Monstervision Host Segments for
The Ømen (1976)
Look at me Damien!
Hey, I'm Joe Bob Briggs for the big game (Superbowl 1997), and I've got the biggest, weirdest tailgate party in town. I got sixteen hours of back-to-back monster movies. We got killer robots, teenage vampires, good witches / bad witches, even the devil himself will make an appearance [clip: Look at me, Damien]. So get that Laz-E Boy into position. I do not want to have to tell you a second time.
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"The Ømen" Intro
Anyway, our first feature tonight is "The Omen." The great Omen, the classic Omen, the movie that introduced Damien to the movie-going public. Lee Remick's baby dies in childbirth, but Gregory Peck's her husband, and he's not dealing with it well, so he says, "Oh what the Hell, I'll just tell her this other one is her baby. The one given to me by a strange-looking Catholic priest."
And pretty soon, the little rug-rat is bashing in baby-sitter's heads, and starring at people real hard to make them commit suicide. And, it's one of the best devil-baby pictures ever made.
Came out in the 70's, when everybody was still talking about The Exorcist and, um...I'm not gonna tell you any more about it, for those of you who haven't seen it yet. But after 20 years, it still does the job.
8 dead bodies
Suicide by hanging
1 killer dog
1 baboon attack
2 by 4 thru the back
One of the greatest beheadings ever committed to film
Knife thru the shoulder
4 stars. Check it out and then a little later on we've got the goofy cult classic Village of the Giants.
[fading] Notice how I say, "Goofy cult classic?" That's a way of avoiding saying, "Movie so bad that the only way to watch it is to feel superior to it." See, that's a little trick we learn in Late Night Movie Hosting School.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #1
Wow! This movie takes off like a rocket, doesn't it? That scene where the nanny hangs herself just throws the whole flick into a weird new place. See, you have to remember that when this came out in 1976, nobody knew exactly what was wrong with Damien, so there was no way to figure out exactly what happened in that scene.
And for those who haven't seen it, I'm not gonna say what WAS wrong with Damien, there. But, I wonder whatever happened to little Damien, that actor. What would you do after you're known the whole world over as the most famous demon-child in the movies? Or maybe that would be Linda Blair, actually, who was the most famous.
See, there were three big Catholic movies in a row: Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and then this one. Catholics were big in the 70s.
So, anyway, that little actor's name is Harvey Stephens, and if he was about 5-years-old when this movie was made, then he'd be...oh, mid-to-late 20s today. But I wanted to tell you how he got the part. They were over in London, gettin' ready to make the movie. They'd already hired another kid to be Damien. But two weeks before they started, the kid's dad read the script and said, "I'm not allowing my son to be the Devil."
And so, they took him out of the movie, they had to start over. So they saw dozens of little boys, and they couldn't find one that looked demonic enough, and they were actually thinking of changing the part to a little girl. But Harvey Bernhard, the producer of the flick, said, "No no no, let's give it a chance." And this kid walked in, a tough little cockney toe-headed son-of-a-bitch. But the director, Richard Donner, was still unconvinced. So they decided they would screen-test him. So they go out to this estate, somewhere in London, and Richard Donner tells the kid, "OK, we're gonna start the camera, and when I say Action, I want you to come at me and try to beat me up."
So they start the camera rolling, he yells "Action," the kid kicks him right directly in the groin. Knocks him onto the ground. Beats the crap out of him, kicks him several times, and Donner keeps yelling "Cut! Cut! Cut!" But the kid doesn't know what "Cut" means, so he won't stop. So some guys come over and they pull him off the director. So Richard Donner stands up and he says, "OK. Fine. Just dye his hair black."
And Damien was born. OK, roll the movie.
