With The Exorcist‘s already-sterling reputation as a first-rate scare show further bolstered by its very successful theatrical rerelease, the other popular Satan-themed thriller of the ’70s, “The Omen,” has been buried deeper in the pop culture memory banks. Hopefully, Fox’s recent release of the film (and its two theatrical sequels and one made-for-TV spinoff) on DVD will remind audiences that, while not as good nor shocking as William Friedkin’s film, it is an effective chiller in his own right. “The Omen,” released in 1976, introduces the series’ focal character, Devil-spawn Damien as the adopted son to Robert (Gregory Peck) and Kathy (Lee Remick) Thorn. After Damien turns 5, strange and deadly happenings begin to revolve around the child, who, it is revealed, is the Antichrist. Director Richard Donner had a severely limited budget (a little over $2 million) for this, his first hit film, and instead of hampering him, the low finances forced him to craft a more cerebral and subtly unsettling thriller; while there is gore (including one now-famous moment of gruesomeness), is economically employed for maximum effect. The fairly sedate pace and tone may be a bit dry for today’s viewer, but by the film’s disturbing climax and simple, superbly creepy final image, one appreciates how well it helped build the suspense.
Fox has given “The Omen” a stunning–and appropriately spooky–special edition treatment. The animated menus effectively use memorable images from the film (including that last shot) and excerpts from Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning score–which is showcased elsewhere on the disc: an interview section with Goldsmith, who discusses four of his favorite cues; and the new remixed stereo soundtrack on the feature (the original mono is also included). Two other documentary features are included alongside the Goldsmith one: “666: The Omen Revealed,” a new and insightful 46-minute retrospective on the film, featuring thoughts by Donner, editor Stuart Baird, among other key players; and an overwrought six-minute segment called “Curse or Coincidence?” which recounts all the bizarre occurrences surrounding the production. Donner and Baird supply a running commentary on the feature; while they make a fairly lively pair as the film jogs their memories right before our ears, their best recollections overlap with those shared in the other documentary features.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English stereo; English and French mono; English and Spanish subtitles; English closed captioning.