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Life can be tough when you’re a Valley girl. First, there’s making sure you’re on time for pep squad practice. Then there’s having to live under the same roof as your bitchy stepmother who, you suspect, is making it with Chuck from across the road. And then, of course, there’s having to keep on the lookout for the occasional marauding zombie hungering after your flesh!

Eighteen year-old Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart - Weekend at Bernie’s, The Last Starfighter) misses out on the event-of-a-lifetime when she ditches watching the comet in favour of copping off with the projectionist at the cinema where she works. But this turns out to be a wise move when, the next day, she discovers that the entire population has been reduced to piles of red dust – leaving only Reggie, her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney – Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Chopping Mall) and a handful of other survivors to fend off the roving gangs of glassy-eyed zombies.

Taking its cue from classic “doomsday” movies such as The Day of the Triffids and The Omega Man (and with a healthy dose of Dawn of the Dead thrown in for good measure), Night of the Comet is an irresistible slice of Reagan-era B-movie fare which features Cyndi Lauper dance-alongs as well as some truly gravity-defying bouffant hairstyles... Well, it was acceptable in the 80s! (Taken from the official synopsis.)


My last Arrow review was for a title that used an in-house master ( The ‘Burbs). Night of the Comet’s master has once again been supplied by MGM, from which many of Arrow’s recent releases have originated. Here’s what the accompanying booklet has to say about the transfer:

Quote: Night of the Comet appears in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono 2.0 sound. The High Definition master was produced by MGM and made available for this release via Hollywood Classics.

Video


After recently being treated to Arrow’s spectacular restoration of The ‘Burbs the presentation here is a bit of a disappointment. There’s a considerable amount of wobble on show during the opening credits, but thankfully image stability improves as time goes on. What doesn’t improve is the presence of film artefacts, of which there are many of varying shapes and sizes, with some proving more distracting than others. They’re in constant attendance for the entirety of the film’s length and probably the worst example of said artefact I’ve seen on an Arrow release for some time. My research indicates that the film had a paltry budget, which is reflected in the overall look of the picture. With that said (and appropriate concessions made) this isn’t actually a bad effort. The image isn’t particularly detailed, but then I suspect the original photography was much the same and it’s well-suited to the film’s B-movie aesthetic. The colour palette is varied and well-rendered, particularly the ever-present reds and the girls’ vibrant clothing, and I was impressed by how natural everything looked (well, when filters weren’t being employed that is). The image doesn’t appear to have been subjected to any overt digital tinkering, as evidenced by the ever-present layer of grain, and the encode is as solid as ever.

Taken on its own merits this isn’t a bad looking Blu-ray at all, but it’s found wanting when compared to the majority of Arrow’s recent output. With that said, given the relatively small market for such a title it’s understandable why time and money wasn’t spent to eliminate the film artefacts. Even so, this is still the best looking version of the film you’re likely to see for some time, if not ever.

Audio


This disc includes a solitary LPCM 2.0 Mono offering that does a decent enough job of things. Dialogue is intelligible and effects are surprisingly free from distortion, as is the lively eighties soundtrack. Obviously there’s nothing in the way of stereo or surround effects and dynamic range isn’t exactly wide, but these are things that can be traced back to the original mix and so are hardly Arrow’s fault. The US release apparently includes a 5.1 track to compliment the original audio, but from what I’ve read it would seem that it is extremely front-oriented and offers little in the way of immersion, so it’s understandable that it wasn’t included here.

This isn’t a bad track by any means – on the contrary, it’s a very respectable presentation all things considered – but the limitations of the picture’s original sound design are plainly evident. This probably won’t be an issue for those used to years of low-quality VHS copies of their favourite ‘cult’ movies, but it’s not going to impress Joe Public. Then again, Joe Public doesn’t account for Arrow’s core audience…

Extras


This release includes everything found on the Shout! Factory edition (bar the still galleries), but throws a new and exclusive featurette into the mix. Here’s a rundown of the bonus material:

  • Audio commentary with stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
  • Audio commentary with writer/director Thom Eberhardt
  • Audio commentary with production designer John Muto
  • Valley Girls at the End of the World: Interviews with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
  • The Last Man on Earth?: An interview with actor Robert Beltran
  • End of the World Blues: A brand new interview with Star Mary Woronov
  • Curse of the Comet: An Interview with special make-up effects creator David B. Miller
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by James Oliver illustrated with original archive stills and posters

It’s a rarity that any one release includes three commentary tracks, but those featured on this disc offer a good balance between light and fluffy and the more technical side of things. The actress track is the most anecdotal of the bunch, but it’s still enjoyable and Stewart and Maroney’s enthusiasm is infectious. The director track is probably the pick of the bunch, providing insight into every little detail of the film’s inception and production, while the production designer track focuses more in the technical side of filmmaking. There’s really something for everyone here.

The interviews are also very enjoyable, and it’s always nice to see actors return to give their thoughts on some of their earlier work. Stewart and Maroney are still bubbly and chatty, recalling fond memories of working on the production. Their interview does re-tread a fair bit of ground from the commentary track, but I guess there are only so many anecdotes you can tell! Robert Beltran’s interview is interesting, particularly the story of how he repeatedly turned the role down because he wanted to avoid being typecast. As someone most familiar with the actor from his work on Star Trek this proved to be quite enlightening. The interview with Mary Wornov is exclusive to this Arrow release and, truth be told, probably the worst of the bunch. This is because Wornov presents herself as a bit of a pretty prickly customer; one who doesn’t hold the genre films that pay her bills in particularly high regard. Finally we have the interview with David B. Miller, which is shorter than the others but still worthy of your time if you’re interested in visual effects.

The on-disc content is capped by the film’s original theatrical trailer, while the usual booklet and reversible artwork are also included. Oh, and there's also a DVD copy thrown in for good measure.

Overall


Night of the Comet is a fun B-movie homage, but I’d be kidding myself if I tried to claim that it is a ‘good’ film. Of course films don’t always have to be good to be enjoyable, and this is true here. It has an intriguing premise, it’s surprisingly well acted, and although budget limitations restrict its scope Night of the Comet still manages to be both charming and engaging.

The Blu-ray is a solid entry in Arrow’s catalogue, if not quite as good as some of their recent output. The visual quality is definitely a step down from titles such as Time Bandits and The ‘Burbs, and even releases like Lifeforce and The Beast Within, partly due to the limitations of the original material and partly because of the quality of the MGM-sourced master. Audio is also somewhat limited, but again this is due to the original mix and the presentation here is actually as faithful as one could reasonably expect. The bonus material is unquestionably enjoyable though, as is the case with most Arrow titles. As such, this release should serve genre fans well, in particular those with a fondness for the charms of the drive-in movie and eighties kitsch.

* Note: The images Below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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 Night of the Comet
 Night of the Comet
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