Night Of The Comet did okay at the box office but really earned its audience via repeat viewings by fans on VHS and cable television. Thus, it’s a surprise how long it took for this film to get the special edition treatment: it didn’t make it to DVD until 2007 and even then it was released as an extras-free catalog title. Thankfully, Scream Factory has added this fan favorite to its ever-growing roster of cult titles. The results offer a step up in many ways, particularly in the special features department.
The high-definition transfer included here looks good, doing well by a title that is tricky to present due to its challenging combination of low-light interiors and heavy use of red filters for exterior scenes. The results have a nice celluloid texture, offering a boost in detail and colors (particularly the scenes with neon lighting). Both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes are offered: the 2.0 mix is the recommended one here as the 5.1 mix is curiously light on surround sound activity and the 2.0 has a little more volume and punch.
The extras begin with no less than three (!) commentary tracks. The first features stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney along with moderator Edwin Samuelson. It offers an actor-level view of the film, with both stars talking about doing their own stunts, their appreciation for director Thom Eberhardt and fond memories of Robert Beltran and Mary Woronov.
Samuelson primes the duo with questions and his approach pans out nicely in the second half when the stars offer their thoughts on how important one big emotional scene in the film was for its teen viewers, their take on the ‘80s materialism satirized in the film and rediscovering the film through the eyes of its fans. The stars have a nice chemistry and a good attitude, making this an easy listen.
The next commentary features writer/director Thom Eberhardt and moderator Michael Felsher. Eberhardt is both informative and self-deprecating as he lays out the story of how his first-ever screenplay was purchased and how he ended up directing it. His tale reveals the reality of being a first-time filmmaker, particularly how producers Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford held sway over major decisions like casting and the fate of one character in the film.
He also tells a lot of fun tales about filmmaking on a shoestring, including how he got his “deserted city” scenes in busy Los Angeles and how one of the film’s most famous lines was written on the spot to cover for malfunctioning prop guns. In short, it’s a track that will please the film’s longtime fans.
The final commentary track features production designer John Muto and is again moderated by Felsher. It’s a very engaging and informative track because Muto has a strong memory of the production isn’t afraid to share his opinions. Felsher gives him plenty of room to talk but guides the track with enough questions to form a narrative, covering everything from his start in the business as a visual effects designer to why he later transitioned to teaching.
The result has a lot of interesting nuts-and-bolts material about how he designed Night Of The Comet’s look, with full info on how each set was created or dressed: the story of how the film’s elaborate, stylized “radio station” set was achieved is fascinating stuff. He also covers how he made creative color choices, right down to the outfits the actors wore. Since Muto did double-duty as a visual effects supervisor on the film, he’s also able to describe how the film created an array of cool visual effects using simple, cost-effective methods (wait ’til you hear all the tricks used in creating the think-tank’s lair in the film). In short, it’s a great listen for budding genre filmmakers.
The commentaries are bolstered by a trio of featurettes. The first is “Valley Girls At The End Of The World” and it was assembled from new interviews with Stewart and Maroney. In fifteen minutes, they walk the viewer through how they were cast, the challenges of the script, their thoughts on the finished work and its cult following. The same basic material is covered in their commentary track but getting to see their enthusiasm gives their tales a little extra sparkle.
The second featurette is an interview with Robert Beltran entitled “The Last Man On Earth.” Fans might be surprised to discover that he turned down the role several times before being allowed to offer his input on the character at a script level to keep it from being too close to his character in Eating Raoul. A lot of the piece is dedicated to the changes he implemented and how he had to be vigilant with the producers to make them happen but he also speaks with pride about the results and also says kind things about Eberhardt, Stewart and Maroney. He even requests that Eberhardt make a sequel!
The final featurette is “Curse Of The Comet,” a brief chat with makeup FX supervisor David B. Miller. It was his first gig in this capacity and he reveals how his work on the makeup crew for Thriller led to him working on Night Of The Comet as well as the particulars behind the different makeups and his working relationship with Eberhardt. Like everyone else interviewed, he’s proud of the film and its enduring popularity.
The disc is rounded out with two image galleries and a theatrical trailer. The first gallery offers a variety of stills and some promo art while the second, more interesting gallery is a behind-the-scenes collection that shows many shots of Eberhardt directing on set, some images of theaters where the film played and even a few storyboard/production design sketches. The trailer is brief but fun, doing a good job of selling the film’s savvy blend of sci-fi and comedy.
All in all, this is a worthy special edition for a cult film that has long been in need of this treatment. Any fans need to pick it up post-haste and those who haven’t seen it will find this set a good way to experience it for the first time.