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The Omen
Omen ver4
IT MAY BE
Directed By
Produced By
Harvey Bernhard
Written By
David Seltzer
Cast
Gregory Peck
Lee Remick
David Warner
Billie Whitelaw
Edited By
Stuart Baird
Cinematography
Gilbert Taylor
Music By
Distributed By
20th Century Fox
Country
United Kingdom
United States
Language
English
Release Date
June 6, 1976 (UK)
June 25, 1976 (US)
Runtime
111 minutes
Rating
Rating R
Budget
$2.8 million
Gross
$60.9 million

The Omen is a 1976 British-American supernatural horror film directed by Richard Donner, and written by David Seltzer. The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern. The first installment of The Omen franchise, The Omen concerns a young child replaced at birth by American Ambassador Robert Thorn (Peck) unbeknownst to his wife (Remick), after their own son was murdered at the hospital, enabling the son of Satan to grow up with wealth and power. They are surrounded by mysterious and ominous deaths, unaware that the child, Damien, is the Antichrist.

Released theatrically by 20th Century Fox in June 1976, The Omen received acclaim from critics and was a commercial success, grossing over $60 million at the box office and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 1976. The film earned two Academy Award nominations, and won for Best Original Score for Jerry Goldsmith, his only Oscar win. A scene from the film appeared at #16 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The film spawned a franchise, starting with Damien: Omen II, released two years later. A remake was released in 2006.


PlotEdit

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.
In Rome, American diplomat Robert Thorn is in a hospital where his wife Katherine gives birth to a boy, who—he is told—dies. Moments after Robert is informed of a plan by the hospital chaplain, Father Spiletto, to secretly adopt an orphan whose mother died giving birth to him. Robert agrees, but does not reveal to his wife that the child is not theirs. They name the child Damien.

Later Robert is appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Not long afterwards mysterious events plague the Thorns: A large Rottweiler dog appears near the Thorn home; Damien's nanny publicly hangs herself at his fifth birthday party; a new nanny, Mrs. Baylock, arrives unannounced to replace her; the five-year old Damien violently resists entering a church; and zoo animals are terrified of Damien. Katherine becomes increasingly afraid of Damien and distances herself from him.

Father Brennan, a Catholic priest, tries to warn the Ambassador about Damien's mysterious origins, hinting that he is not human. The priest later tells Robert that Katherine is pregnant and that Damien will prevent her from having the child. Afterward, Brennan is impaled and killed by a lightning rod thrown from the roof of a church during a sudden storm. Katherine tells Robert that she is pregnant and wants an abortion.

Learning of Father Brennan's death, photographer Keith Jennings begins investigating Damien. He notices shadows in photographs of the nanny and of Father Brennan that seem to presage their bizarre deaths. Photos of Keith also show these shadows. Keith shows Robert the photos and tells him he also believes that Damien is a threat and that he wants to help Robert. While Robert is away, Damien knocks Katherine over an upstairs railing to the floor below, causing her to miscarry.

Keith and Robert travel to Rome to investigate Damien's birth. They learn that a fire destroyed the hospital records and the maternity and nursery wards five years earlier; most of the staff on duty died in the fire. Robert and Keith trace Father Spiletto to St. Benedict's Abbey in Subiaco, where he is recuperating from his injuries. Stricken mute, blind in his right eye and paralyzed in his right arm, Spiletto writes the name of an ancient Etruscan cemetery in Cerveteri, where Damien's biological mother is buried. Robert and Keith find a jackal carcass in the grave, and in the grave next to it, a child's skeleton with a shattered skull. These are Damien's unnatural "mother" and the remains of the Thorns' own child, murdered at birth so that Damien could take his place. Keith reiterates Father Brennan's belief that Damien is the Antichrist, whose coming is being supported by a conspiracy of Satanists. A pack of wild Rottweiler dogs drive Robert and Keith out of the cemetery.

