Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Night of the Comet (1984, USA)

Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Produced by: Andrew Lane, Wayne Crawford
Written by: Thom Eberhardt
Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran
Music by: David Richard Campbell
Cinematography: Arthur Albert
Editing by: Fred Stafford
Production by: Thomas Coleman and Michael Rosenblatt Productions, Film Development Fund
Distributed by: Atlantic Releasing Corporation, CBS/FOX Video
Release dates: November 16, 1984
Running time: 95 min
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)
Box office: $14,418,922 (USA)
Plot: Two pretty high school girls (one a cheerleader!) don't like their stepmother or her new boyfriend ("Daddy would have gotten us Uzis!"). One morning, they wake up to find that everybody in Los Angeles has been turned to dust by a Comet except them, a guy who looks like Erik Estrada, some zombies and the occupants of a secret underground government installation.

Info: Night of the Comet is a 1984 horror/science fiction film written and directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney. The film was voted number 10 in Bloody Disgusting's Top 10 Doomsday Horror Films in 2009.

Night of the Comet was released on VHS cassette and CED Videodisc on August 30, 1985, and distributed by CBS/FOX Video. A second U.S. VHS printing, distributed by Goodtimes Video, was released on August 30, 1990. The film was officially released on Region 1 DVD on March 6, 2007, and on Region 2 DVD in the U.K. on January 18, 2010. Night of the Comet was released in a Collector's Edition on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory on November 19, 2013.

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, gave the film an 81% based on 26 critics reviews. Variety noted that Eberhardt "creates a visually arresting B-picture in the neon-primary colors of the cult hit Liquid Sky as well as pointing similarities with Five, The Day of the Triffids, The Omega Man, Dawn of the Dead and Last Woman on Earth. They concluded "a successful pastiche of numerous science fiction films, executed with an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek flair that compensates for its absence in originality."

Night of the Comet original 1984 trailer.

A soundtrack for the film was released on vinyl LP Record and Audio Cassette from Macola Records shortly after the movie was released. The soundtrack's "Learn to Love Again", a love duet performed by Amy Holland and Chris Farren, played in the final scene in the movie and in the closing credits. Other songs include "The Whole World is Celebratin'" (also performed by Chris Farren), "Lady in Love" by Revolver, "Strong Heart" by John Townsend, "Trouble" by Skip Adams, "Living on the Edge" by Jocko Marcellino, "Virgin in Love" by Thom Pace, and "Hard Act to Follow" by Diana DeWitt.

Film Facts: The original working title for the film was "Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies". But, at the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics was being produced. So, the company decided to change the title to Night of the Comet to keep from getting into legal issues.

When cheerleader Kelli Maroney (Samantha Belmont) is playing at the radio station as a disk jockey, she says that she is taking requests from "all you teenage mutant comet zombies". This was the working title of the film.

The production designer, John Muto, used what he describes a "comic book" sensibility for the film. Characters were given specific colors, with the bad guys in blues and grays and the girls in colors. Regina's colors were deeper than Sam's to reflect that Regina was more intellectual than Sam and that Sam was wackier than Regina. For example, Sam's cheerleading outfit is made in magenta and turquoise to make it really stand out.

Night of the Comet promotional/press photos. Photos by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images - © 2012 Getty Images

When her MAC-10 jams several times Sam says "See that's the problem with these things, Daddy would have gotten us UZI's" At the time the MAC-10 had an (undeserved) reputation in popular culture for jamming and the UZI had a (well deserved) reputation for reliability.

The LP that Sam tosses over her shoulder is the soundtrack to "Valley Girl", which would become, for a short time, one of the most sought-after albums of all time.

The comet passes over on Friday the 14th December 1984. When Regina is trying to convince Samantha that everyone is dead she says "It's Saturday, where are all the kids?" so the comet passed on Friday night. In the radio station the recording mentions that there are 11 more shopping days till Christmas. If they count the 24th as the last shopping day that means the comet passed on the 14th.

As Regina emerges from the movie theater the morning after the comet, a poster for Death Race 2000 (1975) can be seen on the theater door. Mary Woronov appears in both films.

One of the posters in the projection room of the theater is for the movie "Red Dust". Everyone that was exposed to the comet directly was turned into red dust.

Night of the Comet 1990 VHS distributed by Goodtimes Video.
At the start of the movie, Regina is upset because the player "DMK" has upset her perfect list of wins on the video game in the theater lobby. The car that almost runs over Samantha at the end of the movie is driven by Danny Mason Keener. "DMK" is his license plate.

The motorcycle featured is a 1972 650cc Triumph T120 Bonneville. The Triumph is the most sought for motorcycle by History Channel's American Pickers.

Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart had both previously acted in soap operas on television.

Hector was originally supposed to have a major emotional breakdown when he went back to his family's house.

The scenes of an empty Los Angeles were shot on Christmas day. The film crew shot on Christmas day because not many people would be out; spending time and staying home with their families, leaving the streets empty.

