The Omen DVD: Review By Dodd

A timeless horror classic loaded with extras.
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
A timeless horror classic loaded with extras.
Where in the world is the actor that played Damien? I want to see if that kid still looks evil!
The 1970's were a pivotal decade in American history and in American horror. Unlike the squeaky clean golden years of the 1950's, a little something called rebellion came along. Youths realized they no longer had to adhere to patriarchal restrictions. Some people saw this as a glorious time for freedom, feminism, and expression. However, others saw this as the dreadful deterioration of the American nuclear family.

To reflect on the changing times, the late 1960's and the 1970's spawned a series of horror films that depicted families being transformed from tight-knit to dysfunctional. These happen to be some of the finest horror films ever committed to celluloid: Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Brood. Among this selection of domestic horror titles was a film in 1976 called The Omen, which depicted the chilling outcomes of adopting the wrong child. After reaching classical status among horror aficionados and even being recently remade (surprise, surprise), the original version of The Omen is now available as a fully loaded DVD from 20th Century Fox.

The Omen is sometimes referred to as a copycat that followed in the footsteps of the highly touted The Exorcist. While covering "demonic child" territory, this is a film that stands alone in horror film history as a classic. Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), an American ambassador living in Europe, secretly adopts a baby boy after his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) gives birth to a child that dies in the process. Thinking it is her biological son; Katherine names the boy Damien (Harvey Stephens).

The Thorns live happily with their son until his fifth birthday when their nanny mysteriously commits suicide. From this point forward, Robert and Katherine are haunted by various omens: a babbling priest, a string of mysterious deaths, aggressive baboons, etc. Could Damien have something to do with the sudden disruption of the family? It is up to Robert to discover the meanings behind these omens, and the true origins of his son.

Prior to owning this DVD, I have had the privilege of seeing The Omen on numerous occasions. I would go so far to say it is one of the best horror films of all time. This DVD is clearly a promotional incentive to see the remake, but I feel the opposite effect. The Omen is such a chilling, well-crafted film that I would rather cherish its essence, than see it butchered and vamped on the big screen. The remake is, after all, supposed to be a shot-for-shot redo.

What really keeps The Omen on its feet are the stylistic choices by the filmmakers. Director Richard Donner (The Goonies, Superman) handles the film tactfully with well-orchestrated suspense. The director does not rely on unexpected jumps. In fact, it is not difficult for viewers to see scares coming from a mile away. These predictable scares are carried out with proper stylistic choices both visually and audibly. Jerry Goldsmith's score has to be one of the most nerve-tingling series of notes ever laid to a soundtrack.

Of course the performances are also out of this world. The late Gregory Peck plays his role with a rather straight-laced, serious attitude. While the screen veteran drives the film as a fitting protagonist, the scenery is chewed up by young Harvey Stephens as Damien. Generally by "scenery-chewing", one refers to the over-the-top mannerisms of an actor. However, Stephens hardly says a word. This is a child that can act non-verbally, and manage to steal every scene by doing so. The dough-faced spawn of Satan makes you want to pinch his cheeks one minute, and bunt kick him in the face the next. Billie Whitelaw is also worth mentioning as Mrs. Baylock, Damien's new nanny who has more on her agenda than just reading bedtime stories.
Commentary- Richard Donner and Stuart Baird (editor)

For those who already own the original Omen DVD, this track will seem familiar. This was pre-recorded and is re-used for the new DVD. Baird and Donner throw out some interesting facts, but they do not seem as enthusiastic. I had more fun with the next track...

Commentary- Richard Donner and Brian Helgeland

Donner returns for this new track along with Helgeland, who has absolutely nothing to do with this film. The director of Payback and The Order sits in with Donner for a more vivacious track. Helgeland is merely a fan of the film, but he is an effective commentator. His keen eye for detail raises plenty of questions for Donner to address.

Curse or Coincidence?

Crewmembers recount the numerous incidents that interfered with the making of the film. The various true stories of possible real-life omens are both fun and somewhat chilling.

Jerry Goldsmith's Scores

The composer cites four specific scenes from the film. He introduces each piece which are followed by the actual music-accompanied scenes.

Introduction by Richard Donner

The second special features disc contains this brief into by the director himself. I never can find the point of these intros except for filler. At only a couple of minutes, it is still worth viewing for the heck of it.

666: The Omen Revealed

This doc*mentary is also from the original DVD and serves as the standard "making-of" featurette. The director, writer, and producers discuss the conception of the film, the casting process, and editing. Fun fact: while auditioning for Damien, Donner asked the numerous kids to attack him. Young Harvey Stephens got the part after kicking Donner in the nuts.

The Omen Legacy

Here is the real investment. This featurette was released alone as a DVD. It is now included on this edition as a special feature. Jack Palance narrates this lengthy doc*mentary that looks at every film in the Omen series, and how they relate to real life. This covers actual inspirations from the Bible and the actual omens that plagued the films. Interviewees include relevant figures such as members of the Church of Satan. It covers a lot of material mentioned in the previous docs. If you want to cut down on time, I would watch this doc*mentary alone to become educated on the story behind The Omen. This doc*mentary is a must-see that will keep you glued to the screen.

Deleted Scene- Dog Attack

Donner and Helgeland give commentary for this poorly directed, but fun scene that shows the demise of Damien's dog and evil nanny.

Screenwriter's Notebook

Writer David Seltzer explains the construction of his scripts. Interestingly enough, what attracted him to the script was not the material, but needing a quick buck. The writer gives a very insightful explanation of his research and how the story unfolded.

An Appreciation: Wes Craven

Are we having fun yet? As if the prior featurettes were not enough, horror maestro Wes Craven stops by to dish out his thoughts on the film. He shares his knowledge of horror to describe his view on The Omen, including Donner's unique method of scaring the audience. This is a must for horror fans.
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) The film is remastered for this spanking new DVD, and it looks fantastic. It is amazing what technical wizards can do to improve older films. The crisp appearance of Donner's picture is a bonus on this jam-packed DVD.
Dolby Surround 5.1. You are guaranteed a solid listening experience if you pop the speakers on for this title. Jerry Goldsmith's score is one of the best things about this film, and it is quite effective in surround sound.
Standard DVD keep case. The cover contains original poster artwork with Peck and Remick in close-up. It also contains a production still of young Damien with glowing red eyes. The case comes packaged in a red slip-sleeve with similar cover artwork.
I will not beat around the bush here. The Omen is one of the best DVD's I've kicked through in a long time. This day and age, it is rare for DVD distributors to pack their discs with fun supplements. Not only is the film a classic, but there are also enough extras to provide hours of entertainment. It is understandable if horror is not your cup of tea. However, I endorse this DVD 100%. If you do not own this timeless classic, now is the time to hop onboard.

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