Back in London, Mrs. Baylock persuades a nurse to allow her access to Katherine, who is heavily sedated and under police protection. Once inside the room, Mrs. Baylock pushes Katherine out of the window, and Katherine falls to her death upon the roof of an ambulance. Robert and Keith travel to Israel to find Carl Bugenhagen, an archaeologist and expert on the Antichrist. Bugenhagen explains that if Damien is the Antichrist he will possess a birthmark in the shape of three sixes, under his hair if nowhere else. Robert learns that the only way to kill the Antichrist is with seven mystical daggers from Megiddo. Appalled by the idea of murdering a child, Robert discards the daggers. When Keith tries to retrieve them, he is decapitated by a sheet of window glass sliding off a truck, matching the shadow across his neck which had presaged his death.

Returning home, Robert examines Damien for the birthmark, finding it on the child's scalp. Mrs. Baylock attacks him and, in the ensuing struggle, Robert kills her. He loads Damien and the daggers into a car and drives to the nearest church. Due to his erratic driving, he is followed by the police, who arrive as he is dragging the screaming child to the altar. An officer orders him to raise his hands and stand away. Robert raises the first dagger and the officer fires his gun. The double funeral of Katherine and Robert is attended by the President of the United States, who is watching over a smiling Damien. Just before the credits roll, Revelation 13:18 Appears "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 666."

All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.

CastEdit

  • Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn
  • Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn
  • David Warner as Keith Jennings
  • Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock
  • Harvey Spencer Stephens as Damien Thorn
  • Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan
  • Martin Benson as Father Spiletto
  • Leo McKern as Carl Bugenhagen (uncredited)
  • Robert Rietti as Monk
  • John Stride as The Psychiatrist
  • Anthony Nicholls as Dr. Becker
  • Holly Palance as Nanny
  • Roy Boyd as Reporter
  • Freda Dowie as Nun
  • Sheila Raynor as Mrs. Horton
  • Robert MacLeod as Horton
  • Bruce Boa as Thorn's Aide 1
  • Don Fellows as Thorn's Aide 2
  • Patrick McAlinney as Photographer
  • Betty McDowall as American Secretary
  • Nicholas Campbell as Marine

ProductionEdit

According to producer Harvey Bernhard, the idea of a motion picture about the Antichrist came from Bob Munger, a friend of Bernhard's. When Munger told him about the idea back in 1973, the producer immediately contacted screenwriter David Seltzer and hired him to write a screenplay. It took a year for Seltzer to write the script.

The movie was considered by Warner Bros, who thought it might be ideal for Oliver Reed.

According to Richard Donner, Lee Remick's reaction during the baboon scene was authentic.

CastingEdit

Bernhard claims Gregory Peck had been the choice to portray Ambassador Thorn from the beginning. Peck got involved with the project through his agent, who was friends with producer Harvey Bernhard. After reading the script, Peck reportedly liked the idea that it was more of a psychological thriller rather than a horror film and agreed to star in it.

Despite Bernhard's claim, William Holden was also considered for the role. Holden turned it down, claiming he didn’t want to star in a film about the devil. Holden later would portray Thorn's brother, Richard, in the sequel, Damien: Omen II (1978). A firm offer was made to Charlton Heston on July 19, 1975. He turned the part down on July 27, not wanting to spend an entire winter alone in Europe and also concerned that the film might have an exploitative feel if not handled carefully. Roy Scheider and Dick Van Dyke were also considered for the role of Robert Thorn. Charles Bronson was also offered the role.

LocationsEdit

Filming began in October 1975 and wrapped in late January 1976. Scenes were shot on location in Bishops Park in Fulham, London and Guildford Cathedral.

The Church seen in the Bishop's Park neighborhood, is All Saints Fulham, on the western side of Putney Bridge Road, designated the A219.

MusicEdit

An original score for the film, including the movie's theme song "Ave Satani," was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, for which he received the only Oscar of his career. The score features a strong choral segment, with a foreboding Latin chant. The refrain to the chant is, "Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani," Latin for, "We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan," interspersed with cries of "Ave Satani!" and "Ave Versus Christus" (Latin, "Hail, Satan!" and "Hail, Antichrist!"). Aside from the choral work, the score includes lyrical themes portraying the pleasant home life of the Thorn family, which are contrasted with the more disturbing scenes of the family's confrontation with evil.

