• Year Of The Comet

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: April 11, 2017.
    Director: Peter Yates
    Cast: Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Daly, Louis Jourdan, Art Malik, Ian Richardson
    Year: 1992
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    The Movie:

    Sometimes, you judge a book by its cover, and select a movie to review by the title or the poster art. Other times, you get confused and think that you're selecting Night of the Comet, a favourite from your childhood, and instead end up with Year of the Comet, which you've never actually heard of. With a script written by William Goldman, who brought us Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and directed by Peter Yates of Bullitt fame, there was still a chance that this was going to be a good film, even if its genesis lay in Goldman's love of red wine. And a love of red wine is healthy, and something that I approve of, heartily. But is it enough of a nucleus to hold an entire film together?

    Margaret (Penelope Ann Miller) is the daughter of Sir Mason Harwood (Ian Richardson) an employee of Harwood, Ltd., procurer and auctioneer of some of the rarest wines in the world. Margaret has adopted her father's skill in the industry, with a nose and palate for the burgundy that outshines her competitive brother, Richard, who would rather his sister be confined to the kitchen carrying out womanly duties. Sir Mason is of a similar mindset, convinced that women don't belong in the industry, but he recognizes Margaret's talents and agrees to send her to Scotland's Isle of Skye on business...after she threatens resignation. Arriving at MacPhearson Castle to take stock of the deceased owner's alleged formidable wine collection, Margaret finds that things are quite amiss, in the form of a butler who unsuccessfully attempts to bar her entrance into the castle, and a less than impressive selection of bottles in the basement. Digging further, however, Margaret finds a trapdoor to a sub-basement, in which she finds the treasuriest of treasures in a wooden crate; a massive bottle of red wine that bears the seal of Napoleon Bonaparte and the date of 1811...the year of the comet.

    Surely worth a small fortune, Margaret's report to her father indicates that Harwood, Ltd. stands to earn a substantial amount of cash from the grapey goodness, but Sir Mason opts instead to sell it directly to T.T. Kelleher for a measly million dollars, based on the latter's long-time association with the Harwood family. Kelleher sends his representative Oliver Plexico (Tim Daly) to collect the prize, but the rather uncouth, bud-drinking Ollie has his bedroom eyes set squarely on the sophisticated Margaret. It's a rather unlikely pair-up, but the two find themselves forced to work together when news of the wine find leaks to unsavoury parties, who would gladly kill to acquire such a valuable item. Adding to that is the aforementioned fake butler from MacPhearson Castle, actually a criminal mastermind named Philippe (Louis Jourdan) who is convinced that a scientist's last actions were to scrawl a formula for eternal youth onto the label, and will also kill for the ability to remain forever young. Across the foggy moors and into France, Oliver and Margaret chase and are chased as they face danger and excitement in an effort to unite the bottle of rare wine with its new owner.

    It it an action film? Is it a comedy? Is it a romance? Is it an action romance comedy thriller? I couldn't figure it out, and neither could Goldman, apparently. Year of the Comet jumps from mood to mood so frequently, it's difficult to tell what the compulsion...aside from being enamoured by the possibility of a gigantic bottle of 180 year-old wine....is that drives the film. Don't get me wrong, Year of the Comet has a lot of cool stuff going on, some beautiful scenery and well-executed action pieces, solid performances, and one gets the notion that there is an enjoyable outing to be pieced together. The score is lively, the action is lively, and some of the comedy bits are funny. It's even possible to believe that the two leads could fall for each other; Penelope Ann Miller is endearing and charismatic, and a mustachioed and strangely ripped Tim Daly is convincing as her love interest, appearing capable of climbing a cliff face to rescue the girl. Crap lines aside....who says, "ragamuffin" when they're trying to impress a girl?...Daly's talent is far greater than I'd previously given him credit for.

    But in the end, Year of the Comet falls victim to its own exuberance and outlandish ambition, packing plot twist upon plot twist, and going for laughs in idiotic ways that border on slapstick. Secret formulas? Immortality elixirs? International espionage? Year of the Comet somehow manages to pack in two completely unrealistic climaxes, a feat that may go unnoticed in your run of the mill romantic comedy, where unification of an unlikely couple is the only desired outcome, but it drags the ending of the film down enough to negate what came before it; what started off as an unconventional but intriguing concept dissolves into silliness by the end, and not even Tim Daly's total lack of limitations can save it.


    Twilight Time brings Year of the Comet to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded, 2.35:1 transfer that looks great. Infrequent speckling occurs, and some visual effects in the film suffer due to the definition and a more abundant speckling, but this is a nice looking job with good contrast and colour dynamics, and it shows off the Scottish countryside nicely. Skin tones are natural looking, grain is present but not distracting, and there are no compression artifacts to speak of.

    The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track does a swell job of carrying the sound elements, with no hiss or distortion, though some volume jumps do occur. Still, it's an airy track that does the score justice. A Twilight Time staple, the Isolated Music track, is also available as an option. English subs are also available for the primary audio track.

    A Trailer for the film, the Twilight Time Catalogue, and a booklet insert essay by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo are also available.

    The Final Word:

    While certain aspects of Year of the Comet were more enjoyable than I would have thought, most notably Tim Daly's performance, the drive of the film...the bottle of red wine...isn't quite enough to sustain it throughout, especially with the kitchen sink mentality that Goldman has applied to the writing.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!