The Omen

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary - Richard Donner (Director) & Stuart Baird (Editor)
Featurette - 666: The Omen Revealed
Featurette - Curse Or Coincidence
Featurette - Jerry Goldsmith on The Omen Score
Theatrical Trailer
Rating r.gif (1169 bytes)
Year Released 1976
Running Time 106:26 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (49:33)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Richard Donner
Fox.gif (4090 bytes)
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Gregory Peck
Lee Remick
David Warner
Billie Whitelaw
Harvey Stephens
Patrick Troughton
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI Individual Disc - $36.95
Boxed Set - $99.95
Music Jerry Goldsmith
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles Czech
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The Omen, Richard Donner's treatment of the prophecy foretold in the Book of Revelations, is one of the most interesting and most talked-about horror movies in history, with numerous imitations coming out of the woodpile every so often.

    The story begins on the sixth of June, at the hour of six in the morning, in the year 1966, with Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), an industrial mogul, travelling to the local hospital where his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), is about to give birth. Unfortunately, the delivery does not go at all well, with Katherine passing out during labour, and the baby being stillborn, at least according to the doctor. Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) comes to Robert, stating that another baby has been born whose mother did not survive the birth, and he suggests the idea that Robert raise the young orphan as his own son, with Katherine none the wiser. Shortly thereafter, Robert Thorn accepts the position of ambassador to England, requiring him to move to London, which he does in earnest (as I would do if I had the money he is portrayed as having).

    All goes well for a while, with the young Damien (Harvey Stephens, who has never made a film since) slotting nicely into place as the heir to the massive Thorn empire. However, things take a turn for the ugly when the Thorns hire a young nanny (Holly Palance) to assist in caring for Damien, which ends with the nanny proceeding to kill herself at Damien's fifth birthday party. She is soon replaced by a much more creepy, elder nanny known as Missus Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), who is enough of a cow (figuratively, I mean) to bring out the beast lurking within any male child. As animals also begin reacting unfavourably to Damien, Robert is contacted by the slightly unhinged Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), who warns that Damien is the Antichrist and that Robert should seek out the archaeologist priest called Bugenhagen (Leo McKern, who is uncredited in both of the Omen films he appears in). At first, Robert dismisses Brennan's warnings, but  shots taken by a photographer named Jennings (David Warner in a show-stealing performance) reveal awful warnings that precipitate some extremely nasty deaths. These photographs, among other things, help convince Robert that the warnings he originally dismissed as lunacy are actually the truth, and he sets to find out more about Damien's natural parents.

    I'll be brutally honest with you and tell you that this film has not aged as well as it would have with a tighter script and some better acting. David Warner steals the show because he plays his role absolutely straight, with the kind of sincerity that I normally only deliver when I scream abuse at the elders of one of those sects you hear about on current affairs shows. He also gets decapitated from several angles in one of the most sadistic death scenes ever committed to celluloid, even comparing well to those that feature eleven years later in both the theatrical and uncensored versions of RoboCop. Perhaps the most interesting quote of all about the film, however, is that attributed to screenwriter Brian Seltzer: "I did it strictly for the money. I was flat broke. What does frighten me is how many people actually believe all this silliness."

Transfer Quality


    Twenty-five years is a long time for a film, especially one that was produced in the days when home video was still well over the horizon. With that in mind, the transfer we have here can best be described as good, but not great.

    The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The transfer is very sharp most of the time, but there seems to be a definite mid-seventies haze in a lot of the shots. The shadow detail ranges from poor to average, with a lot of the night-time shots being just barely clear enough to make out what is supposed to be happening. Low-level noise is not a problem, but film grain is occasionally intrusive, especially during a close-up of a gun muzzle at 102:10.

    The colours in the picture are always very dull and muted, with even the outdoor environments seeming to have little or no life to them. This is more a fault of the methods by which the film was photographed, rather than the transfer. One specific artefact occurred at 35:23, when a trail of colour bleeding extended up from the top of one man's hat. I'm hoping that this was merely a fault of the source material, because it is quite unusual to see colours extend this far past their normal position on DVD-Video.

    MPEG artefacts are not a problem at all for this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts, however, consisted of frequent aliasing. While the aliasing was mostly quite minor, there were the occasional big ones such as at 37:18, which was mildly distracting. Film artefacts were slightly problematic during the end sequence, with vertical scratches making frequent appearances from 103:49 onwards, but the rest of the film is remarkably clean where film artefacts are concerned.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place during Chapter 10, at 49:33. The pause is very brief, and the location could not be better in light of that.


