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" Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.(Revelation 13:18)"

The average Joe is most likely familiar with the bible, regardless of their faith. They'll most likely know that it tells us about how God sent his only son to Earth as our saviour, Jesus Christ. It's a timeless tale that's been told and retold on the big screen many times over. A lesser known bible story can be found in the book of Revelations, one that chronicles the dark answer to Jesus Christ. It tells that Satan too, will be sending his only son, the son of perdition, to rule our planet. He will be a great deceiver, ride on a white horse, and most importantly; bring about the end of time.  This is the horrifying story of The Omen, the coming of the antichrist in the innocent medium of a child.

The Omen
Feature
American diplomat Robert Thorne finds himself faced with a near unbearable task; to notify his wife, Katherine, that their son was subject to spontaneous abortion during childbirth. Fate intervenes when a priest offers Thorne a strange proposition; to switch the stillborn child with another born at the very same time, one whose mother had died during childbirth. Unknowing of what lay ahead, Thorne agrees and presents this new child to his wife as their own and all is well, for the time being. Once young Damien reaches six years of age, strange accidents begin to occur around the Thorne household. With the help of the priest from the hospital and a determined photographer, Thorne must find out whose son he really adopted and if these accidents were, in actuality, caused by his son. Did I mention Damien was born during the sixth hour on the sixth day of the sixth month? Mighty unlucky numbers...

The crankiest of movie-goers could consider this review in its first paragraph to have already spoiled the film by revealing that little Damien is in fact, the antichrist. If you didn't know this, and feel somewhat cheated by it, I apologize and hope you won't skip over the film thinking you know it all by just knowing the ending. One of the great strengths of The Omen, despite how much you know about Damien, is that it operates as a mystery/suspense thriller. As an audience, we're led to question the sanity of Robert Thorne for suspecting his son to be the antichrist. Sure, we know that Damien is pure nasty evil, but based on the evidence Thorne has observed, should he be drawing this conclusion? Could these peculiar accidents really just be by incredible coincidence? It's a very clever plot device, one that had me glued to my seat for my first couple viewings of the picture. It's just one of several clever tricks The Omen has up it's sleeve to keep you interested, even if you know who is who else's son.

The casting is incredible here, especially for a horror film. I couldn't imagine anyone other than legendary actor Gregory Peck playing the lead role of Robert Thorne. Peck brings great dramatic weight to the film as he's cast completely against stereotype. His role works even better if you know him from his earlier body of work. Lee Remick is also excellent as Katherine Thorne, a woman unable to cope with the horror unfolding around her. Billie Whitelaw plays Mrs. Baylock, a sort-of 'Mary Poppins from Hell' sent to watch over the young antichrist. She gives one of the creepiest and most subtly-menacing performances I've ever seen in a film. It's the acceptance of her by the Thorne family that leads me to question their sanity. How could anyone possibly trust that creepy askewed smile of hers? Rounding out the cast is the young Harvey Stephens as the young Damien.

The Omen
Another aspect of the film that deserves high-praise is the score by renowned film composer Jerry Goldsmith. Of the eighteen Academy Award nominations Goldsmith has received, this is the only film to score him an Oscar. I'll have to argue that this isn't his best, but a score worthy of an Oscar all the same. Goldsmith does as much for The Omen as John Williams did for Jaws. His broodingly orchestrated mix of symphony and deeply voiced choir set a chilling tone for the film, one that unnerves me every time I hear it.

More than music or casting, The Omen is a film that benefits greatly from having such a solid story to tell, one that still today scares audiences today, myself and comrades included. If you're looking for horror film without the traditional splatter effects, and rather a fascinating plot about the greatest villain of all, then I highly recommend this film to you. If you happened to see the recent remake, and don't feel like going anywhere near the original, I beg of you to put aside your cringe-inducing experience and see what The Omen can be like when done well.

Video
The Omen is presented in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks appropriate. I've never seen a print of The Omen that impressed me, technically speaking. They all appear far too soft for my tastes, although it may just be the fact that the film is thirty years old. Having said that, there's little grain present and artefacts are non-existent. Contrast and black levels both appear constant and satisfactory for the duration of the picture. This is as good as I can expect the film to be.

