AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Omen
Alternate Title: The Anti-Christ
Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
Release Date:   1976
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 Jun 1976
Production Date:   6 Oct--mid-Dec 1975
Duration (in mins):   111
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Cast:   Gregory Peck (Robert Thorn)  
    Lee Remick (Katherine Thorn)  
    David Warner ([Keith] Jennings)  
    Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Baylock)  
    Patrick Troughton (Father Brennan)  
    Martin Benson (Father Spiletto)  
    Harvey Stephens (Damien [Thorn]) as
    Robert Rietty (Monk)  
    Tommy Duggan (Priest)  
    John Stride (The psychiatrist)  
    Anthony Nicholls (Dr. Becker)  
    Holly Palance ([Holly] Nanny)  
    Roy Boyd (Reporter)  
    Freda Dowie (Nun)  
    Sheila Raynor (Mrs. Horton)  
    Robert MacLeod (Horton)  
    Bruce Boa (Thorn's aide)  
    Don Fellows (Thorn's second aide)  
    Patrick McAlinney (Photographer)  
    Dawn Perllman (Chambermaid)  
    Nancy Manningham (Nurse)  
    Miki Iveria (First nun)  
    Betty McDowall (American secretary)  
    Nicholas Campbell (Marine)  
    Burnell Tucker (Secret Service man)  
    Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Gentleman at rugby match)  
    Guglielmo Spoletini (Italian taxi driver)  
    Yakov Banai (Arab)  
    The officers and men of U.S. Marine Barracks London, England    
    Leo McKern (Carl Bugenhagen)  

Summary: Robert Thorn, a wealthy American, sits in the lobby of a Catholic hospital in Rome, Italy, on 6 Jun at 6:00 a.m. after his newborn son dies at birth. Fearing that his wife, Katherine Thorn, cannot handle loss of the infant, Robert allows Father Spiletto to secretly replace the deceased baby with another newborn whose mother died in childbirth. Years later, Robert is appointed ambassador to the U.K. and the family moves into an English country manor. At a large birthday party for the Thorn’s five-year-old son Damien, a news photographer, Keith Jennings, snaps a photograph of Damien’s nanny, Holly. Minutes later, Holly is confronted by a large black Rottweiler. Later, Damien hears Holly yelling his name. The party guests look to the roof of the house where they see the nanny with a noose around her neck. Declaring she is killing herself for Damien, Holly jumps off the roof. As Katherine and Robert console Damien, the boy waves at the black dog. A few days later, Robert walks into the U.S. Embassy followed by reporters and he knocks Jennings’ camera to the ground. Robert apologizes and offers to pay for the broken camera, but Jennings declines. Father Brennan unexpectedly arrives at Robert’s office, announcing that Robert must accept Jesus as his savior or the ambassador is doomed. Robert calls security, but before they arrive, Brennan explains that he was present at Damien’s birth and the boy’s real mother was a jackal. As Marines escort Brennan out of the embassy, Jennings snaps the priest's photograph. At home, Robert and Katherine are perplexed when Mrs. Baylock, a new nanny, arrives without solicitation, but Baylock explains an agency sent her. However, Baylock later tells Damien that she was sent to protect him. Despite Baylock’s protests, the Thorns take Damien to a wedding. When the boy sees the church, he attacks Katherine. Later, Robert is shocked to see the black dog at Damien’s nursery door. Mrs. Baylock declares that she thought the stray would make a good watchdog, but Robert insists she get rid of the animal. The next day, Katherine takes Damien on a drive through Animal Park, but all the animals run away from the boy except the baboons, which attack the car. That night, Katherine confesses to Robert that she is having irrational thoughts about Damien and begs her husband to find a psychologist. Days later, at a rugby match, Brennan tells Robert that Katherine is in great danger and the two men agree to meet the following day at Bishop’s Park. As Brennan leaves, Jennings photographs from afar. At Bishop’s Park, Brennan insists Damien is the Antichrist and must be killed. He warns that Katherine is pregnant and Damien will kill the mother and child. When Damien is Robert’s sole heir, the baby will kill Robert as well. Brennan begs Robert to visit a small town called Megiddo to see an old man named Carl Bugenhagen, but Robert says he never wants to see Brennan again, and leaves. Just then, a storm begins, pelting Brennan with leaves and hail. Lightning strikes as Brennan races to a nearby church for shelter, but all the doors are barred. A bolt strikes the church’s lightning rod and it falls, impaling Brennan to the ground. When Robert returns home, Katherine sobs she is pregnant and wants an abortion. At that moment, Jennings phones to tell Robert to look at the evening newspaper, which features a picture of the impaled Brennan. Later, Robert talks to Katherine’s psychologist, who tells him that Katherine is fantasizing that Damien is evil and not her child. The doctor recommends the abortion, but Robert refuses to consider it. Meanwhile, on the second level landing at the Thorne house, Katherine climbs onto a small table to prune a plant while Damien rides his tricycle into the table, causing his mother to fall and lose her unborn baby. At the hospital, Katherine begs Robert not to let Damien kill her. Robert returns home to find the black dog guarding Damien’s nursery. When Jennings phones, begging Robert to come to his flat, Robert sees photographs of Brennan and Holly, Damien’s deceased nanny. In the image of Holly, there is a flaw that looks like a noose and the picture of Brennan also shows a spear-like flaw impaling his body. Brennan’s autopsy photograph reveals a birthmark in the shape of “666,” the sign of the devil from the Biblical Book of Revelations. The men investigate Brennan’s apartment, which is plastered with Bible pages and crucifixes. Brennan’s diary contains a five-year-old newspaper article about a comet changing shape on 6 June at 6 a.m., the exact time of Damien’s birth. Jennings reveals a photograph he took of himself in a mirror that has a similar flaw running through his neck. Back in Rome, Robert and Jennings discover that the hospital where Damien was born burned in a fire five years earlier. All the records were