    There are two soundtracks included on this DVD, which makes a nice change from having a disc overloaded with dubs that I'd never listen to in their entirety, if I listen to them at all. The first soundtrack is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. The second soundtrack is an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with a bitrate of 96 kilobits per second. I listened to both of these soundtracks.

    The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand, although there were some utterances at times that were a little difficult to make out. This is probably a fault with the original recording techniques, and it isn't as though the words spoken at these times were particularly important or emphasized, anyway. Some of the dialogue is spoken in Italian, but it is pretty easy to guess what these lines mean from their context. There were no discernible problems with audio sync.

    The music in this film is credited to Jerry Goldsmith, and it makes a great lesson in how to overstate a theme to the point where even a simple one sounds like a deathly crescendo. Much of the score consists of a bold theme on piano and strings, with a huge choir repeating a few words in Latin, such that they were just begging for the hilarious send-up they received in one episode of South Park. I simply can't listen to these choir movements without the phrase "Cheesy Poofs" coming to mind at the end of every three Latin words, and I doubt that anyone else who has seen that episode of South Park will be able to, either. All things considered, the score is quite effective at its aims.

    The surround channels are occasionally used to support the music and a handful of sound effects, such as the wheels of a tricycle. Considering that the film was originally presented in mono, this is not terribly surprising, but it does make the soundtrack somewhat less immersive than one could expect from a film of this ilk. One could be forgiven for thinking that the surrounds decided to go and have a cup of coffee during most of the film, although most of the film doesn't really have much for the surrounds to get worked up about, anyway. The subwoofer was not particularly used during this film, either, only taking the occasional redirected signal during such moments as the ringing of bells, the infamous beheading, or the graveyard sequence.


    A modest, but interesting collection of extras can be found on this disc.


    The menu features an excellently themed introduction, some excellent animation, a piece of the score music in Dolby Digital 2.0, and 16x9 Enhancement.

Audio Commentary - Richard Donner (Director) & Stuart Baird (Editor)

    Although the opening of this commentary didn't give me much hope, Richard Donner and Stuart Baird provide an interesting insight into how The Omen was made, once they settle in and speak more coherently. Every detail behind the production, including the lengths that had to be gone to in order to achieve the special effects, is laid bare for the viewer to think about. My personal favourite is the discussion of the scene in the graveyard, during which both participants state that films need to get back to telling stories rather than bombarding the viewer in special effects, among other things.

Featurette - 666: The Omen Revealed

    This is an excellent example of a documentary that reveals a lot about the making of The Omen, with plenty of insight on offer from people who worked behind the camera. Clocking in at forty-six minutes and seventeen seconds, this featurette is presented Full Frame with footage from the film in the ratio of 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced. The lack of captions makes it hard to determine exactly who is speaking at what time, but the featurette is otherwise very interesting.

Featurette - Curse Or Coincidence

   Clocking in at six minutes and twenty-two seconds, this featurette is also presented Full Frame with footage from the film in the ratio of 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This featurette briefly explores the bizarre incidents that occurred on the set during principal photography. It's a mildly interesting piece of film trivia, but not really much more.

Featurette - Jerry Goldsmith on The Omen Score

   This option takes the viewer to a sub-menu with four separate featurettes, totalling seventeen minutes and forty-six seconds, covering various aspects of The Omen's score music. In order, these featurettes are Love Theme, Damien To Church, Dog Attack, and 666 And Mrs. Baylock. The option to play all of these featurettes in sequence is also included in this menu. Each featurette features Full Frame footage of composer Jerry Goldsmith talking about the artistic considerations that influenced the score music, with 2.35:1 footage from the film. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and the featurette is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this two-minute and twenty-second trailer almost succeeds in misleading the viewer into thinking that the film is a comedy. The picture quality is almost bad enough to qualify as a joke, but the sound quality is just fine.


    As far as we can determine, there are no specific censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    The two versions of this disc appear to be fundamentally identical. It is worth noting that, as is the case with Region 4, the Region 1 version of this disc is either available separately or as part of a boxed set. The boxed set in Region 1 also contains Omen IV: The Awakening, but those who have seen this telemovie will know that the fact we miss out on this disc is a blessing, not a curse.


    The Omen is one of the most interesting horror films of the Twentieth century.

    The video transfer is average.

    The audio transfer is average.

    The extras are interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

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 © Dean McIntosh (111)
May 8, 2001. 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer