InsidePulse DVD Review – The Omen: Collector's Edition

Director
Richard Donner

Writer
David Seltzer

CAST
Gregory Peck …. Robert Thorn
Lee Remick …. Katherine Thorn
David Warner …. Keith Jennings
Billie Whitelaw …. Mrs. Baylock
Harvey Stephens …. Damien
Patrick Troughton …. Father Brennan
Martin Benson …. Father Spiletto
Robert Rietty …. Monk
Tommy Duggan …. Priest
John Stride …. The Psychiatrist
Anthony Nicholls …. Dr. Becker
Holly Palance …. Young nanny
Roy Boyd …. Reporter
Freda Dowie …. Nun
Sheila Raynor …. Mrs. Horton

Rated R
Running Time: 111 minutes
Originally released: 1976
DVD release: June 20th 2006

Ah The Omen, Richard Donner’s 1976 breakthrough smash with a fine David Seltzer script behind it, might just be the best of the “classy” ’70s horror flicks.The Omen stars the great Gregory Peck, coming out of semi-retirement to deal with personal tragedy. He plays American Diplomat Robert Thorne, a man who secretly replaces his baby (who had died just after birth) with its closest Roman equivalent, little Damien. Things are hunky-dory for the first five years: Thorne becomes Ambassador to Britain, his wife (Lee Remick) knows nothing of his baby swap, and they live a life of luxury and comfort.

Then, during Damien’s extravagant fifth birthday party, the Thornes’ young governess (played by Jack Palance’s daughter) takes the advice of a stray rottweiler and hangs herself in front of all the kids. Things get stranger and gorier from there, as Thorne meets a drug-addled priest convinced that Damien is the Anti-Christ, and a photographer whose pictures of people bear strange markings which correspond to their deaths. Eventually, the Ambassador decides that it might be in his best interest to ritually stab his son with blessed knives at church.

The Omen was shot on location in Rome, England and Israel for a scant 2.2 million dollars. Donner is really at the top of his form here: the camera work here is spectacular and the pacing is pitch perfect. The flick is full of classic scenes, e.g. the hanging, the decapitation, the graveyard attack, the impaled priest, and the tricycle sequence (which was stolen by the great Stanley Kubrick for The Shining).Jerry Goldsmith won an Oscar for the film’s excellent score, which pioneered techniques in weird horror movie chanting.

There are two main factors that allow The Omen to transcend similar films. The first being, the Oscar winning Gregory Peck. Peck screen presence and impressive resume bring instant credibility to the flick. The second factor is how the film is presented. Donner made the movie from the perspective that Damien isn’t evil. Damien, himself, doesn’t do anything incredible. Everything that happens during The Omen could be taken as a series of coincidences and tragedies, partially caused by the religious zealots on both sides. From this point of view, we are watching a movie about a man overcome by guilt and grief inevitably succumbing to madness.

STORY: 9/10
ACTING: 9/10
ORIGINALITY: 9/10
LOOK/FEEL: 9/10
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 9/10
TOTAL POINTS: 45/50
FINAL SCORE: 9/10

The DVD

Holy crap, do they ever mean “Collector’s Edition.” Here is what you get:

The Packaging: Clamshell with a slip case. Two discs inside, with the first on a hinge set-up. We get a little booklet with Damien on the front and a raven on the back. Inside the booklet is a chapter list and a bunch of short stories about the “Omen Curse” taken from newspapers (such as lightning striking planes, animal trainers being eaten and all that jazz).

Tech Stuff: My one and only complaint is this: if you rely on a crappy TV speaker, and I do, you will have to turn your television’s volume up fairly high.

Commentary by Richard Donner and Stuart Baird: The director and editor of The Omen wax nostalgic, crack wise, and share some of the secrets of film, like how to get a baboon to attack your car and how to make it look like Lee Remick is really falling off the balcony. They also mention the film’s connections to Star Wars. There are some extended silences where the two seem to be getting into the film, but otherwise a fine commentary. I think my favorite part is when the Donner applauds the creativity that comes from a low budget and lack of tools. Then, Baird says something along the lines of, “If you made this movie today, it would be all CGI and over-produced and not nearly as good.” He must be psychic!

Commentary by Richard Donner and Brian Helgeland: Helgeland is a writer/director whose body of work includes such things as A Knight’s Tale, and sounds like Ray Romano. He brings a different perspective on the film, but Donner tells a lot of the same stories from the first commentary track.

Curse or Coincidence featurette: The people that made the flick comment on a lot of the strange goings-on surrounding the making of The Omen. It’s fairly short. Richard Donner provides the voice of reason here saying that the “Omen Curse” is nothing more than coincidence and selective memory.

Jerry Goldsmith discusses The Omen score: This special feature is a series of 4 mini-docs on the music of the film. What’s nice is that they actually how the scenes that Goldsmith is discussing so that we can see what he means. He covers the “love theme,” the church scene, the dog attack scene, and the 666 revelation scene. (The music for the church sequence was inspired by Jaws!)

The Trailer: These old trailers make me nostalgic for ’70s movies, even though I wasn’t around to see them.

The following features are on Disc 2

Introduction to Collector’s Edition DVD by Richard Donner: Straightforward, it’s about 2 minutes long.

Still Photo Gallery: A nice and fairly large collection of pics that can be scrolled through, it is in desperate need of a thumbnail gallery.

Deleted Scene with Commentary: Dick Donner provides commentary over a short segment which he rightfully excised from the film. The scene is about 2 minutes long, and extends the Baylock attack scene. (The Omen re-make includes something similar to these cut shots.)

666: The Omen Revealed: A fairly standard, behind the scenes, documentary. It runs about an hour.

The Omen Legacy: A two hour AMC special hosted by Jack Palance about The Omen, its 3 sequels, the TV Pilot, and other ways the flick has been culturally pervasive. It was made about 5 years ago, so there isn’t anything here about the remake. It’s interesting enough, and pretty much admits that the third and fourth movies in the series are awful.

Screenwriter’s Notebook: It is about fifteen minutes with David Seltzer. He talks about how he was offered the opportunity to write a movie about the anti-Christ, took the job for the money, how the Exorcist sequel screwed him over for a while, and how Dick Donner did the movie a favor by cutting out all the silly and obvious parts of the movie.

An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen: Wes Craven spends about 20 minutes talking about The Omen. I’m a sucker for Wes Craven’s odd little horror maestro/ humanities professor paradigm.

DVD SCORE: 9/10