destroyed, but a nun tells Robert that Father Spiletto, the priest who gave him Damien, now lives in a monastery nearby. The men find Spiletto, but the priest was badly maimed by the fire, and can no longer speak. When Robert demands information about Damien’s biological mother, Spiletto writes the name of an ancient Etruscan cemetery. That night, Robert and Jennings break into the cemetery and find Damien’s mother’s grave next to the grave of a child. Exhuming the woman’s grave, they find the bones of a jackal. The child’s grave contains the skeleton of Robert’s natural son with a smashed skull. As Robert realizes his son was murdered at birth, a pack of black Rottweilers attack. Escaping over a spiked fence, Robert slips and impales his arm, but Jennings pulls him free. Robert phones Katherine and reports that his assistant will take her to Rome. When Katherine hangs up, Baylock throws her out the window onto an ambulance ten floors below. After Robert learns of Katherine’s death, Jennings informs him that the ancient city of Megiddo is in Israel and that “Megiddo” is another word for “Armageddon.” Robert remembers the name of Carl Bugenhagen, the man Brennan told him to meet. In Israel, Bugenhagen sends Jennings away and gives Robert a set of knives with crucifix handles, explaining that Damien must be killed on consecrated ground. Robert asks if there is any way to prove the boy is the Antichrist and Bugenhagen describes a birthmark in the shape of “666.” When Robert insists Damien does not have the mark, Bugenhagen tells him to check under the boy’s hair. Disbelieving Bugenhagen, Robert declares to Jennings that he will not kill Damien, and throws the knives away, but Jennings runs to retrieve them. However, a nearby truck loses its emergency brake, rolls down the hill, hits a rock, sending glass flying through the air and decapitating Jennings. Robert flies back to England with the knives, sneaks back into his home and traps the black Rottweiler in the basement. While Damien sleeps, Robert cuts the boy’s hair and sees the mark of the beast. As Robert recoils, Baylock leaps on him and tries to claw his eyes out, but he knocks her unconscious and grabs Damien. As they head downstairs, Damien grabs a wall sconce and the electrical shock sends them tumbling. Robert regains consciousness, and carries Damien into the kitchen, where Baylock attacks him with a carving fork. He stabs her in the neck, then speeds out of the driveway with Damien. Robert's car almost hits a police officer, who radios for backup and gives chase. Robert takes Damien into a church and places him on the altar. As he prepares to stab Damien, the boy begs for his life, and Robert hesitates. The police arrive and shoot Robert before he can stab Damien. Robert and Katherine are given a formal ambassador’s funeral. After the ceremony, Damien is led away by the U.S. President and First Lady. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Productions Limited  
Production Text: Twentieth Century-Fox Presents
A Harvey Bernhard-Mace Neufeld Production
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation  
Director: Richard Donner (Dir)
  Claude Hudson (Prod mgr)
  David Tomblin (Asst dir)
  Steve Lanning (2d asst dir)
Producer: Harvey Bernhard (Prod)
  Charles Orme (Assoc prod)
  Mace Neufeld (Exec prod)
Writer: David Seltzer (Wrt)
Photography: Gilbert Taylor (Dir of photog)
  Gerry Anstiss (Cam op)
  Ron Taberer (Chief elec)
  Robert Penn (Stillsman)
  Rank Film Laboratories (Processed by)
Art Direction: Carmen Dillon (Art dir)
  George Richardson (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: Stuart Baird (Ed)
  Chris Ridsdale (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Tessa Davies (Set dresser)
  Reg Richards (Const mgr)
  George Ball (Prop master)
Costumes: G. W. Nicholls (Ward supv)
Music: Jerry Goldsmith (Mus)
  Music Centre England (Mus rec at the)
  De Lane Lea London (Re-rec at)
Sound: Gordon Everett (Sd rec)
  Les Wiggins (Dubbing ed)
  Doug Turner (Dubbing mixer)
  Chris Lancaster (Dial ed)
Special Effects: John Richardson (Spec eff)
  National Screen Service Limited London (Titles by)
Make Up: Stuart Freeborn (Chief make-up)
  Pat McDermott (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Robert Munger (Religious adv to the prods)
  Rev. Don Williams Ph.D (Religious adv to the prods)
  Maude Spector (Casting)
  Carolee Danz (Asst to the prod)
  Bernard Hanson (Loc mgr)
  Elaine Schreyeck (Continuity)
  Jeanne Ferber (Prod asst/Secy)
  Judy Friesen (Spec asst to the dir)
  Ben Woodgate (Dogs owned and trained by)
  Joan Woodgate (Dogs owned and trained by)
  Ford Motor Company (Automobiles furnished by courtesy of)
Stand In: Alf Joint (Stunt co-ord)
Color Personnel: De Luxe® (Col by)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 25/6/1976 dd/mm/yyyy LP46361

