck, a portent of death.

Later on Jennings is beheaded when a sheet of glass hits him. One of the most effective decapitation scenes in movies. A dummy of Warner was used and filmed from several different angles. Now they could behead someone quite easily with computer graphics and the spray of blood will be CG too.

For the final shot of little Damien smiling at the camera Harvey Stephens had to be coaxed into smiling by the director who was telling him “Don’t you dare laugh, if you laugh I won’t be your friend”.

Filming of The Omen was supposedly cursed, with strange accidents and injuries occurring. Gregory Peck’s plane was hit by lightning, so was the writer’s plane. The director was hit by a car but escaped serious injury. The girlfriend of John Richardson, head of the special effects department, was beheaded in a terrible car crash.

Richard Donner asked the head of 20th Century Fox studios for more money to hire Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004) to compose the music for the film. The legendary film composer would contribute a memorable horror score and it would be his only Oscar win in a long and distinguished career.

A scene that was cut out from the film showed Mrs. Baylock's dog attacking Thorn while he was attempting to drive away with Damien at the end of the film, the dog trying to smash through the windscreen. It is included as a deleted scene on the DVD.

The Omen was ranked #81 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Thrillers List (no.1 is Hitchcock’s Psycho, no.2 is Jaws).

"Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani." (The Omen song lyrics, not a Karaoke favourite)

The Omen was nominated for two Oscars, winning for Best Music Score (Jerry Goldsmith) and nominated for Best Song “Ave Satani” by Goldsmith.

"It is the greatest mystery of all because no human being will ever solve it. It is the highest suspense because no man can bear it. It is the greatest fear because it is the ancient fear of the unknown. It is a warning foretold for thousands of years. It is our final warning. It is The Omen." (Poster tagline)

More money was spent advertising the film than was spent making it, but it paid off handsomely, The Omen was one of the biggest hits of the year grossing over $100m worldwide and costing $2.8m to make.

The Omen was followed by two direct sequels

Damien Omen II (1978) was directed by Don Taylor and starred William Holden, Lee Grant and Jonathan Scott-Taylor as the teenage Damien Thorn who discovers his evil destiny and is protected by disciples of Satan. 107mins.

The Final Conflict (1981) directed by Graham Baker and starring Sam Neill as the now adult Antichrist, charismatic and ambitious and, with help from his followers, murdering anyone who gets in his way. Also starring Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon and Lisa Harrow. 108mins.

A feeble made for TV sequel appeared in 1991 –

Omen IV The Awakening (1991) directed by Jorge Montesi and Dominique Othenin-Girard, starring Faye Grant, Michael Woods and Michael Lerner. The plot was about a mysterious little girl who might be the daughter of Damien Thorn. 97mins.

In 2006 a decent but pointless remake was rushed into production to take advantage of the release date, 06-06-06.

The Omen (2006) directed by John Moore, starring Liev Schreiber, Julia Styles, David Thewlis, Mia Farrow and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien Thorn. 110mins.


The Critics Wrote –

"Large scale, large budget and sensational horror opus, among whose set pieces is the justly famous decapitation of David Warner. It is less scary than it might be, possibly due to its starry cast but deserves its box office success." (Alan Frank)

"The Omen is a slick, polished, and professional thriller that combines an intriguing mystery with periodic eruptions of bloody violence." (Steve Biodrowski)

"Farfetched in subject matter, but not far out in its handling of it, The Omen speaks well of the Devil - and of the virtues of solid commercial craftsmanship." (Time)

"Its horrors are not horrible, its terrors are not terrifying, its violence is ludicrous—which may be an advantage—but it does move along." (New York Times)

"One of the best things about the film was the beautiful, gothic score by Jerry Goldsmith, which won an Oscar. Goldsmith's score took the film to a level horror films generally never attained in the 1970s. But the real star of the movie may simply just be the story, which is one helluva great mystery. Unfortunately the sequels could never stack up to the original." (Lucius Gore)

"A cut above the rest in that it has an ingenious premise, a teasingly labyrinthine development, a neat sting in it's tail, and enough confidence in its own absurdities to carry them off." (David Robinson, The Times)

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Comments 22 comments

DSPickett profile image

DSPickett 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

An endlessly entertaining movie, and I like both of the sequels just fine, though the conclusion of the third film is very anticlimactic. Instead of the nearly shot for shot remake in 2006, I would have liked it if perhaps the whole concept was redone as a cable series. In that format, we could be treated to a far more epic and apocalyptic finale.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for commenting DSPickett. I enjoyed the two sequels too and always watch them after watching the first film, whereas with The Exorcist I rarely watch the sequels or prequels.

