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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|
|Edited by||Stuart Baird|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$60.9 million (United States and Canada)|
The Omen is a 1976 American-British supernatural horror film directed by Richard Donner, written by David Seltzer, and starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern. Its plot follows Damien Thorn, a young child replaced at birth by an American ambassador unbeknownst to his wife, after their biological child dies shortly after birth; as a series of mysterious events and violent deaths occur around the family as Damien enters childhood, they come to learn he is in fact the prophesied Antichrist.
Released theatrically by 20th Century Fox in June 1976, The Omen received mixed reviews from critics and was a commercial success, grossing over $60 million at the U.S. box office and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of 1976. The film earned two Oscar 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, followed by a third installment, Omen III: The Final Conflict, in 1981, and in 1991 with Omen IV: The Awakening. A remake was released in 2006.
In Rome, American diplomat Robert Thorn is in a hospital where his wife Katherine gives birth to a boy. Robert is told the infant died. Moments later, the hospital chaplain, Father Spiletto, urges Robert to secretly adopt an infant whose mother died in childbirth. Robert agrees, but does not inform Katherine that the child is not their own. They name him Damien.
Several years later, when Damien is a young child, Robert is appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Soon after, mysterious events plague the Thorns: A large Rottweiler appears near the Thorn home; Damien's nanny hangs herself during his fifth birthday party; a mysterious new nanny, Mrs. Baylock, arrives unannounced; Damien violently resists entering a church; and Damien's presence terrifies animals. Katherine increasingly fears Damien and distances herself from him. Father Brennan, a Catholic priest, warns Robert about Damien's mysterious origins, hinting he is not human. He later tells Robert that Katherine is pregnant and Damien will prevent the child's birth. Afterward, Brennan is fatally impaled by a lightning rod thrown from a church roof during a sudden storm. Katherine subsequently tells Robert she is pregnant and wants an abortion.
Learning of Father Brennan's death, photographer Keith Jennings investigates Damien. He notices shadows in photographs of the nanny and of Father Brennan that seem to presage their bizarre deaths. A photo of Keith himself shows the same shadow across his neck. Keith shows Robert the photos and tells him he also believes that Damien is a threat. While Robert is away, Damien knocks Katherine over an upstairs railing to the floor below, seriously injuring her and causing her to miscarry.
Keith accompanies Robert to Rome to investigate Damien's birth parents. They learn a fire destroyed maternity records in the hospital years prior, and that the fire killed most of the staff on duty. They eventually trace Father Spiletto to a monastery in Subiaco, where they find him mute, blind in one eye, and partly paralyzed. Spiletto writes the name of an ancient Etruscan cemetery in Cerveteri, where Damien's biological mother is buried. Robert and Keith enter the cemetery at night, and find a jackal carcass in Damien's mother's grave; in the plot next to it is a child's skeleton with a shattered skull. Robert realizes that the jackal is Damien's inhuman mother, and that the child in the plot next to her is his own murdered son, killed so Damien could take his place.
Keith reiterates Father Brennan's belief that Damien is the Antichrist, whose coming is supported by a conspiracy of Satanists. A pack of wild Rottweilers drive Robert and Keith out of the cemetery. Robert calls Katherine, still in the hospital, and tells her she must leave London. She agrees, but is confronted in her hospital room by Mrs. Baylock, who throws her through the window to her death. Meanwhile, Robert and Keith travel to Israel to meet Carl Bugenhagen, an archaeologist and expert on the Antichrist; he explains that if Damien is the true Antichrist he will bear a birthmark in the shape of three sixes. Carl gives Robert seven mystical daggers from Megiddo, and advises him to use them to murder Damien on hallowed ground. Robert, repulsed by the thought of killing a child, throws the daggers into a construction site. When Keith attempts to retrieve them, he is decapitated by a sheet of glass that slides from a truck bed.
Robert returns to London, and, upon examining Damien, finds the birthmark on his scalp. Mrs. Baylock enacts a violent attack on Robert, but he ultimately stabs her to death. Armed with the daggers, Robert forces Damien into the car and drives to a nearby cathedral. His erratic driving draws attention of police, who trail him. Robert drags a screaming Damien into the church and lays him on the altar. Robert raises a dagger to stab Damien, pleading for forgiveness from God, but is shot to death by police who have entered the church.
A short time later, the double funeral of Katherine and Robert is attended by the President of the United States. Damien, observing the funerary procession, calmly smiles.
- Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn
- Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn
- David Warner as Keith Jennings
- Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Willa 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. Fred Becker
- Holly Palance as Nanny
- Roy Boyd as Reporter
- Freda Dowie as Nun
- Tommy Duggan as Priest
- Sheila Raynor as Mrs. Ingrid 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
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2016)
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.
