Saturday, February 23, 2013

Taliesin Meets: Damien: Omen II

Some three years on in the real world, 7 in the actual movie timeline, and the cinema returned to the Omen – directed this time with Don Taylor directing.

Actually the film begins just a week after the failed attempt on Damien’s life and archaeologist/theologian Carl Bugenhagen (Leo McKern) is trying to convince a colleague that Damien is the antichrist and a message should be taken, along with the daggers that can kill him, to his uncle and new guardian Richard Thorn (William Holden).

It should be noted that Holden turned down the lead in the first film but more importantly it should also be noted that the daggers were not mystically teleporting daggers. There was a novelisation of the film and it was stated, in the book, that the daggers were returned to Bugenhagen by a priest from the church at the end of the first film (why the police didn’t take them as evidence is unknown, I read the novelisation decades ago and really can’t remember if it addressed that point too.)

Yigael's Wall
Anyway Bugenhagen takes his colleague to a dig where Yigael's Wall has been revealed. It shows four faces of the antichrist (at 4 pinnacle points) and the first picture has Damien from film number 1. Two points come to mind here. Firstly that this film ignores that idea that everything might be explainable and is distinctly supernatural in timbre. Secondly we discover later that the devil appeared to Yigael and tormented him with visions – leading the man to paint these prophetic images. The forces of evil then spend a lot of time killing those who know the truth about Damien.

buried alive
It does beg the question, firstly, of why the devil would tip his hand and give a mad hermit visions that could be painted and subsequently point out the identity of the antichrist? Secondly it really does seem – through both these films – that God is impotent. All antagonists of the Devil are killed and not one is saved (even if they are carrying a cross) but often they live long enough to pass the message along. Not so much Bugenhagen, however, as he and his colleague are buried alive.

Jonathon Scott-Taylor as Damien
The film then jumps forward the 7 years mentioned earlier and we watch Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) who attends a military academy with his cousin (Lucas Donat) and is just beginning to learn what he is – in a moment of equal and opposite reaction he screams to the air “Why me?” The film has those who might stand in his way (or diminish the wealth he will inherit) die one by one. We discover that he has Jackal’s blood (inherited from his biological mother, no doubt). Whether it is this that makes him impervious to disease and immune to poisons or whether that came from his infernal father is not covered. Presumably if it is the former he is susceptible to kennel cough. Rather than a Rottweiler, his animal protector is a crow (indeed several crows) this time.

devil crow
It’s not a bad flick all told but it wasn’t as strong as the first film. I do remember, as a kid, watching the vhs of it over and over again, however.

Stay tuned for me looking at Omen III: The Final Conflict, in the meantime the imdb page is here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Taliesin Meets: The Omen

You know it has been a long, long time since I sat and watched the Omen (1976) and its sequels. I actually haven’t seen the fourth film or the 2006 remake. Having spotted the boxset of all five films at a really cheap price, I decided to indulge, and to subsequently share that indulgence here at the Uranium Café Cult Cinema Club.

The Richard Donner directed film was made in 1976 and, due to being only a wee nipper at the time, I didn’t see it until the video boom of the 1980s. Bless him, I think my Grandad recorded all three films (as it was at the time) off the TV and probably hired them for me prior to that. I should probably explain that my granddad was quite happy to let me watch whatever video took my fancy (horror wise) and I managed to see many of the films subsequently banned by a knee jerking UK government as video nasties.

offering the child
I think, despite the fact that it wasn’t banned, this one left a more lasting impression on me than many of the later banned films. As I watched it again, for this article, I tried to think why and it is probably because there is potentially nothing supernatural in the film… Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a film about the birth and worldly positioning of the antichrist (supernatural enough) but we don’t see demons or occult circles, we see things we associate with the supernatural but many of those things could be explained away or offered up to coincidence.

the Thorns
For those who haven’t seen it – though I believe that will be few and far between – as I say the film is about the antichrist, born on the 6th June at 6 AM. The American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is rushing to the hospital to see his wife Katherine (Lee Remick). He has been told that their baby died just after being born – she is unaware of this – and Thorn is persuaded to allow the baby to be swapped for another, born at the same time, whose mother died in childbirth. They name him Damien (Harvey Stephens).

hanging herself
Things are idyllic for a while, they have their baby, Thorn is made ambassador to the UK and then things start going awry at Damien’s fifth birthday party. His nanny (Holly Palance) sees a dog (a Rottweiler to be precise) which – being a hell hound, one assumes – causes her to commit suicide shouting to Damien as she does it. This is what I mean about there being no supernatural element in the film… Yes she sees a dog, the camera lingering on its eyes and the accompanying “hypnotic” soundtrack makes us assume – rightly, as the cinematic technique is used to underline a standard supernatural trope – that the dog has used eye mojo on her but the film never actuals confirms or denies this. Later we meet the photographer Jennings (David Warner) and he had taken a picture of her and the print showed a ghostly line that might have been the rope used to hang herself – or it might have been a fault.

Three of the deaths in film are foreshadowed by pictures that depict the death. The priest Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) is killed when a freak storm blows a lightning conductor off a church and impales him and Jennings himself catches himself in a mirror and the photo foreshadows his beheading. The only ones who are not foreshadowed in any way are the Thorns themselves – except by prophecy it seems. Am I suggesting that it was all coincidence in plot – no, not at all. But this direction was deliberate and by pushing the film that way I believe Donner added a layer to the film in a 'less is more' sort of way.

iconic scene
One way in which the film did push the audience was through Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack, which is not only superb (mostly) but also won an Oscar. Note I said mostly… the dramatic, satanic sounding music is magnificent and iconic now. However there is a theme he uses through the happy scenes that feels way too saccharine to my ears now. I doubt I even noticed it back in the day.

plain creepy
All in all I enjoyed my re-visitation of the Omen, it stands the test of time and both Remick and Peck are superb in it. However the ending irked… It was something I didn’t notice way back when but watching now, with a critical eye, I had to wonder why a detective in the British Police had a gun… They don’t have them by rote now, never mind then… A little thing, but there nonetheless.

Stay tuned as I turn my sights to Damien: Omen 2 – in the meantime the imdb page is here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The crazy and useless movies of Zen Pictures

If you like movies with extremely cute Asian girls and women fighting awesomely ridiculous rubber monster for some incomprehensible reasons, I bet you are already used to crazy Japanese directors like Noboru Igushi or 'Gaira' Komizu.

However you might ignore a little company called "Zen Pictures"; a company that produce this kind of movies at an industrial rate - I am talking about 20 movies+ per years....

So what's the point of watching stupid plot less unsubtitled Japanese upskirt karate galore? well, upskirt karate galore, I guess... (The Japanese word for "entertainment" is "panchira")

Their website is http://, they sale their stuff not as DVD but as download - with heavy DRM and anti copy gizmos that sucks and make them complicated to watch if you are not a Microsoft Windows user - Yet this is rather a useless effort as the movies are all over the Internet movie download websites. Strangely - although Zen Pictures movies does not contain any nudity and often feature child actors - you will find them mostly on JAV porn website, mixed with stuff from "GIGA"; a twin company making the same kind of movies by same director and sometime with same actors and actresses but this time with a lot of jap-style porn thrown in. Jap-style porn can be quite gross so be aware of this - I personnaly avoid them and make sure what I download is really a "Zen", not a "Giga"

Call me crazy but I love to watch Zen Pictures movies. That doesn't means they are good. Actually they are rather crappy (not as crappy an American blockbuster by Roland Emmerich mind you) but they are made with some passion, they often star Asami (movies staring Asami are never completely bad) and the action scenes are - most of the time but not always  - well choregraphed.