[fading] You know when he looks the creepiest? When he does that grin. You know? Gives me the willies. Almost as creepy as this place [the Mardi Gras warehouse]. Joe Bob Briggs, TNT Superbowl Weekend. Isn't this weird? What we're doing, here? You know? Because small children are watching this, gettin' ideas about their babysitters.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #2
But anyway, Gregory Peck, and the director Richard Donner, they had a disagreement about how the movie should begin. Gregory Peck didn't think it was logical. He didn't think that a man as intelligent as Robert Thorn, the Ambassador to Great Britain, would not ask to see his child when he's told his baby is dead, and that he was too intelligent not to investigate the background of the other child, and that he was too intelligent not to tell his wife what happened. But Donner wanted the movie to start out fast, to get really weird and ominous right away. And so he said, "Well with what we've got to show 'em here, nobody's gonna be worried about logic.
And it's true, the thing just goes like a roller coaster, keeps you totally off-balance. And...you know what I think? I think Gregory Peck got all that stuff into the story anyway, with his face. The way he thinks, the way he hesitates, the man can just flat act, can't he? We can see what he's thinking about without him ever saying it.
OK, back to the picture.
[fading] Gregory Peck had sort of retired from movies when this came along. He was 60 years old, and the only things he was being offered were schlock films in Europe. Course, people thought this was schlock films in Europe, but, those opinions kinda changed when it grossed $80 million at the box office, know what I mean?
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #3
I love that priest-on-a-stick scene. The famous lightning-rod impalement scene, from the Omen. Wholesome family entertainment here on TNT.
You know those monks that you can hear singing whenever anything creepy happens in the movie? That's all original music, written by Jerry Goldsmith, fairly famous composer, who won the Academy Award for this movie. But the strangest thing is that Jerry was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Song. For a song he wrote in the movie called "Ava Satani." You'll hear the Monks singing "Ava Satani" from time to time. So when they had the Oscar telecast that year, they did big production numbers for all the song nominees. So sure enough, Vegas dancers dressed up as monks, performed "Ava Satani" at the Academy Awards ceremony. Only in America. OK, back to the movie.
You ever know people who listen to those Gregorian chants all the time? You know it's real popular now, buncha guys in churches in Spain, humming. You understand that? I don't either. But I buy those CDs though, because if you play them in your apartment, sometimes girls will go to bed with you. I can't explain it.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #4
Those are some great scenes, with Lee Remick and Gregory Peck. This was sort of a come-back movie for both of 'em. Gregory Peck had four or five flops in a row before this. Lee Remick had been living in England with her husband for five years, she wasn't getting the big parts anymore. Remember when she did "Days Of Wine & Roses," she got an Oscar for that? She can do emotional scenes, that's for dang sure. She did all those great movies like "A Face In The Crowd" with Andy Griffith, and "A Long Hot Summer" and "Anatomy Of A Murder."
The reason they got these roles was, #1, Charlton Heston (The Omega Man, The Ten Commandments) turned down the lead. He woulda done it but he was asking this big profit participation that they didn't want to give him.
#2, everybody thought that the really big movie of that year would be "Exorcist 2," and they thought it'd be a waste of time to try to offer two Catholic horror flicks in one season.
So every single Hollywood studio read the script and turned it down. But Harvey Bernhard kept pluggin' away, cause he'd become fascinated by the Book of Revelations, and the idea that the Antichrist could be walking around on Earth right now. And so, it was actually an advertising executive named Robert L. Munger who first went to Harvey and said, "Harvey, you ever read Revelations? I'm really into this stuff." And he told him about 666, and the Antichrist ... so even though Revelations has been around for 2000 years, it was not until 1975 that a Hollywood producer said, "Hey, a story!" And he hired David Seltzer to write it, and the only reason Seltzer wanted to write it is that he was flat broke, and he says he wrote it as kind of a fantasy. Nobody involved with the movie really believed the Antichrist stuff or anything, but the novelization of the movie sold millions, made Seltzer rich. And people got into this big fascination with the 13th book of Revelations, and the number 666, and the Mark of the Beast, and ... more than you wanted to know, I'm sure. Back to the flick, let's go.
