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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Richard Donner
Cast:
Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Harvey Stephens, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson
Writing Credits:
David Seltzer

Tagline:
It is the greatest mystery of all because no human being will ever solve it.

Synopsis:
American ambassador Robert Thorn and his lovingly dedicated wife are expecting a child. But when the infant is stillborn a mysterious Italian priest convinces the diplomat to clandestinely adopt another of the hospital's newborn children. Thorn takes the priest's advice without telling his wife about their loss. After five short happy years together, things start to go wrong: the family's au pair commits suicide, Father Brennan warns Robert about the child's strange nature, and an archaeologist tries to convince ambassador Thorn that the boy is the anti-Christ incarnate.

Box Office:
Budget
$2.8 million.
Opening Weekend
$4.273 million on 515 screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.0 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 6/20/2006

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Donner and Editor Stuart Baird
• Audio Commentary with Director Richard Donner and Screenwriter Brian Helgeland
• "Curse or Coincidence?" Featurette
• "Jerry Goldsmith on The Omen Score" Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
Disc Two
• Introduction By Director Richard Donner
• "666: The Omen Revealed" Documentary
• “The Omen Legacy” Documentary
• Deleted Scene with Commentary
• “Screenwriter’s Notebook” Featurette
• “An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen” Featurette
• Still Gallery

• Booklet


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Omen: Collector's Edition (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2006)

Here’s what I understand: when a remake hits the screens, studios choose to release – or re-release – DVDs with the source films. For instance, it wasn’t a coincidence that the original King Kong came out on DVD about a month before Peter Jackson’s edition entered multiplexes.

Here’s what I don’t understand: when a remake hits the screens, a studio chooses to re-release a DVD with the source film two weeks later. Putting out the old flick before the appearance of the new one makes sense, and I can also see why a studio might release the pair at the same time. Paramount did that with the 1969 original and 2003 remake of The Italian Job.

But why did Fox decide to release their new “Collector’s Edition” of 1976’s The Omen two weeks after the 2006 remake appeared on movie screens? I have no idea, but here it is anyway!

Growing up, I always lumped The Omen, It’s Alive and The Exorcist in together. They were all movies that dealt with scary kids and they all came out well before I was old enough to see them. The Omen hit screens the latest of the three, but even at the ripe old age of nine, that film wasn't going to be an option for me. (I was more of an Apple Dumpling Gang kind of guy.)

To me, these movies were exactly the same and I thought there was nothing to differentiate them. Since I've now watched all three, I can definitely recognize the various similarities and differences.

Since it focuses on a monster baby, Alive is the most different of the bunch. For the other two, the biggest commonality stems from the fact both concern apparently evil but otherwise normal kids. The Exorcist's Regan is a pawn of the devil, whereas The Omen features a tyke who may actually be the anti-Christ. The latter is left much more uncertain. The plot never explicitly states that Damien - the brat in question - is devil-spawn, whereas it's patently obvious that Regan's possessed. Although she's at the age where her body starts to change, head-spinning usually isn't one of the hallmarks of puberty.

I thought the biggest difference among movies is that The Exorcist has barely aged since 1973. When I watched it recently, I was startled at how powerful it remained. I expected a semi-schlocky little fright-fest and almost keeled over when I saw how explicit and graphic the movie was. It also simply works, as it presents one of the scariest films I've seen.

The Omen, on the other hand, hasn't matured as nicely. The story follows Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), an American diplomat, and his wife Kathy (Lee Remick). When the film starts, she's given birth to a stillborn child. The Italians in charge offer to swap the newborn son of a dead mother and no one but Robert will be the wiser. He agrees and the satanic wheels are set in motion.

The plot picks up at Damien's fifth birthday party, when some unpleasant events occur. After that, more and more nastiness builds, and the intrigue deepens. As I mentioned, all of this remains much more plausibly coincidental than the happenings of The Exorcist. The film tries to keep the "truth" of the matter vague.

That open-ended quality is to be applauded, as too many films beat the audience over the head with their intentions. It's nice to see one that lets us make decisions for ourselves. However, that aspect of the movie is almost its only subtleties, as I thought the production seemed overwrought much of the time. It utilizes an excessively dramatic and hysterical manner for many scenes that make it appear strident and almost campy at times.

I wish I could discuss The Omen without making so many comparisons to The Exorcist, but I can't because I think the two go hand-in-hand to a great degree. Part of the success of the latter stems from the quietness and matter-of-fact tone taken through much of the film. It works because of the lack of shrillness or over-excitement.

