Well, slap my face! The Omen looks great!
So yeah, I ended up shelling out for the no-holds-barred 4-disc super-duper The Omen Collection, containing the original three films and the dreadful remake, instead of staying sensible and just picking up The Omen on its own. The original reason for this was that the 4-disc version was an announced with a release date of September 9th, while the single-disc version ended up being put back to October 7th. Being an impatient bugger, I decided to splash out on the earlier but more expensive release. Ultimately, of course, the 4-disc set ended up being delayed too. Still, for better or for worse, the package arrived today, and, once I’d finally finished the latest draft of my PhD’s literature review, I wasted no time in cracking it open and investigating how the films looked.
“Very good indeed” is the answer. I guess the fact that my hopes for the image quality of this film on Blu-ray were not exactly high says a great deal about what a pessimist I’ve become. Now, before anyone asks, I’m not one of those people who believes that older films can’t benefit from the HD treatment: nothing could be further from the truth. It’s simply that, in my experience, older films are not always treated with the care and attention they deserve. Imagine my surprise, then, upon discovering that The Omen has been granted a rich, sumptuous, film-like transfer exhibiting few of the artefacts one tends to associate with catalogue titles that haven’t been treated appropriately (and Fox, it has to be said, have been prime offenders in the past). It manages to stay crisp and detailed and with a pleasing amount of grain left intact - although it does have the “sharp but slightly diffuse” look of films from that period that were shot anamorphically and with the use of lens filters. Rest assured, though, that it’s a pleasant kind of diffuseness rather than the ugly sort you get when the detail has been sucked out digitally. Essentially, it looks completely natural. No Patton, this!
To briefly sum up the other titles, Damien: Omen II looks noticeably softer than the first film, but I suspect it always looked this way. In any event, the original DVD release had the same issue in comparison with its two counterparts in SD. Detail does improve as the film goes on, but it never “pops” and almost looks unfocused at times. The Final Conflict, meanwhile, is a lot closer in terms of its overall look to the first film, although, in our brief run through it, Lyris was quick to draw my attention to some noise reduction artefacts in one of the darker scenes. More details on these titles once I’ve had a chance to watch them properly.
As for the remake, well, I don’t plan on watching it any time soon, but from the brief glance I took at it, it looks to be a pretty good presentation of a recent film. It was one of Fox’s first Blu-ray releases, and features an MPEG-2 encode on a BD-25, with the mild compression artefacts you’d expect. It also, surprisingly enough, exhibits less detail than the original Omen, but I suspect that this has more to do with the cinematographic choices than any tampering at the mastering end.
So, thank you, Fox, for transferring the original, a true classic, properly and not Pattonizing it. I never expected it to look this good and, as a result of my expectations being exceeded considerably, I now have a big smile on my face (although the fact that I’ve reached another milestone in my PhD work might also have something to do with that). And, as an added plus, the original mono tracks (and 2.0 surround for the third film) are present and correct in addition to lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 remixes.
(20th Century Fox, USA, AVC, 22.5 GB)