Damien: Omen IISilva Screen (FILMCD 002)
Format: CD (34 min)
Review: Damien: Omen II: The Deluxe Edition
3.5 / 5 Stars
Damien: Omen 2, released by Fox in 1978, picks up seven years after the conclusion of the first film, and covers the young adult years of Damien and the discovery of his true identity. This film lays down the template for the films to come, advancing the plot (and Damien's rise to power), and assuring that all who get in his way are quickly and gruesomely slain. By sequel standards, the film is quite good, and falls somewhere between the classic first film, and the deplorable third film. William Holden and Lee Grant are good as Damien's uncle and aunt, yet one can't help but think they were cast solely due to a resemblance to the Gregory Peck and Lee Remick characters of the first film, both in appearance and performance. The film also tends to follow the original, in regards to the ending as well, which comes rather abruptly. Don Taylor's direction is somewhat by the numbers as well, pushing the action from one set piece to another, constantly telegraphing any shocks to come.
After releasing expanded editions of the first and last scores in the Omen trilogy, Varese Sarabande happily recovered the master tapes for Damien: Omen 2 in September 2001, just weeks after the first and last albums of the trilogy were released. Held by many fans as the best recording of the trilogy, the score is certainly the most action-oriented of the trio, a frenzied black mass with the large chorus in use on most cues. Previous releases consisted of a completely rethought re-recording, performed in London by the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of Lionel Newman.
The film tracks (recorded at 20th Century Fox, and again conducted by Lionel Newman), are significantly different than the London recording, both in terms of mixing and organization, yet not in content. In fact there is only 1:47 of previously unreleased music to this recording, the short "Aunt Marion's Visitor" and "Snowmobiles", one of the highlights of the album. This cue has been long sought after by fans, and while it fits nowhere into the trilogy, in terms of tone, it is a terrific pastoral cue, with a pulsing bass and string line that amusingly brings to mind the composer's finale from The Trouble With Angels! In what is possibly the second time this has been done with a soundtrack album (the other example that comes to mind is Film Score Monthly's issue of 100 Rifles again by Jerry Goldsmith), the London re-recording is showcased here, coupled with the world premiere release of the film tracks recorded in LA.
The differences are numerous on the remastered re-recording, including woodwinds that were previously unheard ("Claws"), several instances of the chorus and electronics ('The Knife') mixed differently. Many have stated to prefer the initial issue of these tracks, released on CD by Silva Screen in the late 1980's to the Varese re-mix heard here, although both appear to be a valid representation of the score. The orchestra is given a fuller rendering on the Varese issue, and the sound does not appear to have dated whatsoever. In many cues, the orchestral tracks have a "punchiness" that was lacking before, and while many will complain of the artistic license Varese may have taken with remixing the chorus, this recording has a fullness that seemed to be lacking before. Only one cue has notable distortion ("The Boy Has To Die"), although considering the tapes were releasable in the first place, this is a minor flaw.
The film tracks of the score feature numerous subtle differences, such as a more powerful organ presence (the same grand pipe organ at the Fox Studios that has been used on many classic scores), different performances in the electronics, and different phrasing and performance by the chorus. The cues are also broken up from the longer suites created for the re-recording, which also changes the listening experience somewhat. For longtime fans, it is the best of both worlds.
The music itself is relentless, and offers no love theme as heard in The Omen, and no cues of religioso beauty as heard in The Final Conflict. The score is single minded in its portrayal of evil, never losing sight of its purpose, and never allowing the demonic chorus a moment of respite. The only soft cues to be found are shot through with a dose of impressionistic unease ("Thoughtful Night" and "I Love You Mark"). As a whole the score caters well to the teenaged years of Damien, holding back the adult depth of character that will be explored in the third film.
Of course any arguments such as the above are moot, since Goldsmith fans will surely need to hear all sides of the score, and longtime supporters of this score will not want to be without this recording. Robert Townson's terrific track-by-track liner notes cover the film, placement of the cues, a brief history of the recording, and specifies which cues were combined for the re-recoding, and which cue from the film tracks corresponds to the re-recording. Minor controversy aside, this album, like the other Varese Deluxe Editions is a must have.
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