September 07, 2007

HOLOCAUST 2000 (1977) and DAMIEN: OMEN II (1978) - spot the difference

Two films that raced to cash in on The Omen...

1978 UK release poster

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


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

The title is also a drawback, confusing it with the Holocaust, which was also on TV as a US mini-series at the time.

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). 

In the US, it's on DVD under the title Rain of Fire (below).


  1. I like Holocaust 2000. Seen it to many times :)

    Someone, sometime, mentioned that Kirk was quite fond of this movie. I wonder where he said/wrote that? He surely gives a good performance in it.

  2. I still think the highlight of Damien is the death of Lew Ayers under the ice. Most of the film is pretty cheesy, probably more so given the (relatively) huge budget, but this is a genuinely chilling sequence. I especially like the long pan-out shot at the end, with everyone spread out looking for him.

    And, of course, the Jerry Goldsmith score is exceptional, just as it was in the original. There's something altogether unsettling about that chanting - My wife hates it, for the same reasons that I love it!

  3. Just watched this again on DVD...I saw the first and third films theatrically, but I don't recall going to see this, and perhaps just caught it later on TV.

    It's quite watchable, but like the first film, almost feels too respectable for a horror film. Most interesting was listening to the producer Harvey Bernhard's commentary which revealed than Mike Hodges began the film before being fired for being too slow and exasperating the producer by taking hours to get a single shot of a flag blowing in the wind and wanting the top of a truck to be cleaned for an overhead shot. The producer rips into pretty much every scene in the film that Hodges shot, but there's clearly a visual elegance that put them a step above what Don Taylor shot.

    Odd that both Leo McKern and Ian Hendry go uncredited; I think Bernhard says that Gil (not Don) Taylor directed this scene...curiously he shot the first OMEN and Hodges FLASH GORDON but not the rest of DAMIEN. Wonder if this was done before or after Hodges was fired or if it was simply done as a second-unit while the rest was being shot in the US.

  4. Sounds like a kuicy commentaty track, Miles! Strange that they hired Taylor as a replacement - Lloyd Kaufman ripped into him on THE FINAL COUNTDOWN extras. And how come Hodges got FLASH GORDON after all that?

  5. I'm not sure why Don Taylor was hired, though Bernhard does mention he had worked with Bill Holden on STALAG 17 so perhaps the actor recommended him? He had, of course, previously done a professional job with the third APES film, and probably this approach was just what the producer was looking for. He mentions Dick Donner being his favourite director...someone I've always dismissed as artless, his films lacking any kind of personal signature or style.

    Later, Hodges was actually a replacement himself - for Nic Roeg! - on FLASH GORDON.

  6. First of all the Omen 2 is a Good but not great film and serves nothing more than a line up of bizarre deaths trying to top the decapitation and imaling scenes from the original, which is far more superior and darker movie. The reviewer says the score to DO2 is almost better than the first... I'm sorry, but it wasn't that good. In fact the score during Aunt Marion's death and Teddy the bully's flapping is arms under Damien's spell is so awful it's embarrassing. It almost seemed that Jerry Goldsmith knew the film was inferior to the origional and his art was not in it.

    And Mile's comment discrediting Richard Donner? I'm having a nice day so I won'y tell you what I really think about you for saying that!

  7. I will try and get my hands on Holocaust 2000 as soon as possible, looks like one of the better Exorcist rip offs.

  8. These are great the old school..