Ambassador Gregory Peck’s life becomes a hell on earth when he adopts Satan’s son in this hugely popular, diabolical chiller
Any Damiens out there born in the late 70s? If so, your parents were sick in the head. The staggering success of The Omen put paid to the name for years.
When his wife Kathy (Remick) gives birth to a stillborn child, US ambassador to London Robert Thorn (Peck) adopts baby Damien. Little does he know that the boy is the Devil’s own son. All is well in the Thorns’ rarefied world for five years. But then the child turns nasty on nanny, and an ungodly maelstrom of decapitation, impalement and Satanic symbolism is unleashed as Damien starts bumping off anyone standing between him and world domination. The plot packs Robert off to learn what the hell’s going on from various crazed clerics, challenging him to accept the awful truth and do what must be done.
David Seltzer claimed he wrote the script of The Omen “strictly for the money”, and he hit the jackpot. The film – which borrows its premise and paranoia from Rosemary’s Baby, and its fire and brimstone from The Exorcist – was manna from hell for audiences, who lapped up its generous helpings of demonic gore and menace. Yet for all its fun and games in the grizzly death department, The Omen’s continued appeal comes largely from its dialogue. Much of it is unintentionally very silly, like the film itself. But it plays on the melodramatic power of biblical language with great skill.
You know that speech Samuel L Jackson delivers in Pulp Fiction (“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance”)? There’s a lot of that, mostly lifted from the Book of Revelations, and it lends the film a weighty portent that maximises the effect of the violence when it comes. The scene where Father Brennan (Troughton) spouts forth about the number of the Beast in his spooky gothic chapel is as gripping as Robert Shaw’s monologue in Jaws. It’s truly memorable. As is his punishment.
With a script as meaty as Seltzer’s to work with, director Donner (newly graduated from a decade and half of TV work) could concentrate on conjuring an impressively foreboding atmosphere, further abetted by Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning, choral score and Gilbert Taylor’s camera-work. The overall effect is a crescendo of fear rhythmically punctuated by the well-crafted, set-piece shocks.
Harvey Stephens, who played Damien, was last seen trading futures on the London Stock Exchange.
He must DIE Mr Thorn! – Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton).
Best Music, Original Score (1977) – Academy Awards, USA – Jerry Goldsmith.

Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn
Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn
David Warner as Keith Jennings
Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock
Harvey Stephens as Damien
Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan
Martin Benson as Father Spiletto
Robert Rietti as Monk
Tommy Duggan as Priest
John Stride as Psychiatrist
Holly Palance as Young Nanny
Anthony Nicholls as Dr. Becker
Roy Boyd as Reporter
Sheila Raynor as Mrs. Horton
Robert MacLeod as Horton
Bruce Boa as Thorn’s Aide
Don Fellows as Thorn’s Second Aide
Patrick McAlinney as Photographer
Dawn Perllman as Chambermaid
Nancy Mannigham as Nurse
Miki Iveria as First Nun
Betty McDowall as American Secretary
Nicholas Campbell as Marine
Burnell Tucker as Secret Service Man
Ronald Leigh-Hunt as Gentleman at Rugby Match
Guglielmo Spoletini as Italian Taxi Driver
Freda Dowie as Nun
Ya’ackov Banai as Arab
Harvey Bernhard as Man walking across street (uncredited)
Michael Byrne as Monk (uncredited)
Leo McKern as Carl Bugenhagen (uncredited)
Bill Reimbold as General (uncredited)
Director: Richard Donner
Producer: Harvey Bernhard
Writer: David Seltzer
Photographer: Gilbert Taylor
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
UK, USA | 111 minutes | 1976