Damien: Omen II
Omen ii.jpg
The first time was only a warning
Directed By
Don Taylor
Mike Hodges
Produced By
Harvey Bernhard
Screenplay By
Stanley Mann
Mike Hodges
Story By
Harvey Bernhard
Based on
Characters created by
David Seltzer
William Holden
Lee Grant
Jonathan Scott-Taylor
Edited By
Robert Brown
Bill Butler
Gilbert Taylor
(Israel sequences)
Music By
Distributed By
United States
Release Date
June 9, 1978
107 minutes
Rating R.gif
$6.8 million
$26.5 million

Damien: Omen II is a 1978 American supernatural horror film directed by Don Taylor, starring William Holden, Lee Grant, and Jonathan Scott-Taylor. The film was the second installment in The Omen series, set seven years after the first film, and was followed by a third installment, Omen III: The Final Conflict, in 1981.

This was Lew Ayres' final film role and the film debut of Meshach Taylor. The official tagline of the film is "The First Time Was Only a Warning." Leo McKern reprises his role as Carl Bugenhagen from the original film; he is the only cast member of the series to appear in more than one installment.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

A week after the burial of Robert and Katherine Thorn, archaeologist Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) learns of the survival of their adopted son Damien. Confiding to his friend Michael Morgan (Ian Hendry) that Damien is the Antichrist, Bugenhagen attempts to convince him to give Damien's guardian a box containing the means to kill Damien. As Morgan is unconvinced, Bugenhagen takes him to some local ruins to see the mural of Yigael's Wall, which was said to have been drawn by one who saw the Devil and had visions of the Antichrist as he would appear from birth to death. Though Morgan believes him upon seeing an ancient depiction of the Antichrist with Damien's face, both he and Bugenhagen are buried alive as the tunnel collapses on them.

Seven years later, the 12-year old Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is living with his uncle, industrialist Richard Thorn (William Holden) and his wife, Ann (Lee Grant). Damien gets along well with his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat), Richard's son from his first marriage, with whom he is enrolled in a military academy. However, Damien is despised by Richard's aunt, Marion (Sylvia Sidney), who sees him as a bad influence on Mark. After Marion threatens to cut Richard out of her will if he does not separate the two boys, she dies of a heart attack after being visited by a raven in the dead of night. Soon after, through his friend and curator of the Thorn Museum, Dr. Charles Warren (Nicholas Pryor), Richard is introduced to journalist Joan Hart (Elizabeth Shepherd). Hart was a colleague of Keith Jennings, the journalist decapitated seven years previously after befriending Robert Thorn to investigate the circumstances surrounding Damien's birth and adoption by the Thorns. Hart has pieced together the circumstances of Jennings' death after seeing Yigael's Wall. Though no one believes her, Hart believes she may have been mistaken about Damien until she sees his face at his school and drives off in a panic. On the road, after her car's engine mysteriously dies, Hart is attacked by the raven as it pecks out her eyes and then watches her get run over by a passing truck.

At Thorn Industries, manager Paul Buher (Robert Foxworth) suggests expanding the company's operations into agriculture; however, the project is shelved by senior manager Bill Atherton (Lew Ayres), who calls Buher's intention of buying up land in the process unethical. At Mark's birthday party, Buher introduces himself to Damien, invites him to see the plant, and also speaks of his approaching initiation. Buher seemingly makes up with Atherton, who drowns after falling through the ice at a hockey game on a frozen lake the following day. A shocked Richard leaves on vacation, leaving Buher to oversee the agriculture project in principle and returning to find that he initiated land purchases on his own.

Meanwhile, at the academy, Damien's new commander, Sgt. Neff (Lance Henriksen), is revealed to be a secret Satanist like Buher as he takes the boy under his wing while advising him not to draw any attention to himself until the right moment. He also points him to Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation in the Bible, telling Damien that, for him, the book is precisely that; a revelation. Damien reads the passage, discovering the 666 Mark of the Beast on his scalp. Learning his true nature, he flees the Academy grounds in a terrified panic. Later, alerting Buher that he intends to tell Richard that some of the land they obtained was taken from people who were murdered after having refused to sell their land, Dr. David Pasarian (Allan Arbus) is killed when he and his assistant suffocate from toxic fumes during an industrial "accident". The incident injures Damien's class, who were visiting the plant at the time. When Damien alone is found to be unharmed by the fumes, a doctor (Meshach Taylor) suggests keeping him in the hospital as a precaution. The doctor discovers that Damien's marrow cells resemble those of a jackal; before he can investigate any further or report his findings, however, he is cut in half by a falling elevator cable.

