SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Donna Pescow
Director: John Badham
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: September 11, 2007
you just watch the hair?! You know,
I work a long time on my hair, and he hits it!”
movies come out of the can with the self-assuredness of knowing they were made
for the time capsule. From John
Travolta’s first strutting steps to the tune of the Bee Gees’ “Staying
Alive” in Saturday Night Fever, you know this is one of them.
course, it’s easy to recognize that fact some 30 years after its release, when Travolta’s undulating dance moves, white suit and sculpted hair have long been
as iconographic in cinema as Boris Karloff’s makeup in Frankenstein or
James Dean’s red jacket and white undershirt in Rebel Without a Cause.
Tony Manero is the disco era’s rebel in a film that tapped into our
consciousness with its themes of escaping into the things we love and how those
moments make life worth living.
(Travolta, of course) is a working class stiff from Brooklyn.
By day, he sells paints in a hardware store.
But on Saturday night, he’s the king of the dance floor at Odyssey
2001. Dancing is his passion and
his escape…the rest of the time, he feels like a nobody, but for those few
hours under the lights and mirrored balls, all eyes are on him.
film portrays the escapist nature of Tony’s dancing so perfectly, that it’s
usually the memory that lingers the most. Truth
be told, as much or more time in the picture is spent showing what Tony escapes
from: the problematic home life,
his listless buddies, his inability to cope with women as human beings instead
two women in his life are Annette (Pescow), who loves him but represents
everything he wants to break away from, and Stephanie (Gorney), who symbolizes
what he wants to attain. He shuns
the former to chase the latter, but Stephanie is an illusion in more ways than
one. She seems high class to him
because she types in an office where stars occasionally stop by (the audience
will recognize by her speech and manners that she’s only putting on airs and
has no more class than Tony). But
she can dance, and Tony hopes to parlay an upcoming dance contest into romance
actually had never seen the R rated version before DVD, and am happy to
say that in uncut form, the movie is much grittier and more frank in what
subjects it wants to explore. In
other words, it’s more than just an extra curse word here and there.
Tony, likeable through his faults, is actually a much darker and more
well rounded character when the picture doesn’t flinch.
dance sequences and great music are juxtaposed with grimmer imagery, including a
finale that is, for me, quite a jaw-dropper, as an emotionally scarred Tony
seems bitterly helpless (or too angry) to do the right thing as a drugged-out
Annette spirals downward into a nightmare.
An exclamation point in the form of a death pulls the final trigger in
Tony’s life. He finally decides
to follow his heart, even though his mind remains jumbled and his life
ultimately unresolved. Do we look
toward Tony’s future with any hope (let’s pretend for a moment that the
sequel doesn’t exist)? The
ambiguity may not be the right final note, which is why, I think, we tend to
remember the dancing and the music more than anything.
called this a time capsule picture, and the more you watch it, the more you
recognize how amusingly self-aware it is, from the lines about polyester and
hair to the images of Farrah Fawcett, Bruce Lee and Al Pacino…and of course,
most of all, disco, as this was the first movie to tap into what was essentially
an underground movement at the time, and helped turn it into a national
sensation, complete with music, fashion, and an inevitable backlash.
Travolta has come a long way in his career, and offered more than his share of
memorable performances, but just when I get settled into thinking of him as
Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction or Jack Stanton in Primary Colors, I
watch Saturday Night Fever again, and realize that Tony Manero is too
firmly etched in my mind to ever be erased.
Considering his Oscar nomination and the power of the performance,
that’s hardly a dismissal.
impressive…in fact, quite stunning! Paramount’s
anamorphic offering here is one of the best looking transfer I’ve seen for
a film from the 70s. This is a
glowing, colorful feast for the eyes, especially inside the nightclub, where
lights, shadows, tones and images come to vibrant life.
Despite all the goings-on, there are no distortions, no softness, no
grain, and no evidence of compression to mar the effect.
The palate is rich and deep, the detail level strong throughout, and the
print is in supreme condition. I
never would have guessed it could look this good even on disc…kudos to
I love the Bee Gees…can’t help it. Hearing
their wonderful and inescapable song score in 5.1 is heaven on earth.
In fact, had this disc included a 5.1 music-only track, it might have
made for the ultimate party soundtrack! The
disco music purrs and booms in full surround orchestration, with the subwoofer
keeping the beats strong and pure. The
rear stage makes the streets of Brooklyn come to life with ambience and
background cues, while the front stage handles the dialogue with no problems
(though it can’t help but sound a bit thin in comparison to the remastered
music). A listening pleasure.
The disc starts off with a pretty good commentary track from John Badham…if you’re into trivia, like I am, you’re bound to learn a number of juicy tidbits along the way that you never knew before. There are a few pauses here and there, but over all, the information is good, making this a worthwhile listen. For even more trivia fun, there's a 70s Discopedia subtitle feature that offers info both interesting and off-the-wall. Though be warned...if you were around when the film first came out, like I was, it might make you feel a bit old.
"Catching The Fever" is a 52 minute documentary that focuses on multiple aspects of the production and features many cast and crew interviews, including the surviving Bee Gees, but oddly enough, no Travolta, even though he's the focus of one of the segments. There is a "Back to Bay Ridge" featurette, a dance lesson, and "Fever Challenge", which is supposed to show you some extra moves.
The packaging is very cool, with the DVD looking like a giant mirror ball behind John Travolta!