The Omen doesn't go over the top in those regards, but it strains too much for my liking. I simply never really got involved in the story. Some of the blame lies on the little head of Harvey Stephens as Damien. The kid seemed vaguely spooky at times, but he never really appeared as eerie or chilling as he should. That's partly because we really don't see much of him, so it's hard to gauge his effectiveness. His appearances are relatively minor, and they weren't enough to generate much of a sense of threat. A more effective kid - such as The Shining's Danny Lloyd - could bring out the menace in the role, but Harvey just doesn't do it.

To be sure, I didn't think The Omen was a bad film, as even through the overwrought qualities it still possesses some modest creeps and scares. Frankly, I may have simply had expectations that were too high, as I thought I'd find something on a par with - or at least reasonably close to - The Exorcist. The Omen doesn't approach the heights achieved in that classic, and it stands as a moderately interesting but fairly dated exercise in horror.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

The Omen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This new transfer brought real luster to the old film.

Overall, the movie seemed crisp and well-defined from start to finish. Occasional wide shots looked a little soft, but some of that resulted from the style of photography. The film never came across as indistinct as it presented good delineation. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering. Both edge enhancement and source flaws seemed to be absent.

Colors were quite vivid and accurate, with some well-saturated and lively hues throughout the film. This applied to red lighting as well, an area that often causes trouble on home video. The darkroom scenes showed fine clarity in regard to their reds. Blacks also were deep and firm, while low-light shots offered nice definition and opacity. The transfer lacked any significant problems and presented the movie well.

The Omen featured the movie's original monaural soundtrack plus a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The soundfield for the 5.1 version was fairly innocuous but it helped spread out the image. Music showed very good stereo imaging, and effects occasionally broadened the track’s horizons. This usually came up via general environmental material, though a few louder scenes created greater involvement. Storms and the baboon attack were the most prominent examples, and the 5.1 track even managed to present some split-surround material at times.

Audio quality showed its age but sounded pretty positive. Though speech could be a little thin, the lines lacked edginess and were always easily intelligible. Effects suffered from only a smidgen of distortion, and they showed decent definition and punch. The louder parts kicked out fair range and power. Music fared best, as the score was clear and reasonably dynamic. This was never a particularly impressive mix, but given the age of the source material, it did well for itself.

Although I wanted to compare this 2006 Collector’s Edition with the DVD originally released in 2000, unfortunately I was unable to do so. I no longer own that disc, and I couldn’t find it for rent at my local shops. However, I feel confident that the 2006 version improved on the old one’s picture and audio. Based on my comments from my 2000 review, this disc appeared to be cleaner and smoother, and the audio seemed to have greater clarity and definition. Again, I couldn’t verify these conclusions via a new screening of the old disc, but I’m pretty sure that the 2006 edition offered presentation improvements.

It also added a nice mix of extras. Everything from the 2000 DVD appears here along with some new elements. I’ll mark the latter with an asterisk, so if you see a star, you’ll know the component is new to the 2006 Collector’s Edition.

As we begin on DVD One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. Donner can be engaging and entertaining, as he showed during the track for Lethal Weapon 4, but this piece largely falls flat.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of silent spots, and when the two do speak, too much of their statements fall into the "remember him/her/that?" category. Most of the discussion relates to general production info. The most interesting elements connect to a change in the film’s title, story alterations, and a few run-ins with Gregory Peck.

Occasional useful tidbits appear, but for the most part, I find this commentary uninteresting. There’s a lot of praise for the film and all involved. Donner and Baird seem to be old friends, and it sounds like they used the session to get reacquainted instead of telling us good tales about The Omen.

For the second commentary, we hear from *Donner and screenwriter Brian Helgeland. Both also sit together and create a running, screen-specific chat. Why is Helgeland here? I don’t know. He had nothing to do with the creation of The Omen or its remake, though he did work with Donner on Conspiracy Theory. I guess he and Donner just like to hang out together, so someone thought Helgeland might bring out the best in the director.

Unfortunately, this commentary doesn’t work a whole lot better than its predecessor. In truth, it covers much of the same material, and you’ll hear many of the same stories and tidbits. A few notes come with more detail, as we hear an extended version of the baboon story. However, little fresh information appears.

