Omen, The (1976 with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick)

UK – USA / 1976

Director: Richard Donner
Writer: David Seltzer

Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Leo McKern, Harvey Stevens, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson

As Variety points out “The Satanic suspense melodrama, fallen into artistic disrepute after Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, resumes its class status with The Omen.” With Gregory Peck taking the starring lead role as the American ambassador to the UK who comes into conflict with the Devil, the film became a runaway success at the box office.

Peck is a diplomat married to Lee Remick. When the child she gives birth to dies before she regains consciousness, Peck is persuaded by shady priest Martin Benson to substitute the living child of another woman for his dead son. Remick is unaware of the substitution and for the first few years of the child’s life she suspects nothing. However, when the child Damien (Harvey Stevens) reaches the age of five, strange things begin to happen.

His nanny, Holly Palance, hangs herself and a mysterious replacement, Billie Whitelaw, accompanied by fierce attack dogs, appears as if from nowhere. At the same time, an eccentric, even demented, priest, Patrick Troughton, begins to stalk Peck, telling him that he must beware, and eventually that Damien is none other than the Anti Christ. Archaeologist Leo McKern (not credited) also warns Peck about his son and tells him that he must kill the child. Moreover, photographer David Warner discovers that on his photographs, strange rays are appearing that seem to indicate people who are under threat of gruesome death.

The Sign of the Beast, the one that convinces Peck of the child’s demonic antecedents, is a 666 birthmark under the hair on the scalp. Peck decides that he will undertake the mission to slay the Devil’s child, but Damien and his Satanic cohorts are prepared to use any means possible to fight back. For Time Out, the secret of the film’s success lies “in the hermetically tight construction which, among other things, vees the action to a spooky chase across Europe just when other horror movies are getting bogged down in what dumb effect to produce next.”

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