You know, something else I was thinking about, too: remember when Ron & Nancy moved to Belaire, and their street number was 666? So they asked the city to change the street number on their house? What if ... Ron Reagan Jr. is the real Damien? Why were they so worried about it? I'm just bringing it up, as a possibility, he looks a little ghoulish to me.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #5
Hey, I'm Joe Bob Briggs, with the MonsterVision Mail Girl [Honey], and I want you guys to listen up. You've got three ways to get in touch with us at [old TNT address in Atlanta]. You can also email us [old email address]. Now, some of you turkeys were writing this email address on an envelope. THAT DOESN'T WORK! Third way, is we have a website. I have no idea what a website is, but the address of it is [old 1997 website]. You have anything to say, Honey?
Honey: I know what a website is.
JB: Well, good for you. Write to us. Nothing nasty, now.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #6
OK, as Gregory Peck and David Warner of Time After Time go in search of the old priest who knows what happened that fateful day five years ago, we're gonna ask the TNT Mail Girl to sashay her way out here and help us read a quick letter. How you doing, Honey? Do you get scared when we show really intense movies like this?
Honey: Not really.
JB: Cause you can always come out here and sit with me, and you might feel some comfort, just from all the body heat around here.
Honey: I have plenty of body heat.
JB: I've noticed you do.
Honey: I've noticed you've noticed. Here, why don't you read this letter. It comes from Cole Nelson of Stafford, Virginia.
JB: Okey, dokey, I will.
"Dear Joe Bob Briggs:
"My name is Cole Nelson. I am elevin. I love horror movies. They're my life. So, Mr. Briggs, I was wondering if you would be nice enough to have a night when you would show all three of the Toxic Avenger movies, because I have heard about them, but I have never seen them.
"MonsterVision's biggest fan,
"PS: I loved The People Under The Stairs. Goodbye.
JB: Have you noticed, Honey, that children just love me?
Honey: I don't think that's what he said. I think he said he wants you to show some movies.
JB: Well, but see, he seeks me out as the person who won't let him down.
Honey: He also said that horror movies are his life.
JB: Yeah, so?
Honey: So, he likes anything that's on television, that scares him?
JB: Alright. I choose not to take that the wrong way. But I should say that, Cole: we could show all 3 Toxic Avengers in one night, but I don't think we could get thru that. We'd need major artificial stimulents to get thru that...
Honey: Don't talk about drugs to an 11-year-old!
JB: I didn't say drugs, I didn't talk about drugs, I said artificial stimulants. I coulda been talkin' about ... ah ... coffee.
Honey: Well, coffee's not good for children either.
JB: Honey, nothing we do here is good for children. We're not gonna get this year's Sesame Street award for educational programming, OK? We might as well just face that.
JB: But children do like me.
JB: They do!
JB: Stop saying fine.
Honey: Why don't you go back to the movie?
JB: OK, fine.
Honey: Stop saying fine.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #7
A wild jackal attack. Another great scene from The Omen. And that's, of course, a wild jackal skeleton in the grave of what is supposed to be Damien's mother. So, you get it? The Devil mates with a cur, and Damien pops out. The original script for this movie was called "The Antichrist," and it was full of devil-gods, and cloven hooves, Satanic agents. And then when Richard Donner got involved as the director, he toned it way down, so that you don't know, now. These could be agents of Satan, or they could be just a pack of wild dogs.
Except, you know, they kept changing it. They changed the title several times. It was also called "The Birthmark," before they settled on "The Omen," and you remember the ad? We got one here. There's a 666 in the "O" of the word "Omen." And that got that big 666 thing started, and it made a big star out of Richard Donner, the director. Before that, he was mostly known as a TV director. After that, I think his next movie was NostradamusSuperman with Christopher Reeve.
Okey dokey, let's roll it.