PCA NO: 24560
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col:
  Widescreen/ratio: Filmed in Panavision®

 
Genre: Horror
 
Subjects (Major): Adoption
  Catholic Church
  The Devil
  Murder
  Satanism
 
Subjects (Minor): Ambassadors
  Archaeologists
  Birthmarks
  Decapitation
  Dogs
  Fathers and sons
  Graves
  Hospitals
  Husbands
  Jerusalem (Israel)
  London (England)
  Mothers and sons
  Photographers
  Priests
  Rome (Italy)
  Spirit possession
  Stillbirth
  Suicide

Note:        The following statement appears in the opening credits: “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of man; and his number is 666,” from the Book of Revelation, 13:18 in the Bible.
       The end credits contain the written statement, "Made by Twentieth Century-Fox Productions Limited at Shepperton Studio Centre, England and on Location."
       A 4 Aug 1975 DV news brief noted the film’s alternative title was The Anti-Christ, but also announced that the studio promised a different title. News items in the 2 Sep 1975 HR and 8 Oct 1975 HR reported the film’s title as Birthmark.
       Actor Leo McKern played the part of “Carl Bugenhagen,” but his name does not appear in screen credits.
       The 21 Aug 1976 LAT article stated that the idea for The Omen came about when producer Harvey Bernhard had lunch with a religious friend and they talked about the Bible. Although Bernhard reportedly worked collaboratively on early versions of the screenplay with writer David Seltzer, Bernhard is not credited onscreen as a writer. In a 29 Aug 1976 LAT article, Seltzer stated that he did not believe in nor was he interested in the devil and merely wrote the script for commercial reasons.
       According to the 21 Aug 1976 LAT article, Seltzer’s script “languished” at Warner Bros. for months until Alan Ladd, Jr., from 20th Century-Fox picked up the option.
       According to a news item in the 4 Aug 1975 DV, actor Roy Scheider was considered for the role of “Robert Thorn.”
       A 14 Sep 1975 LAHExam news item announced that Gregory Peck had been cast in the role of Robert Thorn. However, the producers and 20th Century-Fox had concerns that film audiences may not accept Peck, a good guy, as a child killer, as was reported in the 21 Aug 1976 LAT.
       A news brief in the 20 Oct 1975 Box stated that Birthmark began shooting on 6 Oct 1975. As reported in the 8 Oct 1975 HR, an eleven-week principal photography schedule was underway at the Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England. Additional locations were set to include Southern England, Rome, Italy and Jerusalem, Israel. According to an article in the 21 Jun 1976 Box, the estate depicted in the film that the Thorns rent is actually the 1000 acre mansion called Pyrford Court in Surrey, England. The budget for the film was $2.8 million, as noted in the 24 Jun 1976 DV article.
       As stated in the DV article, Bernhard tried to duplicate the successful pre-hype advertising campaigns of The Exorcist (1973, see entry,) and Jaws (1975, see entry) to create word of mouth publicity. The filmmakers forfeited $2,348,892 in box office sales by holding two sneak previews in 547 theaters on 6 Jun 1976 and 10 Jun 1976. Between $1,270, 000 and $2,800,000 was spent on movie trailers.
       Unlike Jaws and The Exorcist, The Omen was not adapted from a bestselling novel, so Seltzer novelized his script and had the book released weeks before the film’s opening. Bernhard told DV that the sneak previews generated interest in the novelization, which sold out copies in big city bookstores in the first three hours of its publication. According to an Aug 1976 edition of The Cinema-phile article, the novel sold 875,000 copies in three weeks, and became a number one bestseller. The article also stated that the film earned over $4 million in three days and over $16.5 million in seventeen days.
       The Omen received mixed reviews, with most of the negative critiques citing its exploitation of a religious subject for entertainment. A 7 Jul 1976 DV news item announced that the Roman Catholic Church gave the film the rating of “B,” just short of a complete condemnation. In an 8 Jul 1976 DV article, church officials complained that the film erroneously implied that its prophesy of an Antichrist was in the Book of Revelation, and claimed the film’s prophesy sounded more like verses by mystic Nostradamus.
       Other religious groups praised the film. A 14 Jun 1976 Box article reported that the California Graduate School of Theology in Glendale, CA, presented a special award to the filmmakers during its 9 Jun 1976 commencement ceremonies for “daringly taking a step into a new type of dramatization of a biblical doctrine.” A 9 Feb 1977 Var news item noted that the Publications Approval Board, a censor board in South Africa, changed the film’s ending to depict Thorn preparing to stab “Damien,” giving the impression that good has triumphed over evil.
       Composer Jerry Goldsmith won the Academy award for Best Original Score for The Omen.
       The Omen was the first in a trilogy of films. It was followed by Damien--Omen II (1978, see entry) and The Final Conflict (1981, see entry). A fourth movie The Omen IV: The Awakening was made for television and aired 22 May 1991.
       In 2006, The Omen was remade using the same title (see entry). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   10 25 1975.   
Box Office   14 Jun 1976.   
Box Office   21 Jun 1976.   
Cinema-Phile   Aug 1976.   
Daily Variety   4 Aug 1975.   
Daily Variety   24 Jun 1976.   
Daily Variety   7 Jul 1976.   
Daily Variety   8 Jul 1976.   
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 1975.   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Oct 1975.   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 1976   p. 2.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner   14 Sep 1975.   
Los Angeles Times   25 Jun 1976   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   21 Aug 1976.   
Los Angeles Times   29 Aug 1976.   
New York Times   26 Jun 1976   p. 16.
Variety   9 Jun 1976   p. 23.
Variety   9 Feb 1977.   

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