"Saturday Night Fever" is a surprisingly intense ride. Forget what you think you know. It's probably a misconception.
Saturday Night Fever (1977, Blu-ray)
Directors: John Badham
Writers: Nik Cohn (magazine article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night") Norman Wexler (screenplay)
Features: * Commentary * '70s Discopedia Trivia Track * Documentary: Catching the Fever (52 minutes, HD) * Featurette: Back to Bay Ridge (9 minutes, HD) * Featurette: Dance Like Travolta and John Cassese (10 minutes, HD) * Fever Challenge! (4 minutes, HD) * Deleted Scenes (3 minutes, SD)
John Travolta ... Tony Manero
Karen Lynn Gorney ... Stephanie
Barry Miller ... Bobby C.
Joseph Cali ... Joey
Paul Pape ... Double J.
Donna Pescow ... Annette
Bruce Ornstein ... Gus
Julie Bovasso ... Flo
Martin Shakar ... Frank Jr.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what "Saturday Night Fever" is. Just the night before I wrote this very review, I surveyed a group a younger friends to see if they had seen the film. None of them had, but they were obviously familiar with the popular Bee Gees songs found within, tunes that are still popular today. Even I had never seen the film all the way through, only bits and pieces – typically the colorful dance numbers.
When I surveyed the group, I also asked them their thoughts on the film's plot. Did they know what the film was even about? The answers were the same all across the board: it's a film about people dancing in clubs. John Travolta's in it.
While that answer is certainly true, both myself and my friends were shocked to learn the reality behind Saturday Night Fever. This is one bleak, frigid, gritty movie. Set in the late '70s, the film follows Tony (John Travolta) and his gang as they enjoy the seedy nightlife in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Tony happens to be a rather awesome disco dancer and the group typically ends up in one of the popular clubs where Tony gets his groove on, and scores with new girls nightly.
As a major dance competition approaches, Tony starts worrying about finding a dance partner. He ends up picking Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), a relative newcomer, and elite aristocrat wannabe, with quite a bit of natural talent, but a chip on her shoulder. He takes her under his wing with secret designs of winning over her heart.
While this plot does dominate most of the picture, the film is layered with intense melodrama and seedy characters, each worse than the next. There are multiple rape sequences, drug use, discussions of abortion, disillusion with religion, abuse and even a suicide. These aren't the usual traits of "dance" movies – certainly not today's PG-13 variety like Step Up or Save the Last Dance.
And that's what makes Saturday Night Fever incredibly refreshing, even today. The film is immensely dated all throughout. There's nary a scene that goes without hilarious hairdos, shoes, clothing and music – but the themes of the film still hold true creating a sort of timeless bubble around the dated context.
"Saturday Night Fever" is a surprisingly intense ride. Forget what you think you know. It's probably a misconception. This is a rough film packed with equal amounts of dazzling dance numbers paired with real, emotionally complex, broken characters. That said, the film isn't going to appeal to everyone, that much is certain. But for fans of this type of genre fare, "Saturday Night Fever" will be a leap in the genre conventions. It will take you back to a time when the darker side of human emotions were considered fair game for any genre picture, even one built around dancing.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: A-
"Saturday Night Fever" is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc, taking up 41 gigs of the space.
Audio choices are English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Mono with English, Portuguese, French and Spanish subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired.
This is pretty fine special edition, complementing the other '70s Travolta cult gem, Grease. Like that release, this BD port misses the opportunity to include a few BD exclusives like a digital copy and a few BD-Live extras. Features include:
• '70s Discopedia Trivia Track
• Documentary: Catching the Fever (52 minutes, HD)
• Featurette: Back to Bay Ridge (9 minutes, HD)
• Featurette: Dance Like Travolta and John Cassese (10 minutes, HD)
• Fever Challenge! (4 minutes, HD)
• Deleted Scenes (3 minutes, SD))
The film is presented in a blue "Elite" case featuring the re-release DVD artwork.
"Saturday Night Fever" is one of those films that plays well, but makes for a better soundtrack than a film. But the picture is refreshing considering how tiresome this genre has become. Fans should be pleased with this BD port. The transfer and audio best the previous DVD and the special features are informative, though they are lacking retrospective interviews with John Travolta.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth owning.
On Blu-ray: May 5th, 2009.
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----R. L. Shaffer