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SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 29, 2009 by  



“The disco classic which launched the career of John Travolta.  ‘SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER’ is an iconic film of the 1970’s and its high definition transfer boasts awesome picture and sound quality.  A classic worth owning on Blu-ray!”

Images courtesy of © 1977 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

DURATION: 118 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Languages:  English SDH Subtitled , English Subtitled , French Dubbed & Subtitled , Portuguese Subtitled , Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled.  Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital , Dolby Digital , Mono , 5.1 Surround , Dolby Surround

RATED: R – For strong language, sexuality/nudity and some drug content. , R – Rated R for language, some sexuality and a scene of intense violence.

COMPANY: Paramount Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2009

Based on a 1976 New York Magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn

Directed by John Badham

Screenplay by Steve Martin

Produced by Robert Stigwood

Executive Produced by Kevin McCormick

Associate Producer: Milt Felsen

Music by the BeeGees (Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb)

Director of Photography: Ralf D. Bode

Edited by David Rawlins

Production Design by Charles Bailey

Set Decoration by George DeTitta Sr.

Costume Design by Patrizia von Brandenstein

Set Decoration by Kimberley Richardson

Cast:

John Travolta as Tony Manero

Karen Lynn Gorney as Stephanie

Barry Miller as Bobby C.

Joseph Cali as Joey

Paul Pape as Double J.

Donna Pescow as Annette

Bruce Ornstein as Gus

Julie Bovasso as Flo

Martin Shakar as Frank Jr.

Sam Coppola as Dan Fusco

Nina Hansen as Grandmoter

Lisa Peluso as Linda

Denny Dillon as Doreen

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.

“SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER”…the iconic disco film from 1977 that defined a decade full of polyester, hairspray and most of all, disco dancing.  Also, a film that would catapult actor John Travolta (previously known for his role on the TV series “Welcome Back, Kotter”) into one of the top actors of all time.

The film was based on a New York Magazine article from 1977 titled “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” written by Nik Cohn (who admitted fabricating the whole story after twenty years later) and was written by Norman Wexler and directed by John Badham (“War Games”, “Short Circuit”, “Blue Thunder”).

Featuring classic disco music by the Bee Gees (the soundtrack is recognized as the top selling movie soundtrack of all time) and popular disco tracks of that time, the film helped popularize the disco movement.

The film revolves around 19-year-old Tony Manero (Travolta), a young Italian American who works at a hardware shop during the day but at nights, he hangs out with his buddies Double J. (Paul Pape), Joey (Joseph Cali) and Bobby C. (Barry Miller) and dancing at the 2001 Odyssey night club during the nights.

His friends are somewhat gang members who are foul-mouthed, into drugs and tend to get into trouble but they are very supportive of Tony and his dancing.  Bobby C. is the odd one of the group, “the wannabe” and the kid that is allowed into the group because he happens to be the only friend with a car.

His family life is not all that great as his mother is more focused on his older brother Frank Jr. (a priest), his father who is unemployed tends to get easily angered by him and he is often treated by his parents as the black sheep of the family, the child who gets into trouble.

But what makes Tony so special is when he is on the dance floor.  He’s the top dancer at the club and everyone knows his name.   The ladies just want to be with him, some wanting a kiss, a dance and some who just want to wipe his sweaty head after a dance.  But now it’s time for another dance competition and Annette (Donna Pescow), who has a thing for Tony, wants to partner with him again.

Tony agrees at first but it all changes when he sees Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn gorney) on the dance floor.  And because she’s constantly practicing at a dance studio, he drops Annette and tries to get Stephanie to be his partner.

Stephanie is a woman who wants to be somebody.  Constantly dropping names of celebrities that she is supposedly has met, she always tries to show off in front of Tony.  But Tony is not exactly familiar with any of the celebrities or restaurants that she talks about, all he wants is for her to be his partner (and possibly “make it” with him).

While arriving home, he finds his parents looking depressed.  He arrives home to find his brother Frank Jr. (Martin Shakar) in his room.  Frank tells Tony that he quit being a priest.  Telling him that he has his doubts about his faith and being a priest was more of their parents pushing him to become one.  For Tony, it just makes him laugh because his parents put so much into his older brother being a priest and making him feel like he’s amounted to nothing.  Tony tells his brother that he is always the favorite son, while he is the blacksheep.  Frank tells him that now they are both blacksheeps.