Helgeland offers some story dissection, and that helps keep him involved, though he occasionally overreaches. For instance, he reads the fact that David Warner’s character wore scarves as foreshadowing, while Donner explains he did so to cover a skin condition. This commentary doesn’t provide much that we don’t hear in the prior track, but it does so in a more engaging and complete manner. It still suffers from too much praise, but at least it gives us reasonable detail.

Next comes a six-minute and 20-second featurette called Curse or Coincidence?. It covers some of the spooky events that surrounded the production of the film. Though it duplicates some of the stories from the commentaries, it becomes fairly interesting and entertaining.

In addition to the film’s trailer, DVD One ends with Jerry Goldsmith on The Omen Score. This gives us a mildly in-depth look at his creation of the film's music. We see interview snippets with Goldsmith in which he talks about four different pieces of the score, and each of these is followed by the music in question. The program lasts 17 minutes and 36 seconds total; the segments can be watched individually or as one running piece. Goldsmith doesn’t offer great detail, but he manages to give us some good notes.

Over on DVD Two, we open with a one-minute and 56-second *Introduction by Director Richard Donner. He tells us a little about problems getting the film made and its legacy. He also talks about how terrific the new DVD is. As with most introductions of this sort, nothing particularly interesting happens here, though he makes a funny comment toward the end. And why is the intro on DVD Two? Shouldn’t it be on the first disc?

Also found on the original DVD, we get 666: The Omen Revealed, a 46-minute and 10-second documentary about the movie. This show combines circa 2000 interviews with Donner, Baird, Goldsmith, religious advisor Robert Munger, producer Harvey Bernhard, executive producer Mace Neufeld, and writer David Seltzer. On the negative side, this program doesn't offer a very coherent telling of how the film came to exist. It touches on the important issues but does so in a fairly haphazard manner. I also thought it provided too many scenes from the movie. These go on too long for my liking and seem unnecessary. I would have enjoyed some behind the scenes footage or stills from the production, and the absence of any actors seems odd. Lee Remick died in 1991, but Gregory Peck was still kicking in 2000. David Warner also was – and is – alive, and since he does a cameo in the 2006 remake, that spooky little kid obviously was around somewhere.

Despite those flaws, "666" provides a generally interesting and entertaining piece. The various anecdotes we hear offer the most pleasure, as there are some good stories involved. I also really liked the moments in which Donner and Baird detail the unusual editing used in one scene. It's an inconsistent program, and it certainly could have been better, but it's definitely worth a look.

Previously available on its own from Image Entertainment, this set packages a documentary entitled *The Omen Legacy. Produced in 2001 for the AMC cable channel and narrated by actor Jack Palance, this 102-minute documentary covers all four flicks: 1976’s The Omen, 1978’s Damien: Omen II, 1981’s , and 1991’s Omen IV: The Awakening as well as an ill-fated TV series pilot. However, don’t expect equal time for the quartet, as Omen remains the king of the hill.

After a quick introduction, Legacy launches into its discussion of The Omen. Like most documentaries, Legacy uses a standard format that alternates movie clips, archival materials and interviews. For the 47-minute Omen segment, we hear from Seltzer, Neufeld, Donner, Bernhard, Munger, Church of Satan high priestess Blanche Barton, minister Reverend Doug Posey, former Fox studio executive Alan Ladd Jr., professor of theology Dr. Felix Just, special effects coordinator John Richardson, and actors Martin Benson and David Warner.

Among the topics they discuss, we hear of the film’s inspirations from the Bible, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Exorcist. The participants also go over the religious tenor of the era, the growing popularity of Satanism at the time, the evolution of the story and the film, writing the script and shopping it to the studios, obtaining Donner as the director, getting it to Fox and refining the project. From there we go through casting and the need for a major star, finding a kid to play Damien, the eerie atmosphere on the set, the director’s take on the story, visual effects, anecdotes from the set, studio issues with the ending, and marketing and reactions to the film.

That synopsis makes the program sound more informative than it actually is. To be sure, these portions cover a fair amount of ground and give us a reasonably decent examination of the flick’s creation. Unfortunately, scads of film clips appear, and these heavily retell the story. It also covers a lot of territory examined elsewhere in this package, so don’t expect anything particularly new. Ultimately, this part of “Legacy” offers a decent but somewhat thin and superficial look at the making of The Omen.

Next we learn about Damien: Omen II in an 18 minute segment. This includes remarks from Seltzer, Bernhard, Barton, Just, film critic Leonard Maltin, and actors Lee Grant and Lance Henriksen. They chat about Seltzer’s refusal to pen the sequel, issues related to the story, casting, spooky production problems, the firing of the original director, story concerns, escalated gore, its ending, and the negative critical reception accorded the flick. I liked the negative reactions to the film, and we get some surprisingly honest comments about it. The Omen II piece concentrates too much of movie clips and a short version of the story, so we really don’t learn much about it.