Meanwhile, Bugenhagen's box has been found during an excavation of the ruins and delivered to the Thorn Museum. Dr. Warren opens it and finds the Seven Daggers of Megiddo, the only weapons able to kill Damien, along with a letter by Bugenhagen explaining that Damien is the Antichrist. Warren rushes to inform Richard, who angrily refuses to believe it as Warren leaves to see Yigael's Wall for himself. The next day, Richard confronts Ann with the letter, but she convinces him that it is preposterous. But matters worsen when Mark, who overheard Richard's altercation with Warren, confronts Damien. Reluctantly, and then proudly, admitting to being the Devil's son, Damien pleads with Mark to join him on his rise to power, but Mark's steadfast refusal forces Damien to kill Mark by causing an aneurysm in his cousin's brain.

Shaken by his son's death, Richard goes to New York City to see a half-crazed Warren before being taken to the train station where Yigael's Wall is being stored in a cargo carrier. As a horrified Richard sees Damien's image, a switching locomotive impales Charles and crushes him against the carriage, destroying the wall and convincing Richard beyond doubt that Damien is the Antichrist. Upon his return, Richard has Damien picked up from his graduation at the academy while taking Ann to the museum. When they find the daggers in Warren's office in the Thorn Museum, Ann uses them to kill Richard, revealing herself to be a Satanist who "always belonged to him". Having heard the altercation from an outside corridor, Damien wills a nearby boiler room to explode, setting fire to the building, with Ann consumed in the flames. Damien then exits the burning museum and is picked up by the family driver, Murray, as the fire department arrives.

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • William Holden as Richard Thorn
  • Lee Grant as Ann Thorn
  • Robert Foxworth as Paul Buher
  • Lew Ayres as Bill Atherton
  • Sylvia Sidney as Aunt Marion
  • Jonathan Scott-Taylor as Damien Thorn
  • Nicholas Pryor as Dr. Charles Warren
  • Lance Henriksen as Sergeant Daniel Neff
  • Elizabeth Shephard as Joan Hart
  • Lucas Donat as Mark Thorn
  • Allan Arbus as David Pasarian
  • Meshach Taylor as Dr. Kane
  • Fritz Ford as Murray
  • Leo McKern (uncredited) as Carl Bugenhagen
  • Ian Hendry (uncredited) as Michael Morgan

Production[edit | edit source]

Crew[edit | edit source]

David Seltzer, who wrote the first film's screenplay, was asked by the producers to write the second. Seltzer refused as he had no interest in writing sequels. Years later, Seltzer commented that had he written the story for the second Omen, he would have set it the day after the first movie, with Damien a child living in The White House. With Seltzer turning down Omen II, producer Harvey Bernhard duly outlined the story himself, and Stanley Mann was hired to write the screenplay.

After Bernhard had finished writing the story outline and was given the green light to start the production, the first person he contacted was Jerry Goldsmith because of the composer's busy schedule. Bernhard also felt that Goldsmith's music for The Omen was the highest point of that movie, and that without Goldsmith's music, the sequel would not be successful. Goldsmith's Omen II score uses similar motifs to his original Omen score, but for the most part, Goldsmith avoided re-using the same musical cues. In fact, the first movie's famous "Ave Satani" theme is used only partially, just before the closing credits begin. Goldsmith composed a largely different main title theme for Omen II, albeit one that utilises Latin phrases as "Ave Satani" had done. Goldsmith's Omen II score allows eerie choral effects and unusual electronic sound designs to take precedence over the piano and gothic chanting.

Richard Donner, director of the first Omen movie, was not available to direct the second, as he was busy working on Superman. British film director Mike Hodges was hired to helm the movie. During production, the producers believed that Hodges' methods were too slow, and so they fired him and replaced him with Don Taylor, who had a reputation for finishing films on time and under budget. However, the few scenes Hodges directed (some of the footage at the factory and at the military academy, all of the early archaeology scenes, and the dinner where Aunt Marion shows her concern about Damien) remained in the completed film, for which Hodges retains a story credit. In later interviews, Hodges commented sanguinely on his experiences working on Omen II.

