Tag Archives: Lee Remick

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.

James Coburn’s Hard Contract

Hard Contract Cobrun and RemickAmerican actor James Cobrun had a long and varied career that stretched from 1957 to his last role in 2002. He got his start playing tough guys in westerns on TV and then on the large screen, including his break out role in The Magnificent Seven (1960). He starred in the 1963 classic, The Great Escape, then rode the mid-sixties spy film craze with Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967). He spent the seventies appearing in action, crime and Westerns. Most of which were pretty average, notable exceptions being Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and Walter Hill’s wonderful 1973 boxing film, Hard Times. The eighties and nineties were similarly varied in terms of his output, the highlight being Affliction, the 1999 film that won him a best supporting actor Oscar.

I have always liked Coburn for reasons I’ve found it hard to identify. I wouldn’t say he was a great actor. In nearly all the films I’ve seen him in the word that comes to mind to describe his performances is solid. He did have charisma of sorts and was good looking in an unconventional way, especially when he flashed that giant grin of his. I think I probably like him because of his work in the sixties and seventies, one of my favourite periods of US film making.… Read more

The Don Siegel Rule

SeigelI had to give it a name, so I called it the Don Siegel Rule.

I was watching Charley Varrick recently, the 1973 heist film directed by Siegel, starring Walter Matthau as an ex-crop duster and stunt pilot turned bank who, along with his long suffering girlfriend, Nadine, and unreliable partner, robs a small bank in New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Varrick, the bank in question is actually a front for the mob. In response, the mob sends a hit man (played by Joe Don Baker) after him.

It’s a terrific little heist film. Tough in all the right places, just enough action and suspense to keep you interested, without the kind of over the top action gimmicks similar films exhibit these days. Matthau is terrific as the hangdog loner, Varrick.

Anyway, it got me thinking. There may be bad Siegel films out there, but I haven’t seen them.

Siegel was the king of the intelligent B movie (a title he shares with directors such as Walter Hill). His films have enormous energy and pace, but they also have an economy. Watching Siegel’s films, time and again he’s been able to get above obvious budget and script limitations to tell a gripping story.

The journeyman director cut his teeth making Westerns and noirs in the late forties and early fifties, and then pretty much excelled at whatever genre he tried.… Read more