Tag Archives: Gregory Peck

When Satan ruled our screens: The Omen turns 40 years old

The OmenWhen audiences emerged from the first screenings of The Omen, which debuted in the United Kingdom on 6 June 1976, they found customised posters affixed to the front of cinemas declaring: “Today is the sixth day of the sixth month of Nineteen-Seventy Six.”

The marketing gimmick played into the well-known satanic ‘number of the beast’ in the Book of Revelation, which features prominently in The Omen. Nearing the film’s dramatic climax, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) finds a birthmark of three sixes on his adopted son Damien’s scalp, the mark, he has been warned, of the Antichrist.

Forty years after its release, critical analysis of The Omen has nearly always taken a backseat to the film’s reputation as a ‘cursed movie’, a status resulting from the string of mishaps, injuries and deaths loosely associated with its filming and post-production. This has obscured its legacy as one of the more genuinely frighting of the satanic-themed films that flooded cinemas in the 70s.

You can read my latest piece for the British Film Institute on The Omen, it’s influences and the wave of 70s cinema with Satanic, witchcraft and occult themes, in full here.

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On the Beach and other cinematic dystopias

the_omega_man_large_04A few weeks ago I watched Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach for the first time. It’s been on my mind constantly since.

I read the book by Nevil Shute, on which the film is based, soon after leaving school. At the time I was deeply involved in the anti-uranium and peace movements and, not surprisingly, its message about the danger of nuclear conflict resonated strongly.

For those who have not seen Kramer’s film (or read Shute’s book), it is set in the aftermath of an accidental nuclear war triggered by unnamed rogue state with access to atomic bombs. All life on the planet has been extinguished except for Australia and we are on borrowed time, waiting as a huge radioactive cloud slowly makes its way towards us. The cast, which includes Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, in a rare dramatic role, and Anthony Perkins pre his performance in the blockbuster, Psycho, is terrific.

There are so many things about the film that make it a truly terrifying experience, despite the fact it was made over fifty years ago. The scenes set in a totally dead and still San Francisco and the sense of utter despondency when the crew of the US submarine find the real source of the Morse code message they had hoped would lead them to survivors, are riveting.… Read more