Casting[edit | edit source]

Academy Award-winning veteran actor William Holden was considered to star as Robert Thorn in the first Omen, but turned it down as he did not want to star in a picture about the devil. Gregory Peck was selected as his replacement. The Omen went on to become a huge hit and Holden made sure he did not turn down the part of protagonist Richard Thorn in the sequel. Lee Grant, another Oscar-winner, was a fan of the first Omen and accepted enthusiastically the role of Ann Thorn.

Ray Berwick (1914–1990) trained and handled the crows used for several scenes in the film. Live birds and a crow-puppet were used for the attack on photojournalist Joan Hart. Berwick also trained the avian actors in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).

Locations[edit | edit source]

The movie was mainly set in Chicago and was largely filmed in downtown Chicago. The "Thorn Industries" building was actually Chicago's city hall. Another scene took place at Graceland Cemetery. Scenes set at a New York City freight yard were also shot in Chicago, with the CBOT Tower and the Willis Tower visible in the background.

Other locations included Lake Forest Academy's campus, which was used as the Thorn Mansion, the Northwestern Military and Naval Academy's Geneva Lake campus, which was used for the military academy, with real Geneva Lake students portraying most of the academy cadets, and the Murphy Estate on Catfish Lake in Eagle River, Wisconsin for the skating scene, with local children playing the skaters. The Thorn Museum aka Field Museum of Natural History was also used in several scenes throughout the film including some of the movie's final minutes.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The film received mixed reviews. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 41% based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "Perhaps my resistance has given out but 'Damien—Omen II,' though it's as foolish as the first film, is rather more fun to watch and sometimes very stylish-looking." Variety wrote, "Damien is obviously wearing out his welcome, but presold interest and a couple of gruesome, ghastly death scenes should shore up business for the summer." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune found it inferior to the original because "there's nothing particularly surprising or horrifying about a teen-ager in league with the devil. Also, the commotion the kid inspires this time is not particularly frightening." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "Far from advancing the unsavory premise of the first film, this one doggedly retraces its steps. The result is an inferior copy rather than a narrative continuation." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "For all its slavish copying of the original, 'Damien — Omen II' plays differently. It's a hoot instead of a scream. Its deaths are frequent and exceedingly graphic, but you wait for them as for the acts on a variety bill. The connective tissue is frailer this time, and there is almost no accumulation of suspense." Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "The main trouble with the Evil One as a protagonist is that his opposition never looks very convincing—and like its predecessor, Omen II is based on a rather lame structure in which successive individuals discover something amiss about Damien and then meet an inexorably bloody end."

Soundtrack[edit | edit source]

Unlike The Omen (and The Final Conflict), Jerry Goldsmith's score was recorded in the US, with the soundtrack album re-recorded in Britain for financial reasons. Lionel Newman conducted both the film and album versions; Varèse Sarabande later released an expanded CD including both, the liner notes of which explain the reasons behind the re-recording (a short lived union rule meant that musicians had to be paid the full amount for the film use AND album use if the soundtrack was released on LP, doubling their fee. It was cheaper, therefore, to re-record in the UK than pay the orchestra double in the US). The liner notes also explain that some of the soundtrack's pieces have been re-written slightly or even merged for the album re-recording. The audio quality of these UK recorded album tracks also sounds noticeably more dynamic. Some sections of the film's soundtrack - the tapes of which were thought lost for many years - were discovered to have warped in storage and have noticeable and uncorrectable flaws. (The film soundtrack is listed from track 11 onwards).

Home release[edit | edit source]

The film was released on videocassette during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2000, it was part of The Omen Quadrilogy DVD set in the U.S. and U.K. and was not available separately until 2005. In 2006, to coincide with the DVD release of the remake of the original film, The Omen and its sequels were released individually and together in an ultimate Pentalogy boxset digitally remastered and with more bonus features. In 2008, it was released on Blu-ray with its predecessor and 1981 sequel, Omen III: The Final Conflict. It is the only film in its series not currently available for online downloading, although Amazon had it on its 'Add to Watchlist' and is available through them for download as well as streaming video with a Cinemax subscription, along its predecessor, sequels and remake, all of which are downloadable through Amazon, Apple's iTunes and Vudu. It is now available for download with its original predecessor and sequels in an Omen 4-pack "bundle" set through Apple's iTunes and Vudu.

External links[edit | edit source]

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