What they should have done with The Omen remake is have one big movie following Damien as a child growing into adulthood, his rise to power, and his fall.


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

Just a quick comment to let you know I've seen this and will comment in full later this evening-now is dinnertime. But I love Peck, so I saw this film when normally I would have avoided such a theme. Till later.

Flora


gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City

I saw this film more than a few times. I thought that it was a really scary movie. I saw the sequels, too. The thought of the devil is frightening. If the devil took over the world there would be no people living anymore and no life forms would exist anymore. The devil would make sure of it. (If the devil does exist that is). The first movie The Omen was pretty good. Great hub!


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

Comment #2: The actors in the 1976 film

I have only seen the first film for Gregory! ;-) I am missing less than 5 films of his that I have yet to see and that includes a TV movie-although there are TV appearances as himself that I have yet to see (for example, his appearance on a Jack Benny special)

I could spend the whole post talking of Peck.

I didn't realize Lee Remick was so young when she died. I have seen a large number of her famous movies including some that you list. But I haven't seen yet The Anatomy of a Murder (because of length), The Hallelujah Trail (on TCM from time to time), The Medusa Touch (I don't remember it airing on TCM). I don't know the name Tribute at all.

I'm glad to see some of the cast who are old are still alive, not just the actors who were young at the time. 1976 was only 36 years ago, after all, and a middle aged man at the time should be just into his senior citizenship.

Star trek reference I see with Warner. And there is a Hitchcock reference with Frenzy's Billie Whitelaw. Frenzy and The Omen are the only films you list I've seen. As far as I know, these are the only two films I've seen with her-if I've seen others, the role wasn't memorable opposite the stars.

Of course, Peck worked with Hitch, so not the first great thriller of his career in 1976. We will only talk of Spellbound, though, and not mention the other. (oops! more talk of Greg.) I have seen David Warner is some of the films you mention. I think you can guess which ones I've not seen from previous comments I have made.

Troughton I have seen in some of the films you mention-mostly the ones with huge casts like Hamlet and Jason and the Argonauts.

ah, Martin Benson brings a Bond reference! I've seen nearly all of the films you list-but not Gorgo. I don't think I've even heard of Gorgo. Fun villain he makes.

Although I haven't seen most of the films you list for Leo McKern, I have indeed seen him in films -a famous nameless face he was-very talented.

I will talk about posters and photos in a different post. I am very carefully not talking about the specific gory details of the film-I spent a lot of time looking at the ceiling in this film listening to Greg. I loved his voice.

Speaking of voices and Hitchcock actors, Bruce Dern-not in The Omen, I know-seemed to be in every TV show in existence at least once and has a very distinct voice. I can be in the other room and not know who the guest stars will be ahead of time and hear his voice-I saw there is Bruce Dern again! I've seen him several times in the last couple of weeks on shows airing on Metv.

Till tomorrow


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Steve, another cracking read about one of the few 'horror' movies I could actually rave about since I am not really a fan of the genre. I think the original is the best and even now, it has great cinematic quality - the sort of movie you watch again and again because it has so many nuances. Even though I know what's going to happen, I still find it creepy and it has great momentum throughout.

Voted up, great hub.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, gail641, Flora, Jools, thanks for commenting on my evil hub of Satan, now chant with me "ave sataneeee!" :)

gail641, maybe the devil has taken over, look at all the terrible things happening in the world right now, wars, famine, disease, massacres, genocide, reality TV!

Hi Flora, enjoyed reading your epic comment. Your two favourite actors are Gregory Peck and Richard Widmark? If you had to pick one? Peck gives this creepy horror class and dignity. I also liked Billie Whitelaw as the nanny from hell.

I forgot to mention Leo McKern was famous on UK TV as Rumpole of the Bailey, a classic courtroom series, Jools will know it.

Hi Jools, thanks for popping in. I saw this at the cinema as a teenager, didn't really frighten me (The Exorcist did) but I thoroughly enjoyed it and rushed out to buy the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. I think my parents were a little worried hearing that devil music and satanic chanting coming from my bedroom. :)

Thanks all for posting!