Matters deteriorate more for the 18-minute look at Omen III: The Final Conflict. This presents statements from Bernhard, Posey, Just, Barton, Munger, and actor Lisa Harrow. They chat about the story casting, the real-life romantic relationship between Sam Neill and Harrow, more about the gory content, the second coming of Jesus factor, difficulties coming up with gruesome deaths, more examples of “The Omen Curse”, protests conducted by Satan worshipers and a real-life controversy tagged to the first flick, and the film’s reception. The majority of the piece simply retells the plot, and the elements that attempt to examine the movie really reach for information. I mean, comments about the gore are pretty useless and seem like thin stabs at content.

Next we get 12 minutes that examine the TV film Omen IV: The Awakening. We hear from Bernhard, Munger, former Fox network executive Paul Nagle, and actors Faye Grant and Michael Lerner. We learn why the flick existed, the development of its story, more examples of the “Omen Curse”, the execution of some of its effects, the replacement of the original director, and the lack of ratings success. Once again, we learn little about the making of the film and find out mainly about its story. Don’t expect much useful content here.

The last portions of the DVD look at NBC’s attempts at an Omen TV series and various valedictory comments about the series. This area includes statements from Donner, Benson, Bernhard, Munger, Grant, and Henriksen. Donner’s criticism of the series – which never made it past a pilot – seems interesting, but the rest is little more than fluff.

Unfortunately, the same goes for “The Omen Legacy” as a whole. As I noted earlier, it’s an odd film series to examine since only the original film enjoys any real “legacy”. That fact seems implicit in the flat and uninformative notes about the various sequels that don’t tell us much more than just their plots. Absolute Omen die-hards might enjoy this documentary, but I found it to offer little of interest.

Fans will be more interested in a *Deleted Scene. Called “Dog Attack”, this clip lasts 87 seconds and comes with commentary from Donner and Helgeland. This isn’t optional commentary; you can’t deactivate it since the segment lacks its original audio. Donner basically just narrates the scene and doesn’t tell us much about it.

Is the clip interesting? Yeah, I think so. It’s a pretty frenetic sequence toward the end of the movie, and it might’ve been too much in the final product. On its own, it’s pretty fun to see.

*Screenwriter’s Notebook goes for 14 minutes, 57 seconds and presents notes from Seltzer. He tells us that he did The Omen because he really needed money and goes through his research and story development. Seltzer then relates cinematic inspirations, challenges of the horror genre, and the script’s path to the screen. He also chats about title changes, Donner’s approach to the flick, the impact of post-production, what he would have done with the sequel, and the film’s legacy.

After so many prior documentaries, I wasn’t sure what new material “Notebook” could bring to the table. Happily, it gives us lots of details we don’t hear about elsewhere. Seltzer presents many nice notes with elements that don’t appear in the other shows. For instance, we learn that Charles Bronson almost did the flick at one point! (The anti-Christ wouldn’t have lasted too long against Old Death Wish.) This is a tight and informative little show.

For the perspective of a horror bigwig, we get *An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen. The director chats for 20 minutes and 16 seconds as he offers his appraisal of the movie. He views it in the context of the genre and gives insight into various aspects of the flick. Inevitably this leads to some happy talk, but Craven brings out more than enough depth and introspection to make the program useful.

Finally, a *Still Gallery presents 136 images. These mix behind the scenes shots, snaps from the film, and publicity elements. We find some good photos here, but the format doesn’t work well. The DVD should break up the stills into subdomains to make them easier to access. As it stands, it mixes up the different topics and makes it tough to re-examine favorite images later.

The package also includes a brief booklet. This short foldout affair includes more notes about the “Omen Curse”. It’s all presented elsewhere.

Despite its status as a horror classic, I can’t say The Omen does a whole lot for me. It occasionally seems decently spooky, but it can't maintain these moments over the long haul. The DVD offers very good picture and extras along with pretty positive audio.

If you want to own The Omen, this 2-DVD Collector’s Edition is the way to go. That’s true for new purchasers and those who already have the old release. The 2006 version offers improved picture and audio along with a smattering of fresh extras. It stands as a quality upgrade.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7619 Stars Number of Votes: 21
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main