September 2018~ A Tale of Two Damiens

It’s not something that is widely known about me but I am a big fan of stories with a religious plot. I don’t mind if its an action/thriller type story, like The Messiah Code (Formerly known as The Miracle Strain)  by Michael Cordy or a detective/murder mystery like Messiah by Boris Starling which subsequently became a TV series.

But my favourite of all-time has to be the horror series, The Omen.

Before I go any further I should make it known that I’m not a Satanist of any kind. I was, along with a couple of school-friends, accused of being one whilst at secondary school as we enjoyed talking about the story and the way that the author had cleverly woven information from The Bible to make it more real. In reality, I have a deep belief in God and am interested by many of the messages in The Bible, though I am very aware that in my opinion it is a very flawed document, written by men with their own agenda in mind. I also applied to be a priest at one point but after a couple of years changed my mind. I do have a problem with organised religion due to some of the people I have met, which is a shame as my childhood was spent in a very caring parish.

Anyway, the original story was written by David Seltzer and his book was turned into the successful film starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick amongst others. After the first book, Seltzer chose not to return to the franchise and the final four (Yes, there are 5 books in the series) were written by other people. Full list below:-

  • The Omen, written in 1976 by David Seltzer
  • Damien: Omen II, written in 1978 by Joseph Howard
  • Omen III: The Final Conflict, written in 1980 by Gordon McGill
  • Omen IV: Armageddon 2000, written in 1983 by Gordon McGill
  • Omen V: The Abomination, written in 1985 by Gordon McGill

I enjoy the battle of good versus evil. The fact that we, through The Bible, learned of Jesus’ time on earth (if you view The Bible as a historical document) but in this franchise we see the rise of the son of Satan- The Antichrist! I like the way that Judeo-Christian lore, mythology and ritual are deeply embedded in the story and that anyone could be a disciple of Satan!

The short-lived TV show was excellent but unfortunately ignored the goings on of every film after the original. This was a disappointment as I enjoy all three of the films; seeing Damien grow older, finding out who he is, his rise to power and eventual downfall. I don’t include the made for TV movie Omen IV as quite honestly it was awful, even if it did pick up after Omen III. The 2006 remake of The Omen was a waste of money in my opinion.

I’ve met a number of the cast over the years (see below) and, as the title of this post goes, have met two Damiens.

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I met Harvey Stephens at an Autographica event in London many years ago. It was his first event and he had no idea what to expect. He wasn’t particularly busy so I got to have a good long chat with him. He had lots of stories to tell about things like the kindness of his on-screen parents Lee Remick and Gregory Peck- they were both amazing and treated him well.

The one story that stuck in my mind was his audition story. The producer and director had seen many children and no one had managed to deliver what was needed for the part so Harvey was instructed by someone on the audition panel to attack the director who had knelt down in front of him. Harvey did this by running up to him and kicking him squarely in the nuts! The job was his!

Harvey also had the original bike which he had been given after filming end.

Harvey Stevens

I have yet to meet Jonathan Scott-Taylor who played teenage Damien in Damien: Omen II. I hope to one day!

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I’ve been a big fan of Sam Neill for years. His work in Jurassic Park is well known but I also thought he was great in The Hunt for Red October. Sam played adult Damien who has been appointed to his father’s old job as Ambassador to the Court of St James (UK) and is on his rise to power. Sam was announced as a last-minute guest for the London Film & Comic Con in July 2018. I quickly bought a photo shoot with him before they sold out!

When the event came I noticed a plethora of Dr Alan Grants from Jurassic Park and loads of inflatable dinosaurs of various types! I quickly decided to do something different so I grabbed some paper, wrote #DamienThorn4President on it and headed off for the shoot. When my turn came I walked up, showed him the sheet and asked if he would hold it. He looked at it, laughed and asked me if I was serious. I replied that he couldn’t be any worse than Trump. He laughed some more, we had the photo and I left.

I tried to get his autograph but, as I was helping on a charity stall, it proved difficult. When I went to his area near the end of the event they had closed the queue. I’ve been a bit cheeky and written to him to see if I can get an autograph that way!

Sam Neill

I’ve met a few other cast members as you can see below:-

The Omen

David Warner who played photographer Keith Jennings in The Omen

Lance Henriksen who played Sergeant Daniel Neff

Tina Simmons who was Lee Remick’s stand-in and body-double in The Omen

I really hope they never try to remake films II & III but would be happy if they converted the books of IV and V into film.

