THE OMEN

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Movies Eddie McMullen Jr. Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
The Omen - 1976
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SHOULD YOU?
TIP JAR
DAMIEN: THE OMEN II
MOVIE REVIEW
OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT
MOVIE REVIEW
OMEN IV: THE AWAKENING
MOVIE REVIEW
THE OMEN - 2006
MOVIE REVIEW
THE OMEN - 1976
USA Release: June 25, 1976
20th Century Fox
Rated: USA: R

A limousine races precariously through the streets. Inside, the man we will come to know as Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck: ON THE BEACH, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL) is clearly distraught.

Arriving at a Catholic church, he confesses his doubts to the priest. He and his wife Katherine (Lee Remick: ANATOMY OF A MURDER, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, TELEFON, THE MEDUSA TOUCH, DARK HOLIDAY) are both of an advanced age for having children and, after 9 long months, his wife just miscarried. The baby is dead and Katherine is barely holding on.

Emotionally vulnerable and fearing for Katherine's life if she finds out, Robert turns to god in his moment of need. The Catholic Priest and a Nun suggest a newborn in their care. The baby boy has no family and coincidentally, he even rather resembles Thorn.

The orphan deserves a family and his wife deserves her child. Is this really such a sinful deception?

The baby is treated as a biological son, named Damien, and only Robert, the sole Catholic Priest, and Nun know the truth.

Via montage and vignette, Robert's career progresses as he becomes U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. During a birthday party for Damien, and the tons of small children at his party - all the brood of various diplomats and politicians - Damien's Nanny (Holly Palance: THE COMEBACK) makes a horrific, public spectacle of herself. This is one of the most iconic scenes in the Horror movie genre and Cinematic history in general: Good work, Director Richard Donner!

Again, during a time of severe emotional trauma and vulnerability, a new Nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw: THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE [1968], FRENZY, NIGHTWATCH, THE DARK CRYSTAL, SLAYGROUND, HOT FUZZ) enters their house. Though she secretly swears protection in private only to the small Damien (Harvey Stephens: THE OMEN [2006]), the woman is clearly diabolical in intent and her every action is meant to put distance between the child and his parents.

Back in the U.S., Thorn is so popular that murmurs of "President" are grinding through the media rumor mill. His highs and lows are covered with fannish adoration.

A news photographer named Jennings (David Warner: TRON, CAST A DEADLY SPELL, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, PRIVATEER 2: THE DARKENING, SCREAM 2, PLANET OF THE APES [2001]) is largely making his career covering the famously handsome and charismatic Robert Thorn. Being close enough, yet distant enough, this observer is noticing a sinister pattern in the man's life, but doesn't know what to make of it.

This looks like a case for Dr. Who!

Who comes in the form of Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton: R.U.R., THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962], DR. WHO 1963 - 1985 [128 episodes from 1963 - 1985 on TV], JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, THE GORGON, THE BLACK TORMENT, SCARS OF DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER). Father Brennan not only knows the truth about Damien Thorn, he knows something Robert doesn't: Brennan knows the horrific identity of the real mother. Father Brennan comes to Robert telling him that he must drink the blood of Christ and eat of his flesh.

Yuck!

Robert is as good a Catholic as ... the next Catholic, but there's something kinda gruesome about the way father Brennan keeps repeating, "Drink his blood! Eat his flesh!" Is this guy a nut? Is he a blackmailer? A cannibal? A nutty blackmailing cannibal?

Thorn sends for his security who toss the priest out.

While Robert tries to fathom the priest's behavior, Father Brennan barely has time to reconsider the flaws in his approach before his heart attack - from a steel pipe falling right through it.

Jennings is on hand to witness the priest's hasty removal and immediate death, and can't help but feel this latest twist in Ambassador Thorn's life bodes ill. You might even say it's a bad omen.

As with any three year old, little Damien is a handful, especially when you try and take him to church. Why on earth a Catholic child was never baptized, let alone saw the inside of a church until the age of three is anyone's guess.

More freak-yer-shit wicked boos come along and I'm not about to spoil them. So now let's look at this movie from a historical perspective.

Say, you know how leaders in the Asian community cry "Racist" over movies like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA getting directed by white guys like John Carpenter?

Or how leaders in any minority or religious group cry foul when a non-member of their group make a movie about them?

THE OMEN was written by David Seltzer, and speaking as a kid who was raised a Catholic, David didn't know a lot about Catholics when he wrote THE OMEN. THE OMEN movie came out in 1976, at a time when Jewish guys were trashing the living crap out of Christianity (GODSPELL, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, MASS) and just daring Gentiles to have a problem with it. Those Christians who obliged them were promptly decried as racist, anti-Semitic, and the like.

As a kid whose Catholic father married his Jewish Mother, you can imagine the kind of family holidays I dealt with while growing up.

Oy! You shouldn't know from it.

So Damien, as was made clear in the movie trailers and on the poster, is the rebirth of Satan in accordance with the holy scripture - which varies a bit depending on if you have a Catholic Bible or Marty's version or the 40 plus other versions.

It's dawning on Robert that something isn't kosher with Damien and THE OMEN is one long voyage of Robert's discovery to the realization that he was "had", in adopting the little devil.

The constant use of shocking tragedy to induce Robert into emotional weakness and poor thinking is well done, and I remember this movie scaring the shit out of my Pop. He breezed right through William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST, but THE OMEN knocked him on his ass!

What's peculiar about THE OMEN though, is you have to really buy into all of the 666 hullabaloo in the first place, and I don't mean you have to be a Christian. I mean you have to buy into this movie's particular brand of the Apocalypse. People who never actually read the Book of Revelations, only heard, seem to get all shook up over THE OMEN more than people who know their stuff. THE OMEN so cherry picks throughout The Book of Revelations (more of a thick pamphlet, really) - and misses so much of the scary (which really won't happen until ol' Scratch is a grownup) - that it's little more of an "Oooh!" than an "Eeek!"

That said, thanks in large part to Director Richard Donner (LADYHAWKE, SCROOGED, CONSPIRACY THEORY), THE OMEN found its audience and did so well with them that it ran through three sequels and wound up with an abysmal remake in 2006.

If you're really into the Bible and Revelations and the Number of the Beast stuff: in the off-hand way of having it preached at you and never having actually read it yourself, THE OMEN might be your brand of tea.

It was entertaining enough, and David Warner, in one of his rare roles as a moderately good guy, shone all the way through.

Three Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2012 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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