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The Omen

"The Omen" and "Rosemary's Baby" on DVD

The Devil, You Say?

Satan himself is the villain in a pair of classic horror films that have been given the loving DVD treatment. In both films he's determined to send his representative to Earth in the form of a child who'll grow up to lead humanity into his evil empire.

"The Omen" deals with the birth of the Antichrist to a wealthy diplomat and his wife. Director Richard Donner may be best known for his "Lethal Weapon" movies (though this reviewer prefers to remember him for "Superman"), but "The Omen" shows he has a deft touch behind the camera for a good old fashioned thriller as well as action/adventure.

Gregory Peck is Robert Thorn who, when he and his wife Kathy's (Lee Remick) child is supposedly stillborn, secretly adopts another boy to fill the void. He never tells his wife about this switcheroo, though about halfway through the movie she's figured out enough to know that the kid is definitely BAD NEWS!

As the boy, Damien, grows, strange and horrifying things start happening. His nanny commits a dramatic suicide at his birthday party, a priest ("ex-Dr. Who" Patrick Troughton) bent on warning Thorn of the danger posed by Damien is impaled in a "freak accident," and even his mother runs afoul of his evil deeds.

Thorn, assisted by a photographer (David Warner,) hunts for the answers and the movie rushes toward a frightening climax that (if not for the presence of sequels) is not only unexpected, but more than a tad disturbing.

The DVD is presented in widescreen, Dolby Digital, though we found the picture looked quite soft. The audio is offered in "remixed stereo" as well as mono, but they should have left the soundtrack alone: the stereo isn't particularly good. The actual quality of the sound is fine, though.

Extras abound, including a new, 46 minute documentary "666: The Omen Revealed," as well as a commentary track by director Donner and editor Stuart Baird. There's also a piece from composer Jerry Goldsmith on his favorite musical themes from his creepy soundtrack, a 6 minute featurette, and the usual trailer/subtitle/chapters stuff.

Rosemary's Baby

"Rosemary's Baby" is really scary mostly because it's so ordinary, so everyday. Roman Polanski builds the suspense here by showing us real life people, if you can call an actor "real life," in an ordinary situation. Or so it seems...

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) move into an old New York apartment building to start building their family. Guy is a struggling actor and Rosemary is an old fashioned stay at home housewife.

They're befriended by their next door neighbors, an odd elderly couple who are far more nosey than either Guy or Rosemary initially wants, though Guy soon warms to Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in an Oscar-winning performance) wriggles her way into Rosemary's life whether the young bride wants it or not. They're the ultimate overfriendly, nosey neighbors.

Determined to have their first child, Guy and Rosemary chart out her fertile days but, when the first opportunity arises, Rosemary passes out. While asleep, she dreams she's taking part in some strange kind of ceremony that culminates in her being mounted by, well, we don't really know for sure, though we can make some pretty scary guesses.

Naturally, she gets pregnant, but her pregnancy isn't the blissful period she's been led to believe.

As it turns out, the pregnancy is only the beginning of her troubles...

Rosemary's Baby unfolds slowly, in broad daylight, and that's a lot of why it works. The film also seems almost like a documentary in its feel, and the marvelous twist ending comes at you out of left field. Rosemary was right! But in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter, does it?

The DVD is in widescreen (enhanced for 16x9 TV's), Dolby Digital mono, and it looks and sounds very good. Extras include a set of retrospective interviews with director Polanski, production executive Robert Evans, and production designer Richard Sylbert. There's also a "making of" featurette.

Scary stuff!

The Omen, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
111 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital Mono or "enhanced" stereo
Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw
Produced by Harvey Bernhard
Written by David Seltzer, Directed by Richard Donner

Rosemary's Baby, from Paramount Home Video
136 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital Mono
Starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans and Ralph Bellamy
Produced by William Castle
Written and Directed by Roman Polanski


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Updated May 13, 2006