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.


  1. This is great. I actually saw this at the theater when it was first released. I was in Kentucky then. I have not given it a re-watch in a long time and may do so. For me the sliding pane of glass scene is one of the most memorable. Gregory Peck -more of a western or drama type- was outstanding in a horror film I thought.

  2. He was very good. The pain of glass was an iconic scene Bill but then the film is filled with them