Meanwhile Bobby C. has gotten himself into trouble by getting his girlfriend pregnant.  Because his girlfriend is a devout Catholic, his parents want him to marry her but being a young man, he is thinking that she should get an abortion.  While at the club, Frank Jr. watches his brother on the dance floor but Bobby wants to ask Frank Jr. if the Pope would grant them dispensation if they go for an abortion but Frank Jr. tells him it’s not likely the will.  And because of this, Frank Jr. feels conflicted about his life.

As for Tony and Stephanie, the two continue to practice for the competition and their friendship grows.  But you feel that the two have chemistry with each other but Stephanie continues to want to keep their relationship as professional but Tony gets somewhat irked that his magical charm is not working on her like it does with the other ladies.  Tony even goes as far as losing his job because he wants to get closer to her.

As for the other friends of Tony, one of them gets beaten up by a Puerto Rican gang known as the Barracudas and thus Double-J, Joey and Tony take matters into their own hands by going to a bar frequented by the Barracudas and getting into a fight.  The group are severely banged up and to make matters worse, they find out that the people they beat up were not the people responsible for hurting their friend.

The big dance competition at 2001 Odyssey is now taking place and a few couples are doing quite well.  Tony and Stephanie win the competition but Tony is very upset.  He knew that the Puerto Rican couple were way better than them and what makes him more upset is everyone around him doesn’t see that.  He feels that he only won because of his popularity at the club and immediately takes their prize money and trophy and gives it to the people he thought should of won.  No one understands why he did it but Tony starts to realize that he’s different from his friends.  He wants to accomplish something in his life and he wants to be noticed for his dancing and to be rewarded for the top prize knowing that his dance was not as good as the other couple irks him.

And thus, the memorable night of Tony, Stephanie and friends begin.   A night which would lead to a series of major consequences that will affect everyone’s life forever.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” looks incredible on Blu-ray.  The film is presented in 1080p High Definition and I compared the video quality of the original DVD and perhaps it was the upconverting but the DVD looks terrible compared to the Blu-ray.

In the famous opening sequence as the film pans around New York and then we see John Travolta as Tony Manero walking with swagger with a can of paint while looking at the women, on the DVD the picture quality was slightly dark but watching the Blu-ray, it’s brighter, sharper, more colorful.  I was comparing the picture quality and it was like night and day.  “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER”, for a film that is over 30-years-old, just looks incredible in high definition.

And the music, which is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (also, featured in French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Mono) is just crystal clear.  I was very impressed with the audio quality as the disco music just comes out alive on your home theater setup.  Dialogue is well-heard but when the music comes on (which is frequent), the music and hearing it on high definition was quite awesome.  The film is primarily a dialogue and music driven film, so you will get more through the front channel and low frequencies on your subwoofer.

The film also comes with English subtitles inc. English SDH, Spanish and Portuguese.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

In the 25th Anniversary of “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER”, there was the commentary, VH1 special featurette and the deleted scenes.  For the 30th Anniversary, we get all new special features to celebrate the 30th Anniversary.   It’s important to note that John Travolota is the main cast member who did not take part in the 30th Anniversary interviews.  Included are:

  • Commentary by John Badham – This is the same commentary used on the 25th Anniversary disc.  John Badham commenting on the filming of “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” and the difficulties they faced due to the fans of John Travolta who were everywhere the camera crews were at.  Very good insight on the whole film.
  • Catching the Fever – This is where you can find a good bulk of featurettes such as:

A 30-Year Legacy – (15:23) An interview with Director John Badham, Producers and cast of “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” sans John Travolta.  The group talking about working on the film, how iconic the film became as it inspired disco, fashion and much more.

Making Soundtrack History – (12:37) An interview with the Bee Gees and more in regards to how the film used the music as a form of promotional by having the soundtrack released first and eventually creating hype around the film.  Also, interesting information of how the Bee Gees felt their careers were over because they were a 60’s band and how the film gave them a new life.

Platforms & Polyester – (10:35) Polyester was very big then and quite inexpensive.  But those who wore polyester were in and also how the film made a certain brand of shoes quite a fad back in the late 70’s.

Deejays & Discos – (10:17) Interviews with DJ’s and people of the time talking about how things were back during the day at disco clubs and how celebrities were often DJ’ing and more.

Spotlight on Travolta – (3:35) Interviews with cast and big names from the 70’s in regards to working with John Travolta.  The theme was the same with each talent, Travolta was courteous, friendly and never put himself higher than anyone on the set.  Everyone loved working with him.