The sequence at the department store was shot at night. It was shot at Sherman Oaks Galleria. Sherman Oaks Galleria is a shopping mall and business center located in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, United States, at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards in the San Fernando Valley.

Night of the Comet promotional/press photo. © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Night of the Comet stars Kelli Maroney (who appeared in Chopping Mall). Chopping Mall (1986) was also filmed at Sherman Oaks Galleria.

The radio station set was built in an abandoned warehouse. Mary Woronov wrote all of her dialogue for her scene at the radio station with Robert Beltran.

Writer/director Thom Eberhardt's car can be seen at the stoplight in the montage of a desolate Los Angeles.

Thom Eberhardt while writing the script asked teenagers for their input on what they would do if they survived the end of the world.

The two police officers who are seen riding motorcycles in Samantha's nightmare were actually location cops who worked on the movie stopping traffic so filming can be done.

Catherine Mary Stewart did almost all of her own stunts except for riding the motorcycle through Los Angeles. The long shots of Stewart on the motorcycle is a stunt woman while the close-ups of Stewart were done by putting the motorcycle on top of a flatbed truck.

Kelli Maroney kept one of the two cheerleader outfits that she wore in this film.

Night of the Comet poster design by Madison Mathews.
The photos of Hector's family are actually pictures of various family members of writer/director Thom Eberhardt's wife.

Heather Langenkamp auditioned for the role of Samantha.

Chance Boyer, who plays little boy survivor Brian, is the real-life son of actress Sharon Farrell, who plays Doris in the film.

Ivan E. Roth pulled out a prop gun during his audition for the role of Willy.

Make-up artist David B. Miller had his first supervisor job on this film.

Robert Beltran initially turned down the role of Hector because he didn't want to play Hector as a typical 'Cholo' type.

Trapped in a hellish copyright limbo for over a decade, Thom Eberhardt's "Night of the Comet" is a film whose reputation is due for a serious rehabilitation. Generally--and wrongly--categorized with typical 80s teen horror films, "Comet" is in fact a smart, skillful parody of the low-budget sci-fi horror classics of the 50s, 60s and 70s--and a wry commentary on teen culture in the 1980s as well. For those familiar with the original films, the parody "clues" are all over the place--not least of which is that the early part of the film takes place in the back of LA's classically offbeat El Rey movie theatre, which is showing low-budget B horror movies. Most of the "scary" scenes are preceded (subtly or otherwise) by the famous "red light" warning used commonly in the 60s and 70s. And the apocalyptic plot, settings and dialog, especially among the scientists, are straight out of the 50s.

Night of the Comet art by Nathan Thomas Milliner. Shout! Factory Blu-ray art (right).
Catherine Mary Stewart is by far the centerpiece of the movie as Reggie, the only teenage girl in Los Angeles who's both a lowly-paid theatre usher and an expert with assault weapons. She is most definitely *not* a Valley Girl. A pre-"Voyager" Robert Beltran is Hector "date night in the barrio" Gomez, the classic b-movie hero, and far more engaging here than his stoic, dry-as-bones role for the McTrek franchise. Kelli Maroney brings the totally 80s camp value as Valley Girl Samantha, who realizes with horror that her pool of potential Izod-clad boyfriends has just shrunk dramatically. Geoffrey Lewis sheds his mostly Western image here as the deliciously megalomaniacal leader of the researchers, whose taste for superscience soon gives way to a craving for hot buttered gray matter.

Eberhardt is a canny director who doesn't miss a trick--the scares are rare, but when they come, they'll get you. The gore is minimal, but the atmosphere of malevolence gets progressively thicker until the climax. The tightrope between comedy and fright is skillfully toed--undead droog stockboys, anyone? The effects may not be the digitized visual pablum people take for granted these days, but in a way they're more engaging for their rawness. Anyone who thinks this was a low-budget movie has never tried to completely empty out downtown Los Angeles at 7 am for a film shoot. Thom Eberhardt should be hailed for his brilliantly sharp, funny script and his deft execution as director.

Veteran sci-fi/indie/horror actress Mary Woronov is "Night of the Comet"'s direct physical and spiritual link to the golden days of the genre. She's passing the baton here to a new generation of camp sci-fi/horror fans. That nobody has thus far picked up that baton is a tragedy.

To address a distressingly common misperception: the comet in question is *not* Halley's comet. Both in-film plot elements and the film's tagline suggest this comet only appeared once before, when it wiped out the dinosaurs. Halley's comet, on the other hand, has had more comebacks than Cher. "Night of the Comet" works pretty well the way a lot of people view it--as a simple 80s cheesy sci-fi comedy. But as with "Rocky Horror," if you've seen the original material it's spoofing, the results are a hundred times more rewarding.

The MGM / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer DVD is becoming RARE and OOP (out of print). Get the Night of the Comet DVD while it's still IN STOCK.

Amazon: Night of the Comet (MGM / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) - $35.99 (DVD)
Amazon: Night of the Comet (Shout! / Scream Factory) - $20.35 (BLU-RAY)

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