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

If I had to choose, I choose Greg.

Ah, Rumple of the Bailey! Yes, a great series that was on PBS. I love watching British mysteries on PBS, even when I've seen them umpteen times.


Bruce Cogerson 4 years ago

This movie and it's sequels scared me to death as a kid. It was only when I got older that I could appreciate the talent that was on the screen.

Scenes that are in my mind forever....Damien riding the bike, Peck fighting with the dogs and the ending. 100 milllion on a 2.8 million investment is pretty impressive. I think the producers of The Omen can thank the success of the Exorcist for this massive success. I have never seen the 2006 version....but I liked Sam Neill as the very quick growing Damien.

Voted up and interesting and will go very well with your excellent Exorcist hub.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Flora, It had to be Greg. Such a classy actor, so well respected.

I remember my dad loved watching courtroom dramas, he loved Rumpole of the Bailey.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment amigo. We seem to have posted our comments at the same time. :)

I think Sam Neill got his big break as Damien in the Final Conflict. He was good in that film, though the ending was a bit of a cop out. Damien deserved a better death than that.

My next movie hub will be more family friendly. :)


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

family friendly next? Great!

Now, as to the artwork....

I love black and white with colour printing, so the first poster is my favourite. Gorgeous.

I love Greg's black and white portrait.

Lee Remick has a great shocked look on her face in several shots. You can do a lot with just your eyes.

As for colour shots, my favourite is the last one-a behind the scenes shot. I also enjoy the shot with the primates.


gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City

The devil could have taken over because there are so many horrible things happening. The Exorcist scared me when I saw it the first time-it still scares me today. I thought the posters were really great!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, gail641, thanks for commenting. That first Omen poster is the best. I remember way back seeing posters for The Omen all over London, each with different warnings, that we're one day closer to the end of the world or that we're all in grave danger etc no faces just white text on black, it was a very effective ad campaign. Couldn't wait to see the film.


Flora Breen Robison 4 years ago

You have me thinking here regarding your next hub. You say it is family friendly. I know you didn't specify if it were a theme or a specific movie. Considering that your hubs of specific movies are listed on your profile, I suspect that if it is a specific movie rather than a theme it will be Disney or Marx Brothers. Of course, if it is a theme, it could be anything, even another superhero. It is noted that not all your animated favourites are from Disney nor are all your Disney favourites animated.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

I'm going to do a bunch of themed movie hubs this week Flora and give the single movie hubs a break. I think there's only about 30 favourite movies on my profile left to write about. Some of them favourites of yours too. :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great choice! The Omen, I think, was the best of all the movies (Omen & sequels). The thought of that precious little boy being a devil was what made it so scary and as you said the dignity of Gregory Peck in a horror movie moved the whole thing to another level. This was a great hub as always, including so many interesting facts and details. Since you do these things so well, what was your opinion of The Eyes of Laura Mars?


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hi Mary, thank you for the kind words, glad you enjoyed the hub. The 1970s was the last decade for serious adult horror films, slasher horror for teenagers became popular in the 1980s with the Friday the 13ths and Elm Streets etc and horror is still targeted at young audiences today.

I haven't seen Eyes of Laura Mars in ages, I remember it being a well-made thriller. I had a friend who was a big fan of that film.

Thanks for posting.


thatmovieguy71 4 years ago

As always, well written and incredibly thorough! I really enjoy reading your hubs, Steve. The Omen gets a little overshadowed sometimes by movies like The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and The Shining, but I think it is a very well made thriller with some genuine scares. The performances from some top notch actors helps to elevate this movie into the realm of "classic". The Omen is still one of my top 10 horror movies of all time.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks thatmovieguy71, appreciate the comment and kind words.

The Omen is one of my top 10 favourite horror movies too. Thinking about it each death can be explained as sheer coincidence, nothing overtly supernatural about the film. Even the little antichrist himself is confused and wondering why his father wants to kill him. :)

The clever and elaborate death scenes in this and the first sequel must have been an inspiration for the Final Destination series of films.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi Steve; A good horror film. I wasn't crazy about the sequels but I liked the original. Gregory Peck is always great. The remake was OK but it was just a scene-by-scene copy.

A good supporting cast, too. David Warner, Patrick Troughton and Leo Mckern.

Great pictures. A fun hub.

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hey thanks Rob, appreciate the comment. Glad you liked the pictures.

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