Color, 1984, 95m.
Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, Kelli Maroney, Mary Woronov, Sharon Farrell, Geoffrey Lewis
Arrow (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RB/R2 HD/NTSC), Scream Factory (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9) / LPCM 2.0
"Endearing" isn't usually the word you'd associate with a post-apocalyptic story featuring zombie cops, machine guns, and the attempted murders of children, but it's exactly the right term for Night of the Comet. Cold War unease was still running high in pop culture at the time due in no small part to the previous year's pulverizing made-for-TV sensation, The Day After, and it was a stroke of genius here to wipe out the bulk of humanity to set the stage for a mixture of sci-fi, horror, and witty humor, all centered around one of the strongest, most memorable female relationships in '80s cinema.
The whole world is celebrating the arrival of a rare comet passing close to earth, with comet parties and mass viewings set up across the globe. Unfortunately the phenomenon obliterates almost every human being, leaving behind a handful of fortunate survivors like movie theater employee/video game champ Regina (Stewart, beloved star of The Last Starfighter and The Apple) and her younger, uber-Valley Girl sister, Samantha (scream queen Maroney). The two deduce the reason for their safety and make it to a radio station looking for others, where they meet another lucky leftover, Hector (Beltran). However, a freebie shopping spree becomes a bullet-spraying showdown and the trio find themselves targeted by a shadowy organization intent on using them for its own nefarious purposes, which might be connected to the zombie-like fate of some of the other remaining inhabitants.
A neon-soaked blast from start to finish, Night of the Comet turned out to be something of a sleeper hit when it opened in '84 from indie company Atlantic Pictures. It subsequently found a very loyal cult audience on cable TV for the rest of the decade, firmly cementing the female lead's fan base thanks to their pitch-perfect chemistry and spot-on comic timing. (The great punchline at the end of the film didn't hurt things either.) On top of that you get cult movie queen Mary Woronov in a small but memorable role as a sinister government agent and a fantastic soundtrack containing a solid balance of pop tunes (including a cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun") and moody synth score.
Though CBS/Fox kept Comet in circulation on VHS in the '80s, the film subsequently dropped out of sight for a very long time as the entire Atlantic library drifted in limbo. A bare-bones DVD finally surfaced from MGM in 2007, at least presenting the film with its original gaudy scene finally intact for the first time outside of theaters. In 2013, Scream Factory gave the film a much-needed special edition with an HD presentation from the same excellent source and a wealth of extras including a lively commentary with director Thom Eberhardt (Sole Survivor), a very bouncy second track with Stewart and Maroney, and a third one with production designer John Muto. The two actresses also get their own separate featurette, "Valley Girls at the End of the World," in which they reflect for 15 minutes about making the film and some of their other significant '80s projects. Beltram also appears in a separate 12-minute featurette, "The Last Man on Earth?," while makeup effects creator David B. Miller turns up for the 12-minute "Curse of the Comet." The disc rounds out with the original trailer and two galleries of posters and behind-the-scenes stills.
Almost a year later in 2014, the film made its HD bow in the U.K. courtesy of a special edition from Arrow porting over the same satisfying transfer with an LPCM stereo track (ditching the matrixed 5.1 remix commissioned by Scream Factory). The same extras are ported over apart from the gallery, which is replaced here with a new 10-minute featurette with Mary Woronov entitled "End of the World Blues." She's been on quite a roll lately as a fixture on Blu-ray bonus features, and again she's engaging here as she reflects on her role during the height of her collaborations with Paul Bartel. As usual, the artwork is reversible with the original poster on the back side and a new design on the front, while the liner notes booklet contains an essay by James Oliver.