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20th Century Fox presents
The Omen (1976)

"He's killed once! He'll kill again. He'll kill until everything that's yours is his - Only through Christ can you fight him."
- Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: September 04, 2000

Stars: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick
Other Stars: David Warner, Harvey Stephens, Billie Whitelaw
Director: Richard Donner

MPAA Rating: R for (mild gore, dark themes)
Run Time: 01h:50m:52s
Release Date: September 05, 2000
UPC: 024543004486
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B- A

DVD Review

Since its release in 1976, The Omen has become a classic of sorts, giving rise to three sequels (of lesser quality), embedding itself in American pop culture, and virtually eliminating "Damien" as a viable baby name. The story (for those who haven't absorbed it indirectly) concerns the substitution of a motherless baby for a stillborn child born to politician Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife Katherine (Lee Remick). When the child, named Damien, reaches the age of five, a series of bizarre deaths—his nanny, a priest, his unborn sibling, his mother—lead his father to suspect that the child is in fact the Antichrist, born to bring about Armageddon as predicted in the book of Revelations. With the advice of Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) and the help of a photographer named Jennings (David Warner), Thorn learns the truth and resolves to kill the boy, now under the protection of his creepy new nanny Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw).

Looking at it almost twenty-five years later, the reasons for The Omen's success are evident. Suspension of disbelief is remarkably easy—David Seltzer's story is naturalistic and stays clear of blatant hokiness, maintaining that sense of reality that made The Exorcist so effective several years earlier. A fine cast including Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner and Billie Whitelaw lends credibility, gravitas and emotional substance to the proceedings—Whitelaw's Satan-worshipping nanny Mrs. Baylock is thoroughly unsettling and even little Harvey Stephens (as Damien) is very believable in his most difficult scenes. Richard Donner's direction is well-paced and nicely staged, with dramatic high and low angles that set up the film's scariest moments effectively. And much of the credit must be given to Jerry Goldsmith's phenomenally spooky score, filled with Latinate choral pieces that speak of the unspeakable through dark, urgent, barely comprehensible "Black Mass" recitations. Goldsmith's music transforms otherwise innocent scenes of Damien at play into signs and portents, delineating the undercurrent of evil that permeates the film.

The Omen is a film that demands to be taken seriously by sheer force of filmmaking willpower, and in so doing makes its mark on modern "horror" cinema. This isn't to say that this low-budget film is completely cheese-free—some of the sets are unconvincing, one famously gory scene looks a little silly to contemporary eyes, and it's tempting to make cracks about Damien being the original son-of-a-bitch. But The Omen is a memorable and powerful piece of popular cinema, filled with startling imagery and thought-provoking ideas about religious faith, the Devil and Biblical prophecy. Damien lives.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Omen is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio with a solid anamorphic transfer. The source print has minor flecking throughout and a few scratches near the end, and the image is on the soft side with some smeariness in a few outdoor scenes. I spotted minor ringing artifacts in one shot, but the digital compression is generally clean and solid, and the color fidelity and clarity in some red-heavy scenes will be a revelation to anyone familiar with previous analog video editions. Not a brilliant transfer, but certainly watchable given the age and low budget of the original film.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchno
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Fox presents The Omen with three soundtracks—English monophonic, French mono and a newly-created English 2.0 Stereo mix. The audio is a bit dated, with some muddiness in a few dialogue scenes, but the transfer's frequency range captures Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score well with a touch of LFE-level bass. The new Stereo mix primarily affects the music and some sound effects—dialogue and most effects remain centered (via ProLogic decoding) in the spirit of the original mix, broadening the soundstage nicely without adding gimmicky surround effects or excessive panning. Purists will appreciate the inclusion of the original mono track, though the disc defaults to the stereo remix. Much of the film exhibits significant background hiss, not surprising given the age of the film; this is a competent though unspectacular transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Richard Donner, Editor Stuart Baird
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:51m:47s

Extra Extras:
  1. 666: The Omen Revealed
  2. Jerry Goldsmith on the Omen score
  3. Curse or Coincidence?
Extras Review: Fox presents The Omen in fine Special Edition style. Nicely designed menus provide 20 picture-menu chapter stops and access to a number of solid supplements produced especially for this DVD release:

666: The Omen Revealed:

This is a 46-minute documentary, recently assembled by Fox for this DVD release. Many of the actors have passed away or were unavailable for this production, but Richard Donner, Stuart Baird, Mace Neufeld, Jerry Goldsmith and several others recount their memories of the film's making and impact. Unfortunately, no behind-the-scenes material was captured at the time, forcing over-reliance on footage from the film to illustrate special effects points. The documentary is still interesting and comprehensive.

Jerry Goldsmith on the Omen score:

Composer Jerry Goldsmith discusses his Academy Award-winning score from The Omen, divided into four sections with a convenient "Play All" menu option. His comments are incisive and interesting, demonstrating his mastery of composition for film as he discusses Piper Dreams/Love Theme, Damien's Ride to Church, The Dogs Attack and Discovering 666 / Mrs. Baylock Attacks; each interview segment is followed by a clip from the referenced sequence.

Curse or Coincidence?:

This is a fascinating little paranormally-themed piece, culled from the interviews seen in the main documentary, discussing odd coincidences and a few tragic deaths that occurred during production of The Omen. Take it with a grain of salt if you must, but it's interesting and slightly frightening material nevertheless.

Commentary:

Director Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird contribute a running, screen-specific commentary on The Omen. Some of the comments are redundant with other supplements, but there's still a lot of humorous and interesting information here. It's sometimes hard to tell whether a particular comment is serious or a joke, though I tend to discount Donner's statement that the infant Damien was created by Rick Baker. The commentary gets a bit quiet towards the end, but it's an informative and entertaining track overall.

Trailer:

The film's theatrical trailer is presented in 1.33:1 full-frame format—it's pretty grainy and soft, but valuable historical content just the same.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

The Omen is a seriously scary, thought-provoking film enhanced by fine performances and Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score. Fox's DVD release treats the film with respect, providing a solid transfer (considering the age of the film) and excellent supplementary material. Recommended.

 


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