The Omen

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This article is about the 1976 film. For the remake, see The Omen (2006 film).
The Omen
Omen ver4.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Harvey Bernhard
Written by David Seltzer
Starring Gregory Peck
Lee Remick
David Warner
Billie Whitelaw
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Stuart Baird
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 6, 1976 (1976-06-06) (UK)
  • June 25, 1976 (1976-06-25) (US)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $2.8 million[1]
Box office $60,922,980[2]

The Omen is a 1976 British/American 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.

Plot[edit]

In Rome, the son of American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), dies at birth. Robert is convinced by the hospital chaplain, Father Spiletto (Martin Benson), to secretly adopt an orphan whose mother died at the same time. Out of concern for his wife's mental well-being, Robert agrees, but does not reveal to her that the child is not theirs. They name the child Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens).

Soon after, Robert is appointed U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Mysterious events plague the Thorns. Animals, with the exception of large dogs congregating near the Thorn home, are terrified of the child. Damien violently resists entering a church. Damien's nanny publicly hangs herself at his fifth birthday party. A new nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), arrives to replace her. When the Thorns question her unexpected arrival, she claims "the agency" sent her after reading about the death in the newspapers.

Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), a Catholic priest, tries repeatedly to warn the Ambassador about Damien's mysterious origins. The priest hints that Damien may not be human. Thorn is irritated by the man and rebuffs his persistent intrusions. Finally convincing Thorn to meet him near the Thames, the priest tells Robert that Katherine is pregnant, and that Damien will prevent her from having the child. Afterward, Brennan is impaled by a lightning rod thrown from the roof of his church during a sudden storm.

Upon returning home, Katherine tells Robert that she is pregnant. Robert is surprised but delighted, but Katherine wants an abortion. Katherine claims that she feels overwhelmed and threatened by Damien.

Learning of Father Brennan's death, photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) 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, Mrs. Baylock allows Damien to work himself into a frenzy. Speeding through the mansion on his tricycle, he knocks Katherine over an upstairs railing to the floor below. Robert receives a phone call from a hospital, and rushes to Katherine's side. She miscarries.

Keith and Robert travel to Rome to investigate Damien's birth. A fire has destroyed the hospital records and the maternity and nursery wards; most of the staff on duty died in the fire. Robert and Keith trace Father Spiletto to a rural monastery, where he is recuperating from his injuries but is not expected to survive. Stricken mute, Spiletto writes the name of an ancient Etruscan cemetery where Damien's biological mother is buried. Robert and Keith find a jackal's skeleton in the grave and a child's skeleton with a shattered skull: 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 dogs, similar to ones seen near the Thorn's mansion, attack Robert and Keith. They escape the cemetery with injuries.

Robert and Keith travel to Israel to find Karl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern), an archaeologist and expert on the Antichrist. Bugenhagen explains 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 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 the daggers, he is decapitated by a sheet of window glass sliding off a truck.

Back in London, Mrs. Baylock murders Katherine by pushing her out of her hospital window.

Agonized by the deaths, Robert resolves to end the nightmare. Returning home, he waylays a large dog that is standing guard at the mansion and examines Damien for the birthmark. As he finds it on Damien's scalp, Mrs. Baylock attacks him. Robert kills her. He loads Damien and the daggers into a car and drives to the nearest church. Due to his erratic driving and excessive speed, 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.

Damien attends the funeral of Katherine and Robert in the custody of the U.S. President. The final shot focuses on Damien, who smiles gleefully as the ceremony ends.

Cast[edit]

Music[edit]

The Omen
Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released 1976
Genre Film music
Length 34:16
Label 20th Century Fox
Producer Jerry Goldsmith
listen to a clip from the soundtrack of "The Omen".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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.

  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

On October 9, 2001, a deluxe version of the soundtrack was released with eight additional tracks.

  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

Reception[edit]

Box office performance[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4][5] The film was the fifth highest grossing movie of 1976.

Critical reception[edit]

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.[6][7][8] The film holds an 85% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[9] 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."

Conversely, 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 was ranked number 81 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills,[10] and the score by Jerry Goldsmith was nominated for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.[11] The film was ranked #16 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[12] Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics' Association named it the 31st scariest film ever made.[13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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.[14]

Parodies[edit]

The film was spoofed in Mad Magazine #189, March 1977,[15] as "The Ominous"—written by Dick DeBartolo with art by Harry North—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".[16] 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 versions[edit]

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 province 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. In Brazil, it's called A Profecia; in Portugal, O Génio do Mal.[17]

Novels[edit]

  • 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 in dialogue, in the scene where Katherine and Damien visit the safari park the tax disc on their car can be clearly seen to state it expires in August 1976. With the majority of the events of the film taking place immediately before and after Damien's fifth birthday party, this would place his birth at 6am on the 6th of June 1971. Filming began in October 1975 and wrapped in late-January 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.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
  2. ^ "The Omen, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "Box Office Information for The Omen". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Box Office and Business Information for The Omen". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1976". AMC Filmsite.org. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Best Movies of 1976 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1976". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Omen Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  11. ^ AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Ballot
  12. ^ "Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Chicago Critics’ Scariest Films". AltFilmGuide.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Omen: Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Mad Magazine #189 at madcoversite.com". 
  16. ^ http://dictionary.sensagent.com/tsst/en-en/#Cultural_references
  17. ^ The Omen at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]