September 2018~ Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is a new 8-part show which premiered on Amazon Prime in August 2018. It acts as a prequel to the books and films already set in what is known in ‘The Ryanverse’ and ignores the events of the last two Jack Ryan movies- The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck & Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with Chris Pine.

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Jack Ryan has now been played by a total of five different actors. Alec Baldwin played him in ‘The Hunt for Red October’ whilst Harrison Ford played Jack in ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear and Present Danger plus the aformentioned Ben Affleck and Chris Pine.

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In the new Amazon show, John Krasinski (Of The Office US fame) plays Dr. John Patrick “Jack” Ryan. Jack is a CIA Analyst whose job is to track terrorist organisations via their financial transactions. As in the books, Jack has experience as an accountant/broker which makes him ideal for the job. He works in Terror, Finance, and Arms Division (T-FAD). At the start of the show Jack clashes with his new boss, Jim Greer. This is a big change from the books which I will touch on later. Jack comes across some dubious transactions that lead him to uncover a terrorist plot with worldwide ramifications.

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Whilst all this is taking place, Jack briefly meets with an old boss from his Wall Street days, Joe Mueller. At Joe’s birthday party, Jack meets Dr Catherine Mueller, Joe’s daughter. Anyone who has read the books will know that at some point in the future, Catherine (Cathy) Mueller will become Mrs Cathy Ryan. There isn’t a great deal of change from the books and films. In ‘The Hunt for Red October’ her name was Caroline “Cathy” Ryan and was played by Gates McFadden from Star Trek: TNG. Anne Archer played Dr Caroline Catherine “Cathy” Ryan in the two Harrison Ford films. In all versions she is a medical doctor although her speciality has differed. In the new show Dr Catherine Mueller is an expert on infectious diseases and is played by Australian actress Abbie Cornish (the best looking Cathy Mueller so far!).

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What follows is a neatly woven tale of action and intrigue set against the backdrop of the war on terror. One new aspect to Jack’s character is that he suffers from PTSD- he has recurring nightmares and bouts of insomnia due to a helicopter crash during his time in Afghanistan. Again, this is a another change from the books as in the books the helicopter crash took place whilst Jack’s marine unit was taking part in a NATO exercise over the North Sea. The scars, wounds and back problems still remain the same.

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I don’t want to give too much away as it’s an excellent series and deserves to be watched. I’m a big Jack Ryan fan and was worried when I heard about this series being developed especially after ‘The Sum of All Fears’ and ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’. They were ok action films, but not Jack Ryan.

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John Krasinski does a great job as Jack Ryan. He got the slightly-nerdy, honest, honourable, overgrown-boyscout bit right and didn’t play him like a Jason Bourne character. Yes, he held his own in a fight, but then he is an ex-marine and should be able to. It was good to see his relationship with Cathy really develop.

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It’s already been renewed for season two. I’m really hoping that as time goes on it does start to link in more with the books. At some point Jack has to leave the CIA, get his history degrees and end up again as an analyst (focussing on naval warfare) at the CIA and then teaching history at the Naval Academy!

At the end there are a few nods to the books/films. For example, Greer jokes that maybe one day he will be Deputy Director CIA (see below) and when Jack is handed a book from Greer at the end there are nods to Moscow and Russia possibly setting up the lead in to either Red Rabbit or The Hunt for Red October.

If you have access to Amazon Prime and like espionage stories then check this out!

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Read on for my thoughts on the changes to the Jim Greer character.

I must admit that it took me a couple of episodes to warm to the new Jim Greer.

In the new show Greer is played by Wendell Pierce (of ‘The Wire’ fame) and isn’t a great deal older than Jack. Jim Greer has just been appointed as head of T-FAD and that makes him Ryan’s boss. The appointment was seen as a demotion for Greer due to an incident in Karachi. He is also Muslim. There doesn’t seem to be any naval connection or family to speak of.

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The Jim Greer from the novels and films is quite different. For one thing he is Vice-Admiral James Greer USN and was brilliantly played by James Earl Jones in the first three movies. To attain the rank of Admiral would mean long, distinguished service in the Navy. His role within the CIA is vastly different as he is the Deputy Director (Intelligence) of the agency. Greer also has a wife and family.  I would need to re-read the books again to check as I think he was Catholic. These are fairly substantial changes. Hopefully they will be addressed. To be honest though it won’t spoil the story and it’s not the first time someone has retconned a backstory.

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