The Unexplained: Was the movie cursed?
January 23, 2021
When the terrifying movie, The Exorcist, had its great success, there was a chain-reaction of other productions that movie-makers hoped would be as successful. None of the wannabes came close, but there was one that stood out in the field—The Omen, 1976.
Twentieth Century Fox was having a rough time. Some of their recent movies had been money-losing flops. They needed a movie cheap to produce that generated a lot of cash.
They took a gamble on a story, The Omen, which had originally been called The Antichrist, and as such had been turned down by many studios. They were able to get two big-name stars that may not have picked it as a first choice project to work on, but the opportunity came along at a time when their psyches needed to work.
Lee Remick and Gregory Peck put in strong performances and the studio’s gamble paid off. The financial success of The Omen allowed them to produce one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, Star Wars. David Seltzer’s story is based on an eerie idea about the Antichrist that had been explained by a religious advisor that thought it would be good film material. Robert Munger was his name.
What many people do not know is that events that happened surrounding the making of the movie were as scary as the movie itself. Many are convinced that the movie was cursed.
Gregory Peck had just lost his son to suicide, and he wanted and needed to throw himself into some work. On his flight over to the set in London, his plane was struck by lightning, giving him an eerie feeling.
The movie’s writer was on a similar flight to the set in London three days later, when his plane was also struck by lightning. He reported it as one of the scariest events of his life. Both men pressed onward to have a quality movie project, though they had been unnerved.
In the next few scary incidents, the people working on the film were saved from doom by just a hair. Some members of the production company had reservations at a restaurant in London. It was blown to bits by political radicals, an hour after they left the building. In the same area, a subway station was bombed in a similar situation as the movie crew was walking toward it.
It began to seem more and more as if Satan, himself, were trying to interfere with the production of the movie.
In another incident, the movie production was going to get a good deal on the use of a charter plane. The very plane they were going to use hit a flock of birds on takeoff, in a horrible stroke of misfortune. It veered off the runway and hit a car. The occupants of the car were killed. The pilot’s wife and children, on the plane, were also killed. It was just a fluke that the movie people missed being on the plane that day. They were supposed to be on it.
In another awful incident during actual filming, Lee Remick was taking little Damien, The Antichrist, to a safari park. The scene was supposed to show how the animals sensed the evil emanating from the boy. In the scene where agitated baboons attack the car, Lee could not operate the gearshift to escape the area.
Crew members had to intervene and drive the baboons away. Lee and the boy had already shot a scene with the lions, but it wound up on the cutting room floor. After they moved on to the baboon scenes, a zoo guard was killed by the same lions—they were able to get into his booth.
The special effects expert, John Richardson, is who created the amazing glass-decapitation scene in the movie. Richardson was later in a horrible car accident. He survived but the female passenger in his vehicle, Liz Moore, was decapitated when a flying tire came through her window.
The main theme of this creepy movie is this: The characters played by Lee Remick and Gregory Peck are grieving the loss of their only child. After a time they decide to adopt a boy. They gradually come to learn, to their horror, that the boy they have adopted is probably the Antichrist.
Because of the movie’s bizarre subject matter, director, Richard Donner received constant death threats. These threats were all from crackpots, but they were still scary and disruptive. Like the rest of the unnerved, Donner pressed on for the success of the final production.
During auditions for the little boy, Damien, they devised a test for those trying out. Each boy was to attack Richard Donner. The boy that got the part, Harvey Spencer Stephen was so ferocious that he actually hurt Donner. He was pulled for the part immediately and Donner told the appropriate crew members to dye his hair black.
Now we come to the rottweilers. The rottweilers hired for a scary scene in the movie were so good that they attacked their own trainers and chewed through the layers of padding, doing some serious damage.
Alan Ladd, Jr. who was the head of Fox Studios, wanted the events that happened in the film to appear believable—that they could happen in real life, and not be too other-worldly. He liked that Gregory Peck’s calm and strong demeanor lent credibility to the scenes.
The movie, The Omen, despite any curses, continues to rise in reviewer ranking. It has improved with age.
Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Curious, Indeed, a collection of true stories about the unknown and unexplained. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.