Audio
I had the devil scared out of me while listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Dialogue, effects, and music all come through fine. The only times when the track is used to great extent are when Goldsmith's score takes the spotlight. It pours from all channels, and sounds incredibly spooky that way. For a film like The Omen this track satisfies. Also included is the original mono track, for those feeing nostalgic, I suppose.

The Omen
Extras
To me, an adequate technical presentation is an obligatory aspect of any DVD, collector's edition or not. It's just part of my regular expectation when I purchase a disc. When a studio double-dips, I want to see substantial bonus materials worth forking over the extra dough for. What could 20th Century Fox possibly offer fans to warrant an upgrade from the previous DVD of The Omen? Quite a bit, actually.

The first disc offers up two audio commentaries, both featuring director Richard Donner. The first brings along editor Stuart Baird, who makes for fascinating talk of the technical processes behind the film. Both men light-heartedly converse about their experience on The Omen, making it a fun commentary to sit through. The second track pairs Donner with filmmaker Brian Hegeland (a man with no connection to the film other than being a fan), which makes for a different kind of commentary track than the first. Instead of reminiscing about the production, Hegeland often says things that provoke Donner to expound upon his film. Both tracks are good, and seldom overlap in terms of information given. The only downside is that much of what you'll hear in the second track will be said again on disc two.

Also on disc one is 'Curse or Coincidence' which runs six minutes, and focuses on the infamous 'curse' that has plagued these films. Had this been a glossy self-promotional collector's edition (the kind that make me gag), the Omen-curse would be played as real, but Donner and others do their best to dispel that in spite of the publicity department at 20th Century Fox. I highly appreciate the objective tone of this feature and the edition as a whole. Next up is a seventeen minute chat with musical mastermind Jerry Goldsmith about his Academy Award-winning score for The Omen. This is a very insightful piece, an appreciated addition for film score lovers. Also housed here is the original theatrical trailer.

The Omen
The first feature on disc two, confusingly, is an introduction to the film by director Richard Donner. I have to wonder why this doesn't precede the feature on disc one. He rambles for just under two minutes, clearly unscripted, making this of little value. Next is a deleted scene called 'Dog Attack' with commentary running under two minutes. It's glaringly obvious why this material was cut, as it pays little mind to shot continuity and believable editing.

The greatest supplement on disc two is the feature-length documentary 'The Omen Legacy', which runs nearly two hours in length. When given special edition treatment, most franchise-spawning films tend to have an inability to see past themselves. This is where ' The Omen Legacy' has great strength, as it not only covers the original, but it's three sequels, failed television pilot, novelizations, and cultural impact. Everything short of the recent remake (something else that makes me gag) is touched upon. Narrated by the great Jack Palance, we're treated to scenes, original interviews, on-set footage, and rare stills chronicling thirty years of The Omen. This is one of those immensely enjoyable film documentaries that leaves no stone unturned, a must-watch for even casual fans of the franchise. I have to warn however, that it shows nearly every death in all four films in addition to revealing their endings. If you haven't seen one of the later instalments, I'd recommend switching off this feature when it rolls into sequel territory.

The next largely substantial feature is '666: The Omen Revealed', which is a forty-six minute look at the first film, as if there could be anything more to say. Believe me, there really is. This is a solid look at the original film, a welcome addition. Moving along, we have a fifteen minute feature called 'Screenwriters Notebook', which lets writer David Seltzer talk about his inspirations, both biblical and otherwise, for the film. It's interesting to hear the writer speak his experiences with the project, from script to screen, and the changes his story underwent.

An unexpected inclusion is the twenty minute long 'An Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen’. Craven shares several unique observations about characters, story, and locations that you won't find elsewhere on the disc. It makes me long for the director to touch on other genre classics. Finishing up the second disc is a very extensive photo gallery, a mix of publicity stills and behind the scenes shots.

The Omen
Overall
If you're on the fence about upgrading from your previous release of The Omen on DVD, allow me to nudge you off of it. This edition is going down in my collection as some of the finest treatment ever given to a horror film. From a technical standpoint, there isn't much noticeably different from the last transfer, so it's in the supplements that you're going to get your moneys worth, and then some. Hopefully with the release of that stinky cinematic suppository called a remake to DVD, we'll see similar love given to Damien: Omen II and Omen III: The Final Conflict.


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