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Omen, The

Omen, The(1976)

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With Halloween looming, Image Entertainment has prepped for DVD release The Omen Legacy (2001), a reasonably diverting made-for-cable celebration of Fox's apocalyptic fright franchise. Laden with war stories from a fairly comprehensive cross-section of creative contributors to the Omen series, the program's wealth of content offers revelations for even hardcore buffs, while casual fans should remain consistently intrigued.

The Omen Legacy begins by trying to set up a cultural context for the early '70s era in which the series was birthed, and showing how the successes of Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) laid the groundwork for allowing the public and the studios to be receptive to the notion of a thriller about the coming of the Antichrist. Producer Harvey Bernhard, who shepherded the series through its theatrical and telemovie incarnation, speaks at length about the intrigues behind the development of The Omen (1976). A number of his original collaborators are on hand as well, including Robert Munger, who originally pitched him on the notion; screenwriter David Seltzer; director Richard Donner; co-producer Mace Neufeld; and then-Fox production chief Alan Ladd Jr. The production tidbits shared (from the decisive moment leading to young Harvey Stephens' casting to how Lee Remick's banister plunge was achieved) make for involving viewing.

The Omen Legacy fortunately spends the bulk of its focus on the original installment, and goes as far to make quiet concessions concerning the diminishing artistic and financial returns that each successive sequel (Damien: The Omen II (1978); The Final Conflict (1981); the made-for-TV Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)) and an abortive TV pilot wrought. For the series' biggest fans, its calling card has always been the grisly demises that await anyone who seeks to ward off Damien's grand destiny. Just as the actors and filmmakers are willing to share their reminisces of creating the death scenes, the makers of The Omen Legacy are equally enamored of repeating them at handy junctures. Still, it stops short of becoming wearisome, and the buffs who are being played to will be appreciative.

The Omen Legacy makes its most interesting points when it touches upon the franchise's impact on its own studio. In the era in which The Omen was developed, Fox was awash in red ink, and the film's then-monstrous $76 million in grosses allowed the studio to right itself financially and ultimately guarantee its long-term strength by putting money into Star Wars (1977). Less welcome is the documentary's overdone speculation regarding the manner in which the series had impacted the religious convictions of its viewers, as various theologians (including one Satanist) weigh in on the relative merits of the filmmakers' approach to the issues.

Further, while it's a given that the "Omen Curse" that was tied to very production mishap can't go without mention, both as part of the original film's massive marketing push and as franchise lore, both Bernhard and the makers of The Omen Legacy milk it to the extreme. Overall, though, director Brent Zacky has culled together more than enough to make his film worthwhile, from the behind-the-scenes footage and photos to new interviews with series players David Warner, Lee Grant, Lance Henriksen, Michael Lerner and Martin Benson.

The Omen Legacy has been cleanly mastered by Image in the original broadcast 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and provided with a soundtrack in Dolby Digital Stereo. For supplemental materials, the disc provides the original trailers for all four installments in the series, as well as the period "making of" featurette, Power and the Devil: The Making of Damien: Omen II, which clocks in at just over 7 min.

For more information about The Omen Legacy, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Omen Legacy, go to TCM Shopping.

For more information about The Omen Legacy, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Omen Legacy, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay S. Steinberg