Two films that raced to cash in on The Omen...
I saw Holocaust 2000 in the UK in April 1978, and Damien: Omen II in the US in July 1978. The two then became confused in my memory, as I could no longer tell which scene was from what movie. Both follow-ons from The Omen (1976), I watched them again and discovered it's understandable to confuse the two.
Agostina Belli and Kirk Douglas try not to look like
Gregory Peck and Lee Remick
DAMIEN: OMEN II(1978, USA)
This direct sequel starts with Damien, now a teenager, taken in by a family where he's in line to inherit a huge multinational corporation, with influence in countries and industries which could be crucial to life on Earth. Though there are a those who stand in his way...
Compared to The Omen, I was disappointed that the plot and the action weren't as creative. Damien: Omen II just sets up targets and knocks them down. The first film had the growing realisation of what Damien was, and plenty of supernatural elements. Damien: Omen II doesn't even show a church. It could almost be a political thriller with a murderer on the loose, killing everyone who oppposes him.
The only edge is Damien's own journey, as the teenager starts to realise who he actually is. The other plus is Jerry Goldsmith's score, which is almost better than the first. A couple of scenes stand out - the elevator scene and the broken-down car, but elsewhere I felt less than gripped.
Omen II has a very different feel than the first, filmed in the US (not the UK like The Omen) and there's only one cast member carried over, Leo McKern as Bugenhagen. William Holden and Lee Grant are good as the leads, but I missed the supernatural dread - there's more family drama than suspense.
A young Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Near Dark) has a good part as Damien's military instructor, and Sylvia Sidney (Mars Attacks!) makes the most of a cameo. Horror fans might enjoy seeing Elizabeth Shepherd again, years after starring opposite Vincent Price in The Tomb of Ligeia (1964).
The plot revolves around Damien's new dad and his senior position as an industrialist, developing new chemicals to fight country-sized famine. He's also gained possession of some ancient relics from bibilical times, including a statue of the Whore of Babylon riding a ten-headed demon. Somehow, these elements are at the core of Holocaust 2000, a film copyrighted a year earlier.
HOLOCAUST 2000(1977, Italy, The Chosen, Rain of Fire)
Like the Devil, this movie has many names...
In Holocaust 2000, Kirk Douglas plays an international industrialist who plans to develop a new sort of energy in the deserts of the Middle East. But when experimenting with the fusion of solar and nuclear power technology, he doesn't really want accidents, let alone nightmares about the scheme going horribly, disastrously wrong.
He starts to suspect that the Devil is killing people around him in order to cause chaos on Earth with an international nuclear disaster. All the deaths of those close to him can be explained away as accidents, so who will believe him? Is he really losing his mind?
As accidental deaths actually help his new power scheme swing into action, a young journalist (Agostina Belli) believes something devilish is going on, but Kirk's son (Simon Ward - Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, The Three Musketeers) thinks dad is going mad...
Made by an Italian crew in Italy and the UK, this is the more ambitious film of the two Omen follow-ups, with depictions of nightmares, religious fanatics and insanity. There's a flavour of realism as some countries are shown under military rule, and protestors are trying to stop the new power technology being employed. There's also more of a sense that the Devil is at work, mainly due to Ennio Morricone's weird choral score (still available on CD - samples here on Movie Grooves site).
The satanically influenced 'accidental' death scenes are on a par with Omen II for inventiveness, a mixture of the spectacular and the dull, but gorier! Particularly the helicopter scene, prefiguring a famous stunt in Zombies: Dawn of the Dead (1978). That scene is the only scrap of the film currently on YouTube.
There's even a scientist in a white coat getting the chop from above, echoing a scene from Omen II. The other main similarity is the Whore of Babylon demon, which appears as an archaeological treasure in Omen II, and here in Kirk Douglas's nightmares. Dream sequences, I might add, that he appears naked in, at the age of 60!
Besides this demon (which is portrayed by a creepy, static model, rather than a major special effect), scenes in the imaginatively-designed asylum also stick in the mind. It feels desperately claustrophobic and all the more scary because of the transparent walls and a use of total whiteness reminiscent of The Beyond (Italy, 1981).
Holocaust 2000 is definitely an interesting film, while not totally successful. A major plot twist can be seen coming a mile off, and the ending makes little sense. It's one of those horror movie endings where the characters are sorted out, but the plot is left hanging. A confusing and rushed alternate ending tacked on a couple of extra scenes to close the story, but it's worse than the original.
A scene from the alternate ending - Kirk in disguise
I now know that director Alberto De Martino had also made The Antichrist (1974), the Italian answer to The Exorcist, and OK Connery (1967), a James bond spoof starring Sean Connery's brother!
Holocaust 2000 is still floating around on VHS (UK cover art above) under various titles, but looks good in widescreen, which I think can be found on the Italian DVD (below).