[fading] They found the MEANEST dogs for this picture. Wouldn't you like to put a little arsenic in the Alpo of every dog in this movie? Now the dog-lovers' gonna be after us, aren't they? We don't really want to kill dogs. We just want to kick their teeth in, maybe hit them upside the head with a bag of nickels, put bamboo shoots in their paws. Stuff like that.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #8
Oh! David Warner, gettin' his head chopped off! That's considered one of those great film history moments. Cause what Richard Donner did is, he shows that truck rolling backwards, right? You know something bad is gonna happen. He shows it rolling backwards right at eye-level. So you think something really, really bad is gonna happen. Makes you nervous. Specially since you just saw Lee Remick get killed by the nanny, and you were already kinda breathing easy about her because she survived the first murder attempt.
So right at that moment when the truck hits him, most of the audience would flinch, and turn away. Then when they turn their eyes back, they would find out they'd been tricked, cause he'd shifted into super-slow motion, so they would have to look at the decapitation.
And then if they turned their eyes away again, he drags it out so long that it would still be going on, even after they turn back a third time. He actually timed how long people keep their eyes away. That's cruel, don't you think? Pretty dang brilliant. OK, roll it.
[fading] And remember what the old man in Israel said, "She is an apostate of Hell. She will die before permiting this," talking about that nanny. Alright, alright. Just helping out.
"The Ømen" Commercial Break #9
Ah, the sign of the Beast, 666. Located under the little rug-rat's hair. If you have a five-year-old, as soon as you see the rest of this movie, you're gonna want to give him a burr haircut right away, that's all I'm gonna say. Here we go with the stunning conclusion of The Omen.
[fading] See, some of these parents, they think it's their fault. They read Dr. Spock, they go to family therapy, but all they need is a good sharp dagger.
"The Ømen" Outro
Joe Bob Briggs, still here. There's that creepy, Damien grin again, at the end. You know, people sometimes wonder how Richard Donner got that shot in the church, where you can actually see the bullet come out of the gun and travel thru space super-slow motion ... And what he did was, normally the film runs thru the camera at 24 frames a second. So he built this camera that would run at 6500 frames a second, however fast that is. Then he had the guy shoot the gun. And the only problem was, you gotta have so much light on the gun, so you can see the bullet, that the light burns the guy's hand that is shooting the gun.
So they had to redo the whole thing, with the gunman wearing this black glove. And it still burned his hand but they got that famous shot of the bullet traveling thru space. There were three more Omen movies after that, but none of them were really as good as the original.
"Damien: Omen 2" came out in 1978. "The Final Conflict" in 1981, and "Omen 4," remember that? It was shown on TV in 1991, never even made it to the theaters. Never even made it to a real Network. They showed it on Fox.
Okey, dokey, I wanna remind you that next week, our double feature will be "Dragonslayer," swords & loincloth, starring Peter MacNichol, followed by The Master Gunfighter, which stars Tom Laughlin, Billy Jack himself, in this picture that he directed in the late '70s. It's about this kung-fu, samuri gunfighter who defends the helpless Indians of early California against the evil Spanish hacienda owners. So, pretty good week! Or a half-way decent week. Let's not dwell on how good a week it is next week.
The Ømen availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
To shew unto his servents things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent it by his angel unto his servant John - Book of Revelation, Chapter 1, Verse 1
Trivia (Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)
* Charlton Heston, Roy Schieder, and William Holden turned down the lead role. Gregory Peck who hadn't worked for a while accepted the lead. William Holden did eventually accept a role in a sequel.
* To make the baboons attack the car in the Windsor Zoo park scene, an official from the zoo was in the backseat of the car with the "leader" baboon, which made all the baboons outside go crazy.
* When the fishbowl falls to the ground, (dead) sardines painted orange were used in place of actual goldfish, which director Donner refused to kill for the sake of making a movie.
* The shot of Remick falling to the floor was done by building the "floor" on a (vertical) wall and dollying an upright Remick backward towards it.