  • Back to Bay Ridge – (9:00) Actor Joseph Cali who plays the character of Joey visits the various locations from the film in New York and shows how things have or haven’t changed since 1977.
  • Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese – (9:48) John “The Dance Doctor” Cassese teaches the viewer how Tony and Stephanie dance their popular competition dance.
  • Fever Challenge! – (4:00) Learning some of the complicated dance moves from “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER”
  • Deleted Scenes – (3:36)  It’s important to note that there were two films available for the public.  A rated “R” version and a “PG” version which would attract a young audience (note: There was no PG-13 at the time).  The deleted scenes were used in the PG version of the film and the more sexual and profane scenes were toned down.  Included is a deleted scene which shows Tony’s father getting his job back, Tony going to Stephanie’s home to apologize and more.

It was great to have 30th Anniversary features for this Blu-ray but for those who own the 25th Anniversary DVD edition, you may not want to give away the DVD just yet.  The original DVD contained a VH1 special feature that shows more of the emotional and somewhat darker side behind-the-scenes of the film in which Travolta’s real life girlfriend was dying of breast cancer and how it took a toll on him during the filming of “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE” and also other things discussed on that 30-minute featurette.

I would imagine that the featurette was not included on the Blu-ray because of rights or the fact that everyone on the VH1 special no longer look the same as they do on the 30th Anniversary featurettes and wanting to keep things consistent.

My parents were hardcore into disco when I was a child.  I was taken to watch “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” at the theaters twice, my parents put the vinyl of the soundtrack and the Bee Gees playing quite often during those years and remember all these people coming over for disco parties.

Suffice to say that “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” was an iconic film of that time period.  Sure, there are music videos and shows that I could think of that popularized disco but this film did more than that.  It is now ingrained into pop culture for the music, the dancing, the polyester, the platform shoes and the hair.

I think there is a misconception among people that “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” is like “GREASE” (a film made in 1978, a year after SNF).  This is not a musical, the film is about teenagers living in New York and one knowing he has potential to do something bigger.  His family life sucks, his friends constantly get into trouble and don’t share the same passion in dancing as he does and he’s tired of living his life of being a dancer at a club and wants to get serious with his life.

The film shows major repercussions to the characters at the end and the things you see on this film, especially its racial tone probably would not be acceptable today.  This film is about youth and a people wanting more in their lives (unfortunately, its sequel “Staying Alive” directed by Sylvester Stallone was not as great despite it being a financial success).

John Travolta does an absolutely great job as Tony Manero.  It’s one thing to learning the various choreography for the film but there are certain mannerisms that you can’t help but laugh.  In one scene, his father hits him in the back in the head after he mouths off to his mother.  Tony makes a comment of how he has been working so long on his hair and his father hits it.  Another scene, where Stephanie and Tony go out and eat and Tony with no manners talks with food in his mouth.  But to find out that a lot of these scenes were improvised by Travolta was shocking.

As James Dean made “Rebel Without a Cause” a youth film for its time and both he and the film became iconic for that time, John Travolta and the cast knew that this was his vehicle to shine and Travolta succeeded.

And the other talents made this film feel real, such as his gang of friends to even Donna Pescow as Annette, having to gain weight and regain her New York accent for this role.  Karen Lynn Gorney having to learn all the dance moves along with Travolta was convincingly real as a woman not wanting to be bad but wanting to be better.

John Badham did a great job in capturing the urban life and the youth during the late 1970’s and although his name would be branded with “War Games”, “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” was a film that many people would forever remember as one, if not his best directorial work ever.

And the music especially for those who did grow up around disco knows the impact of the soundtrack of the film.  The soundtrack for “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” was the first music soundtrack to utilize a double album and also released before the film to create hype and eventually becoming the largest selling soundtrack ever is a great accomplishment.

And last, the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray is just fantastic.  Again, comparing the DVD picture quality and the Blu-ray quality is like night and day.  The Blu-ray blows away the 25th Anniversary out of the water.   I’m just impressed with both picture and audio quality and how well the transfer is in High Definition.

Again, for those who own the 25th Anniversary, may want to keep it for the VH1 Special Feature which has a deeper behind-the-scenes of what happened on set during the filming but overall, the new featurettes created for the 30th Anniversary in combination with HD video and audio makes this 1977 classic a disc worth owning for film buffs and those who are nostalgic of that time period.

“SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” is highly recommended!

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