Original Soundtrack (1990)Edit

  1. "Ave Satani" – 2:32
  2. "New Ambassador" – 2:33
  3. "Killer's Storm" – 2:51
  4. "Sad Message" – 1:42
  5. "Demise of Mrs. Baylock" – 2:52
  6. "Don't Let Him" – 2:48
  7. "Piper Dreams" – 2:39
  8. "Fall" – 3:42
  9. "Safari Park" – 2:04
  10. "Dog's Attack" – 5:50
  11. "Homecoming" – 2:43
  12. "Altar" – 2:00

Deluxe Edition Soundtrack (2001)Edit

For the film's 25th anniversary, a deluxe version of the soundtrack was released with eight additional tracks.

All music composed by Jerry Goldsmith

  1. "Ave Satani" – 2:35
  2. "On This Night" – 2:36
  3. "The New Ambassador" – 2:34
  4. "Where Is He?" – :56
  5. "I Was There" – 2:27
  6. "Broken Vows" – 2:12
  7. "Safari Park" – 3:24
  8. "A Doctor, Please" – 1:44
  9. "The Killer Storm" – 2:54
  10. "The Fall" – 3:45
  11. "Don't Let Him" – 2:49
  12. "The Day He Died" – 2:14
  13. "The Dog's Attack" – 5:54
  14. "A Sad Message" – 1:44
  15. "Beheaded" – 1:49
  16. "The Bed" – 1:08
  17. "666" – :44
  18. "The Demise of Mrs. Baylock" – 2:54
  19. "The Altar" – 2:07
  20. "The Piper Dreams" – 2:41

40th Anniversary Edition Soundtrack (2016)Edit

A limited edition soundtrack was released for the film's 40th anniversary with six additional tracks and a bonus track.

All music composed by Jerry Goldsmith.

  1. "Ave Satani" – 2:34
  2. "On This Night" – 2:35
  3. "The New Ambassador" – 2:35
  4. "Where Is He?" – :55
  5. "Fatal Fall/It's All For You" – :42
  6. "The Dog" – :24
  7. "I Was There" – 2:24
  8. "Have No Fear" – :36
  9. "Broken Vows" – 2:12
  10. "Safari Park" – 3:21
  11. "A Doctor, Please" – 1:43
  12. "She'll Die" – 1:43
  13. "The Killer Storm" – 2:55
  14. "The Fall" – 3:45
  15. "Don't Let Him" – 2:48
  16. "The Day He Died" – 2:14
  17. "Father Spiletto" – 1:09
  18. "The Dogs Attack" – 5:53
  19. "Mother's Death" – :48
  20. "A Sad Message" – 1:44
  21. "Beheaded" – 1:48
  22. "The Bed" – 1:08
  23. "666" – :46
  24. "The Demise of Mrs. Baylock" – 2:54
  25. "The Altar" – 2:04
  26. "The Piper Dreams" – 2:39
  27. "The Omen Suite"– 10:52

ReceptionEdit

Box office performanceEdit

The Omen was released following a successful $2.8 million marketing campaign inspired by the one from Jaws one year prior, with two weeks of sneak previews, a novelization by screenwriter David Seltzer, and the logo with "666" inside the film's title as the centerpiece of the advertisement. The film was a massive commercial success in the United States. It grossed $4,273,886 in its opening weekend and $60,922,980 domestically on a tight budget of $2.8 million. The film was the fifth highest grossing movie of 1976.

Critical receptionEdit

The Omen received mostly positive reviews from critics and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1976, as well as one of the best horror films ever made. The film holds an 82% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. The movie boasted a particularly disturbing scene, in which a character willingly and joyfully hangs herself at a birthday party attended by young children. It also features a violent decapitation scene (caused by a horizontal sheet of plate glass), one of mainstream Hollywood's first: "If there were a special Madame Defarge Humanitarian Award for best decapitation," wrote Kim Newman in Nightmare Movies (1988), "this lingering, slow-motion sequence would get my vote."

On the flip side, The Omen appeared in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time by Harry Medved (co-author of the Golden Turkey Awards) and Randy Dreyfuss.

The Omen received recognition from the American Film Institute. It was ranked number 81 on 100 Years... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding films and the score by Jerry Goldsmith was nominated for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores. The film was ranked #16 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics' Association named it the 31st scariest film ever made.

