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Brent Zacky
Jack Palance (narrator)
Writing Credits:
Naomi Pfefferman, Brent Zacky

The chilling true stories behind Hollywood's eeriest and most successful supernatural film series.

Released in 1976, The Omen introduced audiences to a young boy with an angelic face and a demonic heart, whose very name - Damien - became synonymous with evil. Starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, the film spawned two theatrical sequels, a television movie, several best-selling books and a television pilot.

From the strange incidents that plagued the cast and crew (the infamous "Omen Curse") to the resurgent interest in the Book of Revelation and the occult, this feature-length documentary chronicles the inside story of one of Hollywood's most successful fright-film franchises.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/14/2003

• Trailers
• “Power and the Devil: The Making of Damien: Omen II” Featurette

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The Omen Legacy (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2004)

It seems odd that we’d get a documentary that examines the Omen series. While the first flick made lots of money and influenced the genre, its sequels failed to find great audiences and remain generally forgotten. The Alien Saga show made sense given the prominence of that series, but I doubt that many care about anything after The Omen.

Nonetheless, The Omen Legacy does provide a look at the movies and other spin-offs. 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 The Final Conflict, 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 The 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 writer David Seltzer, Church of Satan high priestess Blanche Barton, minister Reverend Doug Posey, religious advisor Robert Munger, producers Harvey Bernhard and Mace Neufeld, director Richard Donner, 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 discuss 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, 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. If you’ve never seen The Omen - or any of the sequels, for that matter – don’t watch this program first, as it includes many spoilers. 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. Unfortunately, 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.

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

The Omen Legacy appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Actually, most of the film clips seen in the program all featured the accurate 2.35:1 ratio when appropriate. Given the variety of sources, Legacy presented an erratic set of visuals, but it mostly seemed fairly satisfying in that regard.

Sharpness usually looked good. Some movie clips appeared slightly soft, especially in wide shots. However, the majority of the pieces were acceptably concise and distinctive. Largely because of the lack of anamorphic enhancement, some jagged edges and shimmering occurred, though these didn’t seem major. Light edge enhancement also popped up at times. Source flaws occurred, mostly due to the older archival materials, though a few movie clips showed them as well. Some specks and marks appeared, but these never became too intrusive.

Colors varied dependent on the sources and generally looked decent, though they tended towards some heaviness. The tones were a bit thicker than I’d like and came across as a little dense, though usually reasonably accurate. Blacks also varied and went from fairly deep to somewhat flat and inky, but they were usually decent, and low-light shots followed suit. Those were acceptably visible but not tremendously concise. Overall, the image of The Omen Legacy did little to come across as stellar, but it represented the material pretty well.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 audio of The Omen Legacy. The talky program mostly concentrated on the forward speakers. Speech dominated the program and stayed in the center. A lot of music adapted from the films also appeared throughout the show, and those elements demonstrated pretty positive stereo imaging. Effects duplicated the original material reasonably well, though without quite the same breadth as the source movies, as these stayed somewhat in the background most of the time. The surrounds simply echoed the forward channels for the most part, and they didn’t present anything more than general support.

Audio quality appeared fine for this material. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, with only a smidgen of edginess at times. Music didn’t display full range because those elements usually stayed in the background, but the bits of score sounded reasonably full and dynamic. Effects also mostly kept a little to the rear, but they were acceptably detailed and lively. Those various pieces never worked as well as they would in the movie DVDs themselves, but they seemed satisfying for a documentary. Bass response was fair to good, though not better than that. Ultimately, the audio was fine for this sort of piece but not anything better than that.

A smattering of supplements show up on this set. We find trailers for The Omen, Damien: Omen II, The Omen III: The Final Conflict, and Omen IV: The Awakening. We also get one featurette. Power and the Devil: The Making of Damien: Omen II looks at the creation of that flick. In this seven-minute and 20-second piece, we get many film clips plus some behind the scenes shots and quick interview bits from actors William Holden and Jonathan Scott-Taylor plus producer Harvey Bernhard. They provide some minor character notes, and we learn a smidgen about the shooting of the underwater scene at the frozen pond. Movie pieces fill the vast majority of this dull and tedious featurette, though, so it offers very little of interest.

Although the original Omen remains an influential and important film, The Omen Legacy doesn’t present a great examination of the series and its history. Some interesting moments appear, but overall, the disc feels mostly like a “Cliff’s Notes” version of the various flicks. The DVD presents adequate picture and audio plus some minor extras. This program seems superfluous for all but the most dedicated Omen series fans. The movie DVD of The Omen includes most of this platter’s information about that flick itself, so since the notes about the sequels are so bland, it should satisfy the vast majority of folks.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1052 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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