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 (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)