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Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
|Directed by||Richard Donner|
|Produced by||Harvey Bernhard|
|Written by||David Seltzer|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Stuart Baird|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||111 minutes|
The Omen is a 1976 American/British suspense horror film directed by Richard Donner. The film stars Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson and Leo McKern. It is the first film in The Omen series and was scripted by David Seltzer.
The newborn son of Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), dies shortly after birth in Rome where Robert is stationed. The grieving Robert is convinced by Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) into adopting an orphan whose mother died at the same moment. Out of concern for his wife's mental well-being, Robert agrees. They name the child Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens). Soon after, Robert is named U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain.
Several mysterious events soon begin to plague the Thorns. Damien's nanny publicly hangs herself at his fifth birthday party after seeing a Rottweiler who happened to be watching from the trees. Shortly afterwards, a new nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), suddenly arrives to replace her - claiming the agency sent her after reading about the death in the newspapers.
Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), a local priest, arrives at Robert's office to warn the Ambassador of his son's mysterious origins. The priest also hints that Damien may not be human. An irritated Thorn refuses to believe that anything is wrong with his son and has Father Brennan removed from his office. The priest repeatedly warns Robert, by the River Thames, about the curse, which Robert ignores. The priest tells Robert that his wife is pregnant, and this puts her in danger from Damien. Suddenly, a lightning and wind storm occur, and he tries to enter a church for protection, which is however locked. He subsequently dies when a lightning rod, from the top of a church, falls on him and impales him through the side of his neck.
Katherine tells Robert that she is pregnant which delights Robert but Katherine wants an abortion. Katherine soon makes it clear that Damien is getting on her nerves.
Following Father Brennan's death, and while piecing together other clues, photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) begins investigating Damien. He notices marks on photographs of the nanny and Father Brennan that seem to have predicted their subsequent deaths. Photos of Keith now also show a mark, so Keith shows Robert the photos and tells him he wants to help Robert solve the mystery.
While Robert is working, Katherine is busy tidying the house while Damien is riding his tricycle around. Mrs. Baylock watches the boy as he rides close to the little step-ladder Katherine is standing on. Suddenly Katherine is thrown over the railing, grasping desperately and begging for Damien to help her. The child is unresponsive as his mother falls, screaming, down to the floor below. The resulting accident causes Katherine to miscarry.
Keith travels with Robert as they investigate Damien's birth. They visit the Rome hospital but find that a fire destroyed the hospital records and maternity and nursery wards. Robert and Keith visit Father Spiletto at a rural monastery and discover he has been burned on his right half and struck mute. Father Spiletto gives Robert and Keith the name of a ruined cemetery where they find a jackal's skeleton in Damien's mother's grave, and discover that Robert's and Katherine's child was murdered to place Damien in their care. These shocking discoveries force Robert and Keith to believe Father Brennan's warning that Damien is the Antichrist. A group of wild rottweilers attack both Robert and Keith, who, despite their injuries, manage to escape the cemetery.
Robert and Keith later travel to Israel to find Carl Bugenhagen, an archaeologist who knows how to stop the Antichrist. Bugenhagen reveals to Robert that Damien will possess a birthmark in the shape of three sixes if he is the Antichrist. Robert learns that the only way to kill Damien is to stab him with the seven daggers of Megiddo. Refusing to murder what he believes is an innocent child, Robert throws the pack of daggers away from them. Keith says that if Robert will not do it, then he will, but, as he goes to retrieve the daggers, he is decapitated when a sheet of glass slides off a truck rolling back towards the reporter.
Katherine's recuperation is going well until Mrs. Baylock suddenly appears and pushes her through a window, sending her body crashing into a parked ambulance.
After Katherine's and Keith's deaths, Robert begins to have second thoughts. That night, he traps the Rottweiler, who had been the guard at the house, in a stairway, that led to the basement of the house. He then goes to his son's room and discovers the '666' mark on Damien's scalp when Mrs. Baylock appears. A struggle ensues as the nanny tries to kill Robert, but Robert emerges victorious after he kills Mrs. Baylock. Robert loads up Damien and the daggers and drives off to the local church. Dragging the struggling Damien to the altar, Robert prepares to kill his son who is screaming, "NO, Daddy, NO!" when the police arrive and order Thorn to drop the dagger. He refuses and is shot by the officer.
Damien attends the funeral of Katherine and Robert in the care of the U.S. President given the diplomatic charge of Robert; they receive an honorable burial and blessing by a Catholic priest. The camera then pans down on Damien, who turns to the audience and smiles innocently while "Ave Satani" plays. It was earlier established that the President was a college friend of Robert, the implication being that they will take Damien into their care, gaining more power politically.
- 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
- Robert Rietti as Monk
- Tommy Duggan as Priest
- 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
Alternate endings 
The script's original ending was that Robert Thorn succeeded in killing Damien, but studio head Alan Ladd, Jr. and the film's director Richard Donner refused to conclude the film with that ending. So Seltzer altered the script to the ending which was filmed with Robert Thorn being shot by the police and Damien surviving.
A series of events happened during the making of The Omen (October 1975 to January 1976) that caused some speculation as to whether or not the film was "cursed".
