Friday, February 12, 2021

Omen and Prophecy Author David Seltzer Born on This Date, 1940

Two of the most ubiquitous horror paperbacks of the Seventies were novelizations of movies, The Omen (Signet/July 1976) and Prophecy (Ballantine/February 1979). For decades virtually any and every used bookstore, thrift store, junk shop, flea market stall, or moldering cardboard box on a street corner marked "Free!" from here to eternity would almost certainly have scuffed-up copies of these little guys, each with its distinctive, nearly iconic title typefaces.

So numerous were they in used bookstores and so notoriously slow to sell after the movies had lost their "now" factor, booksellers should have been paying the customer to take them off their hands. Today copies should not cost book buyers more than a couple bucks, unless said copies are minty-fresh first prints. My copy of Omen that you see is like a 35th printing! My Prophecy is—ha, just checked it, a first print, actually.

Seltzer in 1976

Two bestselling books written by one guy, writer and filmmaker David Seltzer, who turned his own modern horror screenplays into bestselling novels and watched the royalties roll in. The Omen single-handedly introduced the concepts of "666" and "the number of the Beast" to people who hadn't been raised in a Christian fundamentalist home—Seltzer himself says he'd never even opened a bible until a producer asked him to come up with an Exorcist-type script. Prophecy traded in then-newly au courant environmentalism and indigenous people exploitation. Both movies have their horrific pleasures, but I recall little of my reading of these books sometime in middle school.

Seltzer, who early in his career had worked with Jacques Cousteau on his marine documentaries and supplied the original Willy Wonka movie with songs, subplot, and its final lines, was a pioneer in the concept of the novelization. Erich "Love Story" Segal had sold megamillions of his script-into-book in 1970, and after Seltzer had seen The Omen in production—the decapitation scene finally convinced him he’d written something truly shocking and special—he quickly wrote the novelization from his own screenplay. It was on bookshelves only weeks prior to the movie's debut. An immediate bestseller, the paperback's success caused film companies to devote entire divisions to the production of novelized screenplays, which have been standard ever since.


Rob said...

I, too, read both of these novelizations during my middle school years. I actually conned my mom into letting me see Prophecy in theater back in '79. The movie itself isn't all that great, but boy that poster.....

Mike said...

One thing I remember about The Omen is that, in the book, Damien Thorn's father was named Jeremy Thorn, but in the film, he was named Robert Thorn.