A mere year before John Travolta’s star became even brighter with Grease, Travolta earned a Best Actor nomination for his role in the 1977 classic Saturday Night Fever. While now the film sticks out in the public conscious for white suits and fly disco moves, it’s key to remember that this film was popular for a reason: it was really very good. Although it would later spawn a sequel directed by Sylvester Stallone (!?) in the form of Staying Alive (which, apparently, Travolta’s career wasn’t at that point) that faltered and burned in almost every way imaginable, the original remains as strong as ever to its diehard fans.
John Travolta gives a sensual and intelligent performance as the troubled Tony Manero—Brooklyn paint store clerk by day and undisputed king of the dance floor by night. Every Saturday, Tony puts on his wide collared shirt, flared pants and platform shoes and heads out to the only place where he’s seen a god rather than just some young punk. But in the darkness, away from the strobe lights and glitter ball, is a tragic story of disillusionment, violence and heartbreak. Without a doubt, Travolta’s performance made him a Hollywood legend, but Saturday Night Fever is more than just a movie that defined the music and fashion of a generation. It’s a powerful and provocative urban tragedy that carries as much significance today as it did in 1977.
It’s rather funny how when you think of disco a shot of Travolta from this film immediately comes to mind. It’s even funnier in that you really don’t see this movie aired on cable that much, perhaps due to its less-than-friendly R rating, which I honestly had no idea about when I started watching the film. Needless to say, the language and sexual content alone was surprising at first (especially since I’d just watched Grease, a very PG movie, prior to this one), but makes sense considering the subject matter of the film.
While you would think this to be a hammy production because of how time has painted disco, I was surprised by how serious this film was most of the time. Yeah, there’s jokes and whatnot, but for the most part it was a lot more…well, adult, than I was expecting. It genuinely dealt with nearly every item of the “adult” spectrum, from the aforementioned sex to copious amounts of drug use and even a mixture of racism and homophobia. Whatever film I thought this was going into it, I came out with a completely different perspective on just what made it such a remarkable film.
There’s so much that goes on in this film that more than anything I’m surprised by how little people talk about it anymore. Granted, Travolta went from being a star as white hot as his suit in the film to one of a much duller nature, but when you hear about 70’s films that broke the mold and stood out amongst others, rarely do I ever hear about Saturday Night Live. What is in here is a very emotional and deeply moving film that studies a myriad of angles of families and society and how easy it can be to screw up our relationships with people.
It’s definitely interesting to see such a serious and moving film come from an era when Star Wars reigned supreme, but I’m certainly glad I was given the chance to watch it. If for no other reason than I could get the goofy image of what I thought this film was out of my head. Never again will I mock disco with such ruthless hate. Well, ok, maybe I will, but for however crazy disco looked, it was just an outlet for people to perform in and Travolta really showed some fantastic talent in this film. Highly Recommended.
Those who own the 2007 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition on DVD will know what expect from this release in terms of extra, as this sports the same package (and cover art). Inside the packaging are a standard disc and an insert denoting the importance of keeping your Blu-ray player up-to-date. This is all wrapped up in a standard Elite Blu-ray case and with a set of nicely animated and easy to navigate menus.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded transfer and like Grease, I was surprised by how clean the film looked. Likely taken from the same master as the 2007 DVD release, this transfer does toss out a healthy dose of grain on the image, but that’s to be expected and rarely detracts from the overall image. From the shining disco ball to the white suit, the transfer of this film is astonishingly sharp and clear and definitely excels on the Blu-ray format. Although, as with Grease, I’m just not sure how much of a demand this film has to be seen in 1080p…but hey, it’s here if you want it.
Audio arrives in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that brings to life the music and dialogue in a crystal clear way, but it doesn’t boast much in terms of surrounds. Subwoofer output is also a tad weak, but…again, this movie is over thirty years old, so faulty it for not having the bass of a modern film is a bit ridiculous. It’s a fine audio presentation and is certainly the best the film has ever sounded, but it won’t be any kind of demo material you use to show off your home theater system.
Commentary by Director John Badham
Catching the Fever – (52:39, five part documentary)
Back to Bay Ridge (9:02)
Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese (9:50)
Sadly while this release does pack on the deleted scenes missing from the 2007 DVD re-release, it doesn’t tack on the VH-1 release from the 2002 release, which featured a slew of interviews with Travolta and others involved in the production of the film. In fact, Travolta doesn’t return for any of these extras, which is…really kind of screwed up, considering he netted an Oscar nomination for this.
Overall a solid release and had the VH-1 presentation been included, I’d almost recommend that you upgrade to this Blu-ray release just for completists sake, but, alas, there’s still missing content. Having said that if you’re a fan of the movie and didn’t pick up the 30th Anniversary edition, then go ahead and pick this one up as it comes Recommended.
Saturday Night Fever is now available on Blu-ray.