According to Richard Donner, Lee Remick's reaction during the baboon scene was authentic.
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.
Principal photography of The Omen began on October 6, 1975, and lasted eleven weeks, wrapping on January 9, 1976. Scenes were shot on location in Bishops Park in Fulham, London and Guildford Cathedral in Surrey. The church featured in the Bishop's Park neighbourhood is All Saints' Church, Fulham, on the western side of Putney Bridge Road. Additional photography took place at Shepperton Studios outside London, as well as on location in Jerusalem and Rome.
|Soundtrack album by|
|Label||20th Century Fox|
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. According to Goldsmith's wife, Carol, the composer initially struggled with ideas for the score until one evening when he suddenly, happily announced to her, "I hear voices," referring to an orchestral chorus or choir.
Original soundtrack (1990)
All music is composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
|1.||"Ave Satani"||Jerry Goldsmith||Jerry Goldsmith||2:32|
|2.||"The New Ambassador"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:33|
|3.||"The Killer Storm"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:51|
|4.||"A Sad Message"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:42|
|5.||"The Demise of Mrs. Baylock"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:52|
|6.||"Don't Let Him"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:48|
|7.||"The Piper Dreams"||Carol Goldsmith||Carol Goldsmith||2:39|
|8.||"The Fall"||Jerry Goldsmith||3:42|
|9.||"Safari Park"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:04|
|10.||"The Dogs Attack"||Jerry Goldsmith||5:50|
|11.||"The Homecoming"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:43|
|12.||"The Altar"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:00|
Deluxe Edition soundtrack (2001)
For the film's 25th anniversary, a deluxe version of the soundtrack was released with eight additional tracks.
All music is composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
|1.||"Ave Satani"||Jerry Goldsmith||Jerry Goldsmith||2:35|
|2.||"On This Night"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:36|
|3.||"The New Ambassador"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:34|
|4.||"Where Is He?"||Jerry Goldsmith||:56|
|5.||"I Was There"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:27|
|6.||"Broken Vows"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:12|
|7.||"Safari Park"||Jerry Goldsmith||3:24|
|8.||"A Doctor, Please"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:44|
|9.||"The Killer Storm"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:54|
|10.||"The Fall"||Jerry Goldsmith||3:45|
|11.||"Don't Let Him"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:49|
|12.||"The Day He Died"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:14|
|13.||"The Dogs Attack"||Jerry Goldsmith||5:54|
|14.||"A Sad Message"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:44|
|16.||"The Bed"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:08|
|18.||"The Demise of Mrs. Baylock"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:54|
|19.||"The Altar"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:07|
|20.||"The Piper Dreams"||Carol Goldsmith||Carol Goldsmith||2:41|
40th Anniversary edition soundtrack (2016)
A limited edition soundtrack was released for the film's 40th anniversary with six additional tracks and a bonus track.
All music is composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
|1.||"Ave Satani"||Jerry Goldsmith||Jerry Goldsmith||2:34|
|2.||"On This Night"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:35|
|3.||"The New Ambassador"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:35|
|4.||"Where Is He?"||Jerry Goldsmith||:55|
|5.||"Fatal Fall/It's All For You"||Jerry Goldsmith||:42|
|6.||"The Dog"||Jerry Goldsmith||:24|
|7.||"I Was There"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:24|
|8.||"Have No Fear"||Jerry Goldsmith||:36|
|9.||"Broken Vows"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:12|
|10.||"Safari Park"||Jerry Goldsmith||3:21|
|11.||"A Doctor, Please"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:43|
|12.||"She'll Die"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:43|
|13.||"The Killer Storm"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:55|
|14.||"The Fall"||Jerry Goldsmith||3:45|
|15.||"Don't Let Him"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:48|
|16.||"The Day He Died"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:14|
|17.||"Father Spiletto"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:09|
|18.||"The Dogs Attack"||Jerry Goldsmith||5:53|
|19.||"Mother's Death"||Jerry Goldsmith||:48|
|20.||"A Sad Message"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:44|
|22.||"The Bed"||Jerry Goldsmith||1:08|
|24.||"The Demise of Mrs. Baylock"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:54|
|25.||"The Altar"||Jerry Goldsmith||2:04|
|26.||"The Piper Dreams"||Carol Goldsmith||Carol Goldsmith||2:39|
|27.||"The Omen Suite"||Diego Navarro, Tenerife Film Orchestra||10:52|
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. An early screening of the film took place in numerous U.S. cities on June 6, 1976.
