One of the great advantages of the advent of DVD was special features. Suddenly, anybody who wanted to get a glimpse behind the scenes, see shots that didn’t make the final cut, or listen to actors and directors discuss their work could do just that. Though early on many catalogue films sadly got bare bones releases, studios did their best to rejuvenate older titles, in hopes that people would buy their favorites and replace those old VHS copies. THE OMEN Collection came out soon after I bought my DVD player back in 2000, and I was thrilled that the first film in the series got a generous set of extras. Years later, a definitive 2-disc version would appear with a few more extras added to the mix. For the most part, between the two releases OMEN fans got an impressive set of special features that give light to the making of the film.
“666: THE OMEN Revealed” is the best of the extras. A 46-minute doc, it included discussion from many of the major players, most importantly director Richard Donner, producer Harvey Bernhard and writer David Seltzer. The doc takes us from the development of the film’s concept, through the screenwriting, into production and right up through release. Along the way, the participants give tidbits about hiring Harvey Stephens to play Damien; stirring up baboons for the famous zoo scene; dogs humping during the graveyard scene; and hiring Jerry Goldsmith to arrange the score. They also talk about the original ending, which would’ve left the world a safer place. Donner’s comments are the most informative, and it’s revealing that he sees the whole film as a series of coincidences, instead of the work of Satan. Pairing this doc with THE OMEN LEGACY makes for one of the best behind-the-scenes looks I’ve ever gotten on a film. And as THE OMEN is my favorite horror flick, I love all of it. My only quibble is the conspicuous absence of the actors. Lee Remick was dead by the time Fox had put this together, but Gregory Peck, Billie Whitelaw and David Warner were quite alive. It’s a minor complaint, but it would have been revealing to see just what Peck thought of his famous foray into horror (Warner appears on LEGACY, and Billie Whitelaw shows up on “The Curse of THE OMEN”, mainly to complain about working with little Harvey). Fortunately, Donner makes up for it. He’s extremely proud of his film, and credits it not only opening the doors for him, but for George Lucas; THE OMEN made such a great profit, that Fox was able to fund STAR WARS. If you’re looking for all sorts of background information on THE OMEN, check out “Revealed” and LEGACY. You’ll be thrilled with what the combination offers.
“Curse or Coincidence” plays the exact opposite of CURSE OF THE OMEN. It’s basically 6 minutes of Donner explaining all the bad things that happened around the film, and then debunking them as… well, coincidence. He says when a studio makes a romantic comedy, there are all sorts of stories about people falling in love on the set; when it makes a horror, horror stories abound. I’m right in line with him on this one.
Jerry Goldsmith discusses four of his favorite themes from the film in another extra. I’ve never seen this type extra before or since, but I’m glad it’s here. Goldsmith was a master at his art, and listening to him discuss just how he devised some of the offbeat notions for the soundtrack is striking. He won his first Oscar for his work, which I reviewed as a standalone, and the accolades were well deserved.
Donner and editor Stuart Baird sat and recorded a commentary for the initial release, as well. Donner’s a little too jokey for me, and he gets dry at times. Baird is happy to be along for the ride, especially when he discusses rousing baboons with a broomstick. He also discusses how Donner hired him to replace a more famous editor. This commentary is solid, but it would have been a lot more interesting (and probably a lot more expensive for Fox) had Donner sat down with Peck. But as an avowed OMEN fan, I appreciate it.
All those extras appear on both the 2000 release of the OMEN box set and on the 2-disc Collector’s Edition released in 2007. Everything that follows appears only on the later edition.
Donner starts things off with a brief introduction. He gives a few comments that set up the film. It’s superfluous, and skipping it will do you no harm.
“THE OMEN Notebook” is a 15-minute conversation with David Seltzer about the genesis of the screenplay. Seltzer admits horror isn’t his thing, but he learned a lot during the research process. His knowledge of interpretive texts is extensive, his discussion informative. This is for OMEN geeks only, of which I am one.
“An Appreciation: Wes Craven on THE OMEN” is just that. Craven is always appealing when he talks, because he’s such an intellectual. He loves this film, and it comes out in his discussion. He considers THE OMEN a classy horror flick, and one worth being a classic. If you love Craven and the film, check it out.
A deleted scene from the dog attack doesn’t really offer much. It’s interesting only in that it was cut, and Donner adds some commentary to it.
Speaking of Donner and commentary, he provides a second discussion, this time with screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who has no relation to THE OMEN other than he’s a fan. Why Fox just didn’t sit Donner down with Seltzer I don’t know, but it’s a wasted opportunity. In fact, if Fox wanted to sit Donner down with a fan, they should’ve paid me. I’m the biggest fan of THE OMEN that I’ve ever met. Hell, I would’ve done it for free, just for a credit for Death Ensemble on the disc.
Between the two releases, Fox did all they could to satisfy THE OMEN’s legions of fans. I appreciate them for doing so, and fulfilling the promise that DVD had to offer from the start. Now if I can only get my hands on the Blu-Ray for the film, which purportedly has one more commentary I’ve never heard…