Brace Yourself For The Biggest Catastrophe The World Has Ever Seen! Outer space can hardly contain all the stars that round out the extraordinary cast in this spellbinding thriller about a five-mile-wide meteor on a catastrophic collision course with earth.
Before either Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall had a chance to save Earth from a gigantic space rock, Sean Connery did it first in 1979's 'Meteor'. While this late 70s flick can't match the spectacle of those other films, when it comes to story, 'Meteor' isn't any more silly, which means it holds up fairly well – although we'll deal with the special effects later in this review.
Connery stars as Dr. Paul Bradley, a former NASA employee who has left the agency but gets called back in as the movie opens. We learn that a comet has hit one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt, breaking off a huge chunk of it (five-miles wide) that is on a collision course with Earth. Bradley's aid is required because the only thing that may stop the meteor is an orbiting missile station called 'Hercules', which Bradley developed for the very purpose of stopping such objects from hitting the planet. However, when the American government turned Orpheus around and pointed the missiles toward the Soviet Union, Bradley quit NASA out of protest.
As it turns out, the Russians have their own orbiting missile station (called 'Peter the Great') and Bradley soon deduces that only the combined power of both missile systems will be able to bring down the meteor. That means the Russian scientist who developed 'Peter the Great' (played by Brian Keith) is coming to New York City to work with Bradley to help save Earth. He also brings along Natalie Wood, who serves as his interpreter…but really serves as an excuse for Connery to have a female to hit on while the Earth prepares for the impending collision.
Like almost every movie where an asteroid, meteor, or comet is going to crash into the planet, there's a number of smaller rocks that arrive first. This is so the movie can still show some massive destruction, yet still give us a happy ending. One particularly big chunk hits New York City late in the film, resulting in a rather uncomfortable feeling from this viewer as the first buildings it hits are the (then still very much standing) World Trade Center towers.
The best thing about 'Meteor' is the acting talent that has been gathered. While the screenplay itself isn't anything beyond TV Movie-of-the Week quality, the cast does their best with what they've been given. In addition to the actors already mentioned, other talent worth noting includes Karl Malden as Connery's closest associate and friend at NASA, Martin Landau as the typical Cold War military type (i.e., he doesn't trust the Russians), and Henry Fonda as the President (a spot of brilliant casting, not just because he was a great actor but because he played a similar Presidential role in 1964's 'Fail-Safe'). While 'Meteor' didn't hit it off with either critics or fans upon its release in 1979, in retrospect, the cast does a rather decent job given the film's cheap-looking sets and even cheaper-looking special effects.
Oh, those special effects! Yes, I realize that this movie is 35 years old, but let's also keep in mind that 'Meteor' came out a few years after Star Wars and in the same year as other very good-looking sci-fi movies, such as Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Moonraker. In short, the effects here are just awful. I dare say there were probably television series broadcasting in 1979 with better visual effects that 'Meteor'. It's a shame, because they do tend to drag the movie down with them, turning what could have been a very good 'B-Movie' into somewhat of a dud.
However, there's still plenty to like about 'Meteor', particularly if you're a Sean Connery fan – as I rather liked his work in this movie. He could have played things very over the top or just phoned-in his performance, and he does neither here. Granted, this is all still very much cheese, but it's tasty cheese if you watch it under the right mindset. At worst, it's mindless popcorn fun.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Meteor' crashes onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single 25GB disc. The disc from Kino Lorber isn't front-loaded with any trailers, and the main menu consists of simply a still of the box cover image, with selections at the bottom of the screen.
This Blu-ray release is Region A locked.
When it comes to video quality, 'Meteor' is quite the mixed bag. For a catalog title, the image doesn't look too bad at all, with consistent skin tones and a steady color palette throughout, although the colors do lean slightly on the drab and lighter side of things. Black levels are decent, with little if any problems with crush. Not a whole lot has been done to clean up the picture, and there's still some noticeable dirt and other defects in the print from scene to scene. Overall, though, the film is in pretty good shape, and the occasional defect shouldn't pose too much of an annoyance to viewers. A healthy amount of grain is also present, although this helps the movie retain a film-like look to it throughout. In terms of sharpness and detail, while the movie never has too soft of a look to it, one will notice many/most scenes have blurred backgrounds – which, of course, is due to the lenses used during filming rather than any defects with the transfer.
The audio is a mono 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, meaning sound is delivered through one's left and right front speakers – but it's the same exact sound on both sides. There seems to be some online debate going on about whether 'Meteor's original theatrical release was in mono or if it was actually 4-track stereo. While I was unable to uncover the definitive answer, my best guess is that it was probably both. Many films in the late 1970s were released to theaters in both audio formats, with high-end theaters (with the proper equipment) getting a 4-track version of the movie, while others got a standard mono track.
The audio here is just serviceable, with my biggest complaint being that the musical soundtrack and explosions/action sequences being about twice as loud as the spoken dialogue. This may very well be a reflection of the way the original audio was, as studios always seemed to want to show off the audio in disaster flicks of the 70s, regardless of how the mix was done. So, in short, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the balance of the track, but otherwise it's decent enough – at least as far as mono tracks go.
Although the special effects are horrible (even by 1979 standards), 'Meteor' didn't come off as campy as I thought it would roughly 35 years after its theatrical release. The actors here are quite decent in their roles (given the material they're working with), and while a few of them go over the top from time to time, it's really only the look of the movie that seems dated. Sean Connery, in particular, is solid here, and fans of his work will certainly want to check this one out. Worth a look.