The film was a massive commercial success, opening in the United States and Canada on June 25, 1976 in 516 theaters. It grossed $4,273,886 in its opening weekend (a then record for Fox) and $60,922,980 in total, generating theatrical rentals of $28.5 million in the United States and Canada. Worldwide it earned rentals of $46.3 million from a budget of $2.8 million. In the United States, the film was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 1976.
Richard Eder of The New York Times called it "a dreadfully silly film" but "reasonably well-paced. We don't have time to brood about the sillinesses of any particular scene before we are on to the next. There is not a great deal of excitement, but we manage to sustain some curiosity as to how things will work out." Variety praised Richard Donner's direction as "taut" and the performances as "strong," and noted that the script, "sometimes too expository, too predictable, too contrived, is nonetheless a good connective fibre." Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune also awarded 2.5 stars out of 4, lauding the "firepower sound track" and several "memorable" scenes, but finding the story "goofy." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "an absolutely riveting, thoroughly scary experience, a triumph of sleek film craftsmanship that will inevitably but not necessarily unfavorably be compared to The Exorcist." Tom Shales of The Washington Post declared, "It's probably the classiest Exorcist copy yet, but as a summer thriller, it can hardly challenge the human appeal and exhilarating impact of last year's Jaws ... Seltzer, busy justifying his baloney premise with Biblical quotations, forgets about narrative logic or empathetic characters." Gene Shalit called the film "a piece of junk," and Judith Crist said it "offers more laughs than the average comedy." Jack Kroll of Newsweek called it "a dumb and largely dull movie." Duncan Leigh Cooper of Cineaste wrote, "Despite its improbable story line and abundance of gratuitous violence, THE OMEN does succeed in its attempt to frighten, terrorize, and just plain scare the pants off most of the audience. Impressive performances ... plus a chilling mock-religious score by Jerry Goldsmith and the skillful direction of Richard Donner, all contribute to the suspension of disbelief required to draw the audience into the film's web of terror." Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin described the film as "[a] matter-of-fact exercise in Satanic blood and thunder, both less grandiloquently and less pretentiously put together than The Exorcist ... In fact, the narrative is so straightforward, and so mundanely concerned with developing ever more ingenious ways, at a rapidly increasing clip, of disposing of its starry cast, that the spiritual torment is skimped."
Retrospective reviews of the film have been more favorable. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86% based on 49 reviews and an average rating of 7.25/10. The site's consensus reads: "The Omen eschews an excess of gore in favor of ramping up the suspense -- and creates an enduring, dread-soaked horror classic along the way". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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 was ranked number 81 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, 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. The film has been ranked as one of the best horror films of 1976 by Filmsite.org.
|Academy Awards||Best Original Score||Jerry Goldsmith||Won|||
|Best Original Song||Nominated|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Billie Whitelaw||Nominated|
|British Society of Cinematographers||Best Cinematography||Gilbert Taylor||Won|
|Edgar Allan Poe Award||Best Screenplay||David Seltzer||Nominated|
|Evening Standard British Film Awards||Best Actress||Billie Whitelaw||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Acting Debut – Male||Harvey Stephens||Nominated|||
|Grammy Awards||Best Album of Original Score||Jerry Goldsmith||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Horror Film||The Omen||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Horror Film||Gregory Peck||Won|
|Writers Guild of America||Best Original Screenplay||David Seltzer||Nominated|
The Omen was released on VHS by 20th Century Fox Home Video in 1980. A VHS reissue was released by Fox under their "Selection Series" in 2000. The same year, a special edition DVD was released by 20th Century Fox Home Video as a standalone release as well as in a four-film set that included its three sequels. A newly-restored 2-disc collector's edition DVD of the film was issued in 2006, coinciding with the release of the remake.
The film had its debut on Blu-ray in October 2008 as part of a four-film collection, featuring the first two sequels—Damien: Omen II and The Final Conflict—as well as the 2006 remake. The fourth sequel, Omen: The Awakening, was not included in this set. On October 15, 2019, Scream Factory released a "Deluxe Edition" box set—featuring the original film, along with all three sequels and the remake—and featuring newly commissioned bonus materials. The Scream Factory release features a new 4K restoration of the original film elements.
A novelization of The Omen was written by screenwriter 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 Haber Jennings, Father Brennan becomes Father Edgardo Emilio Tassone).
Sequels and remake
The Omen was followed by three sequels: Damien: Omen II (1978), Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), and Omen IV: The Awakening (1991). A remake of the same title was released in 2006, starring Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles in the roles of Robert and Katherine, and Mia Farrow portraying Mrs. Blaylock.
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