Night of the Comet (Blu-ray Review)
Night of the Comet is a 1984 horror comedy that’s still a lot of fun to watch now. The world is celebrating the approach of a comet with viewing parties and news coverage, but the stellar visitor brings death. Everyone either turns to dust, or if they were partially exposed, they become a zombie. (How timely!) We explore the new world with sisters Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) and a truck driver (Robert Beltran) they encounter at a radio station.
The movie is full of suspense, as various threats challenge the young women, from research scientists (including cult favorite Mary Woronov) trying to find a cure to a wannabe boss setting up shop in the local mall. What I like about it, though, is that it’s a great picture of the times, from the materialism to the pending fear of universal destruction to the tough heroine capable of defending herself (temporarily a movie trend).
The sisters have a military father who’s taught them to use guns, so they aren’t your typical decorative horror girls. (Although some of the promo from back then calls them Valley Girls and there are a couple of the requisite lingerie scenes.) You can see some of their abilities in this clip:
Night of the Comet is also a great movie to watch today, expressing fear of being all alone in the world but with a sense of fun and hope. If I was the last person on earth, I think I’d react as they did — with disbelief, with anger, with fear, with determination, and with a break to go shopping. Even if I hadn’t seen the movie back then and remembered it fondly, I’d like it now.
A personal note: KC once worked as a movie projectionist, and this is one of the films he remembers showing. Which makes it all the neater that a projectionist is one of the characters and plays a key role in a particular plot point.
The Blu-ray combo pack, available Tuesday, November 19, comes with a DVD and a cardboard slipcase, as well as (typical of Shout!’s releases) lots of great bonus features. With all the background, this Blu-ray is the best way to watch the film. Heck, I liked it so much I listened to all three commentaries, which I never do!
Edwin Samuelson, producer of “The Cinefiles”, hosts the first one with Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney. It’s really more of an audio interview, but it’s great to hear them talk about their time and experiences on the film. It’s very entertaining, since they still care about the movie, and worth listening to.
Director and writer Thom Eberhardt is joined by Michael Felsher, “DVD producer and filmmaker”, on a second commentary, which deals much more with making a low-budget film and the details of getting the movie made, such as how they filmed the empty streets during the business day by timing the stoplights and taking advantage of traffic lulls.
Felsher also talks with John Muto, production designer, in the third commentary. It has some overlap with the director’s commentary, but it’s informative about how they created several of the film’s effects, from the red dust to the ominous skies.
The back cover text indicates a new interview with Mary Woronov, but that didn’t happen. Instead, there’s “Valley Girls at the End of the World”, 15 minutes of separate conversations with Maroney and Stewart that covers some different ground from the commentary (with some overlap as well). In case you’re curious, here’s footage of the two stars from 2011, in an encounter Stewart references in the interview:
Robert Beltran is interviewed in “The Last Man on Earth?” (12 1/2 minutes). It’s good to get his perspective, particularly on deciding how to play Hector and the effect of his ethnicity. “Curse of the Comet” is 6 1/2 minutes with makeup effects creator David B. Miller, who also worked on “Thriller” and Nightmare on Elm Street, about the look of the zombies.
There are two photo galleries, one of stills from the film (40 or so images, runs 3 1/2 minutes, or you can navigate at your own speed). The behind-the-scenes gallery (60-some images, five minutes) has a lot more with the director and camera equipment, plus, near the end, a few storyboards and design sketches.
The theatrical trailer is included, which you can also see here. Warning: It’s not very representative of the actual movie.
I loved the reversible art wrap. Shout! Factory has created a new, period-inspired cover for the Blu-ray release (shown above), but the other side is the original movie poster. Since the flip also has a spine title and the same back-panel text, you can reverse it, and I did.
For Night of the Comet‘s debut on Blu-ray, Shout! Factory has created a complete package that should satisfy any fan or new viewer. Recommended. (The studio provided a review copy.)