Awards and nominationsEdit

The film received numerous accolades for its acting, writing, music and technical achievements. Jerry Goldsmith won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and received an additional nomination for Best Original Song for "Ave Satani". Goldsmith's score was also nominated for a Grammy award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion PictureBillie Whitelaw was nominated for a BAFTA film award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. She was also awarded the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress. The film also received recognition by the Hollywood Foreign Press AssociationHarvey Stephens was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut – MaleDavid Seltzer's original screenplay was nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen and for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture. The film was nominated for theSaturn Award for Best Horror Film and Gregory Peck received the Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Horror FilmGilbert Taylor won the Best Cinematography Award from the British Society of Cinematographers.

Parodies and pop cultureEdit

The film was spoofed in Mad Magazine as "The Ominous" and on Saturday Night Live as "The Ointment". In 1998, Damien appeared in an episode of South Park, confronting Jesus Christ, but he makes friends with the gang, except Eric Cartman. In its tenth season, South Park also used an excerpt from Goldsmith's score at the end of the episode "Tsst". The novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett satirizes the apocalypse and several events of the film, including the baby swap.

International versionsEdit

Outside the United States, The Omen was titled into their languages. The Spanish-speaking countries used the title La profecía. Italian versions title it Il presagio, while the DVD title adds to such a title (in the form of Omen - Il presagio.) The German version of the film is titled Das Omen. The title Pretkazanje was used in the Croatian-speaking countries. De vervloeking is the Flemish version, shown in Belgium. Tegnet is in the Danish language and was used for the Denmark release. The titles Ennustus (Finnish) and Spådom (Swedish) are versions that circulated in Finland. La malédiction was used as the French title in France, Luxembourg and the Canadian country of Quebec. Sweden, Japan and Poland simply showed it under Omen. It was released in Turkey as Kehanet and Ómen in Hungary. Zenklas was the title used in Lithuania. The Portuguese-speaking countries (Brazil in South America and Portugal in Europe) title the film O Génio do Mal.

NovelsEdit

  • David Seltzer, The Omen. (Futura, 1976).
  • Joseph Howard, Damien: Omen II. (Futura, 1978).
  • Gordon McGill, Omen III: The Final Conflict. (Futura, 1980).
  • Gordon McGill, Omen IV: Armageddon 2000. (Futura, 1983).
  • Gordon McGill, Omen V: The Abomination. (Futura, 1985).

Both The Omen and its novelization were written by David Seltzer (the book preceded the movie by two weeks as a marketing gimmick). For the book, Seltzer augmented some plot points and character backgrounds, and changed minor details (such as character names — Holly becomes Chessa Whyte, Keith Jennings becomes Huber Jennings, Father Brennan becomes Father Edgardo Emilio Tassone, et cetera). The second and third novels were more direct adaptations of those films' screenplays. Gordon McGill retroactively changed the time period of The Omen to the 1950s, in order to make The Final Conflict (featuring an adult Damien) take place explicitly in the 1980s. Although neither the first Omen movie nor its novelisation mention what year the story takes place, it can be assumed that its setting was intended to be the year the movie was released (i.e. 1976).

The fourth novel, Omen IV: Armageddon 2000, was entirely unrelated to the fourth movie, but continued the story of Omen III following the one-night stand between Damien Thorn and Kate Reynolds in that film. This affair included an act of sodomy and thence Kate gave rectal "birth" to another diabolical entity called "the Abomination" in the Omen IV novel. This novel attempted to address the apparent contradiction of whether the Antichrist could be slain by just one of the "Seven Sacred Daggers of Megiddo" as premised in Omen III, or only by all of them as stated in the first book and film. According to Omen IV, one dagger could kill Damien's body but not his soul, which complies loosely with the explanation given in the original film. Damien's acolyte Paul Buher (played by Robert Foxworth in the second movie) is a major character in the fourth book and achieves redemption in its climax.

Omen V: The Abomination begins with a "memorial" listing all of the characters who had been killed throughout the saga up to that point, and cements Damien's life in the period of 1950–1982. The novel closes with the chronicle of Damien's life about to be written by the character Jack Mason. Its last few lines are identical to the beginning of David Seltzer's novel, thus bringing the story full circle.

Remake

The Omen was remade in 2006 starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles in the Gregory Peck and Lee Remick roles. The film was successful at the box office, grossing $119 million worldwide, but gained mixed to negative reviews with critical praise reserved for Mia Farrow in the Billie Whitlaw role from the original.

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