* Having changed its title from "The Antichrist" to "The Birthmark", the film seemed to fall victim to a sinister curse. Scriptwriter David Seltzer's plane was struck by lightning; director Donner's hotel was bombed by the IRA; Peck canceled a flight to Israel, only for the plane he'd chartered to crash, killing all on board; and on day one of the shoot, the principal members of the crew survived a head-on car crash. The jinx appeared to persist well into post-production, when special effects artist John Richardson was injured and his assistant killed in an accident on the set of A Bridge Too Far (1977).
* In the closing scene, director Richard Donner used reverse psychology on young Harvey Stephens telling him, "Don't you dare smile. If you smile, I won't be your friend." Naturally, Stephens smiled directly into the camera.
* As part of its pre-release publicity campaign, and to point out the significance of "the three sixes" as The Sign of Satan, the movie was sneak-previewed nationwide in the U.S. on June 6th, 1976: While audiences inside the theatres were being scared witless by the film, theatre employees were out front, busilly putting up specially made posters declaring: "Today is the SIXTH day of the SIXTH month of Nineteen-Seventy-SIX!" Hokey though it was, the gimmick worked quite well, as many a theatre patron literally "freaked-out" upon seeing those posters as they left the previews.
* According to at least one biography of Gregory Peck, he took his role at a huge cut in salary (a mere $250,000) but was also guaranteed 10% of the film's box office gross. When the it went on to gross more than $60 million in the U.S. alone, the movie became the highest-paid performance of Peck's career.
* According to director Richard Donner, he talked the noted cinematographer Gilbert Taylor into coming out of retirement to shoot this film.
* When Thorne and the photographer are being chased through the graveyard by the Rotweillers, you can make out the dog handlers for a brief second behind some bushes.
* Fun facts
In 2008 Nicolas Cage bought the most haunted house in New Orleans--1140 Royal Street, built in 1832, once owned by a sadistic woman who tortured slaves to death in the attic. It is a tourist attraction and he doesn't plan to live there.
Babies born June 6 of 2006 have the birthday 6-6-6. The following year, babies born on July 7 have the birthday 7-7-7. By the way, this website got 666 visitors as of 8-15-07
Tonight's host segments continue with Village of the Giants,
The Lost Boys, Deadly Friend
and Midnight Offerings
Joe Bob's review and drive-in totals for
Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby
Host segments for The Exorcist and The Seventh Sign
Two years after "The Omen," Gregory Peck starred in
The Boys From Brazil, also written by Ira Levin
(Hitler clones are so cute at that age)
Joe Bob Briggs looks at a previous controversial movie that got everyone upset The Last Temptation Of Christ. Mel Gibson's current Passion took 9 years to get to the screen, though doesn't that part at the end where the devil screams from the bottom of a pit remind you a little of a similar scene from one of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies? Cool devil baby. Creepy.
Passion of the Christ movie trailer
Do not use old MonsterVision email or websites. Joe Bob's new one is: www.joebobbriggs.com
By the way, the author of the book this movie was based on doesn't believe Hollywood was faithful to it. In fact, this week's weird link is that list of 10 things from the author's original book the way it might be written today: Ten-words.com
And don't covet thy neighbour's ass - that's in rule #10 in the original version
Click here to hear Ave Satani again, or right-click to save it to your computer
There have been three sequels to The Ømen, and a sort-of remake called "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. MonsterVision host segments for The 7th Sign
Host segment transcript of 1997 broadcasts
If you ever get lost on Route 666 just call 976-EVIL. Or maybe Nostradamus
©1997 Turner Network Television. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved
Original “tnt.turner.com/monstervision” archives have been erased. Mis-spellings in above restored transcription from two MonsterVision 1997 broadcasts of "The Ømen" can be blamed on Bill Laidlaw. Posted Jun 19, 2006. That's my 2½¢ worth.