241. The Omen (UK/US 1976)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw, Leo McKern, David Warner, Patrick Troughton, Harvey Stephen

Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor

Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith

Story/Script: David Seltzer

FACT: The working title of the film was 'The Birthmark'. Not terribly scary.

Bit Part: Bruce Boa ('Thorn's Aide') The arsehole American in the Fawlty Towers' 'Waldorf Salad' episode.

In one line:  The American ambassador to the UK discovers his adopted son to be the Anti-Christ.

 

Summary

Robert Thorn lives a happy, contented and successful life as Ambassador to the UK with his wife Catherine. When Katherine's baby is still born, Thorn pulls strings to have a rejected baby boy from a local orphanage put in the cot besides his wife's bed so that she won't experience the trauma of loss. The child is the Devil's son - the Anti-Christ. When he returns to England, the mysterious Mrs Baylock (Whitelaw) takes over the role of nanny to baby Damien. Death by horrible accident kills off all those who try to interfere with Damien's development. A down at heel priest (Troughton) warns Thorn of the nature of the child's true identity, and it takes the priest's death and the deaths of a number of others for Thorn to come to his senses and visit the noted occultist  Bugenhagen. 

Bugenhagen tells Thorn that he must kill Damien on consecrated ground using a set of ancient daggers. Thorn rejects his advice, but finally takes action as his family, friends and family start to be killed off in ever more gruesome ways.

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The Omen was written as a cash-in on a series of lucrative satanic thrillers ushered in by the success of The Exorcist.

It's not in the same league as The Exorcist, but its heavyweight cast, its pounding scary score and its unlikely sense of dread created by a talented ensemble taking their material very seriously make The Omen a fairly classy and very enjoyable pulp horror film.

"Maybe Goodison's the wrong place for Damien. Perhaps he'd be more at home on the Kop."

Peck brings his usual gravitas to his role, but is outshone by the brilliant Troughton and Whitelaw. Troughton as the dishevelled and probably alcoholic Father Brennan brings a haunting desperation to the role and his demise is one of the greatest deaths in contemporary film. Whitelaw is his equal and the scene where she comes to Lee Remick's hospital bed as a chilling angel of death is almost as memorable.

A poor quality remake and a tragic, unfunny pisstake in Only Fools and Horses fail to diminish the power of this excellent, late-night BBC schedule-filler.

8/10