Separate flights for both actor Gregory Peck and executive producer Mace Neufeld were struck by lightning when flying between the USA and England, and producer Harvey Bernhard was barely missed by a lightning bolt in Rome. A restaurant that Neufeld and Peck were to eat at in England was bombed by the IRA.
A plane hired by the studio to take aerial shots in Israel was switched at the last moment by the airline, and the clients who took the original plane were all killed when it crashed on takeoff. Some time later, a zookeeper who was helping the studio with handling animals was attacked and eaten alive by lions. After working on The Omen, stuntman Alf Joint went on to work on A Bridge Too Far where he was pushed off a building during a stunt gone wrong.
On Friday, August 13, 1976, special effects artist John Richardson was in an accident in the Netherlands while working on A Bridge Too Far, also right after work on The Omen was done. Less than a year after designing the deaths for The Omen, Richardson's car was involved in a major accident which killed and decapitated his female companion, in a way similar to David Warner's death in The Omen. It is rumored that upon stumbling out of his car he saw a road sign that said he was near the town of Ommen.
|Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith|
|Label||20th Century Fox|
listen to a clip from the soundtrack of "The Omen".
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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 long 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" (ungrammatical Latin for, "We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan"; note that the correct Latin would be, "Sanguinem bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani"), 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.
- "Ave Satani" – 2:32
- "New Ambassador" – 2:33
- "Killer's Storm" – 2:51
- "Sad Message" – 1:42
- "Demise of Mrs. Baylock" – 2:52
- "Don't Let Him" – 2:48
- "Piper Dreams" – 2:39
- "Fall" – 3:42
- "Safari Park" – 2:04
- "Dog's Attack" – 5:50
- "Homecoming" – 2:43
- "Altar" – 2:00
On October 9, 2001, a deluxe version of the soundtrack was released with eight additional tracks.
- "Ave Satani" – 2:35
- "On This Night" – 2:36
- "The New Ambassador" – 2:34
- "Where Is He?" – :56
- "I Was There" – 2:27
- "Broken Vows" – 2:12
- "Safari Park" – 3:24
- "A Doctor, Please" – 1:44
- "The Killer Storm" – 2:54
- "The Fall" – 3:45
- "Don't Let Him" – 2:49
- "The Day He Died" – 2:14
- "The Dog's Attack" – 5:54
- "A Sad Message" – 1:44
- "Beheaded" – 1:49
- "The Bed" – 1:08
- "666" – :44
- "The Demise of Mrs. Baylock" – 2:54
- "The Altar" – 2:07
- "The Piper Dreams" – 2:41
Box office performance 
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 reception 
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."
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 nominations 
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 Picture. Billie 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 Association. Harvey Stephens was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut – Male. David 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 the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Gregory Peck received the Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Horror Film. Gilbert Taylor won the Best Cinematography Award from the British Society of Cinematographers.
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. The American Dad episode "Seasons Beatings" riffs on The Omen, with a child adopted by Hayley and Jeff named 'nemo' eventually escaping the smith family and being adopted by Sarah Palin.
- 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 movie and the novelization were written by David Seltzer (the book preceded the movie by two weeks as an effective marketing gimmick). For the book, Seltzer took liberties with his own material, augmenting plot points and character backgrounds and changing 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 novelized forms of their respective movies and more-or-less reflected movie continuity. Interestingly, 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. Its premise is based on the one-night stand between Damien Thorn and Kate Reynolds in Omen III. This affair included an act of sodomy and thence Kate gave the (rectal) "birth" of another diabolical entity called "the abomination" (presumably after the "abomination of desolation" from the book of Daniel) in Omen IV. This novel attempted to patch one of the Omen series' more glaring plot-holes, namely the question of whether the Antichrist could be slain by a single one of the "Seven Sacred Daggers of Megiddo" (which occurred in Omen III) or only by all of them (as stated in the first book and movie). The solution reached was that one dagger could kill Damien's form, but not his soul. This explanation was also explicitly stated in the first movie. Damien's acolyte Paul Buher (played by Robert Foxworth in the second movie and mentioned, though not seen, in the third) is a major character in the fourth book and achieves redemption in its climax.
This story was concluded in the fifth novel, Omen V: The Abomination. The novel begins with a "memoriam" listing all of the characters who had been killed throughout the saga up to that point, and which states Damien's life as having taken place in the period of 1950–1982. The story ends with the death of Damien's son, and the character Jack Mason deciding to chronicle Damien's story in book-form. The opening lines he writes are exactly the same words which begin David Seltzer's novelization of the first film, bringing the series full-circle.
See also 
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
- "The Omen, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
- "The Omen Curse". Mysendoff.com, April 25, 2012
- Wyatt, Justin (1998). "Chapter 3: From Roadshowing to Saturation Release: Majors, Independents, and Marketing/ Distribution Innovations". In Lewis, Jon. The new American cinema. Duke University Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-8223-2115-7.
- "Box Office Information for The Omen". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "Box Office and Business Information for The Omen". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "The Greatest Films of 1976". AMC Filmsite.org. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "The Best Movies of 1976 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1976". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- "The Omen Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Ballot
- "Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "Chicago Critics’ Scariest Films". AltFilmGuide.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- "The Omen: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
- The Omen at the Internet Movie Database
- The Omen at the TCM Movie Database
- The Omen at AllRovi
- The Omen at Box Office Mojo
- The Omen at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Omen script