Year of the Comet (1992)

Year of the Comet (1992), directed by Peter Yates.

Not to be confused with Night of the Comet (1984).

Inventorying a wine collection at a remote Scottish castle, a professional oenophile and a corporate trouble-shooter get mixed up with a dapper French villain who is pursuing some sort of secret formula for which he will torture and kill. Result: romantic comedy wisecracking and old-school boat, helicopter and motorcycle action from Loch Ness to the Riviera.

Directed by the experienced Peter Yates (Bullitt (1968), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), Krull (1983)) and written by the great William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Marathon Man (1976), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Princess Bride (1987), The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)), photographed by Roger Pratt (Brazil (1985), Mona Lisa (1986), The End of the Affair (1999)) and filmed in lovely locations in Scotland and France... was a total flop, a box office disaster that has since hit 0% at Rotten Tomatoes almost without anyone noticing it ever existed.

This was Goldman's project. He has a short sorrowful chapter on it in Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade where he admits that it was not some sort of near miss that fell just short: "No, lads. I am talking about the whiff, the stiff, the stinker, the all-out f***ing fiasco".

Test audiences were walking out in the first minutes. He figured it was because few people shared his passion for red wine, so they shot a new opening where the hero says he also hates red wine. Audiences still hit the exits. Sometimes films only find their audiences after they've been out for a while, but when Goldman's daughter admitted she hadn't bothered to see it he understood it wasn't going to happen.

A study in film forensics: What went wrong, and what could have been done?


Now, finally, a confession: about 20 years ago my wife and I adopted this one as the poor little bad film we like more than it deserves. We never saw it in the theater, just on VHS from the local mom & pop rental place. I don't think it ever had a proper North American DVD, so we imported a PAL DVD, and even that was cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.33, proof there really are people in the business who hate movies.

If I had to pick the least likely / no fan base / forgotten because it was never known title to receive a Blu-ray release, this would be it. And yet, it is now...

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time, their usual limited edition of 3000. Why this most boutique of specialty Blu-ray houses decided to commemorate the twilight of physical media with this obscure title: I don't know, but am grateful. Shocked, but grateful.

Subtitles and isolated score, but no other extras. TT regular Julie Kirgo provides a little booklet essay to to the effect of "don't worry, be happy, enjoy". What else can you say?

We gasp: look at wide image, all that movie we were missing! And the detail on those lovely tweeds and sweaters... It does seem like a different movie when you can see the whole thing, as intended. Not a good different movie, mind you.