It's always amusing to watch Saturday Night Fever with people who are only familiar with the film's place in pop culture history. To most, it's that goofy Seventies lark with that dreamy John Travolta and a bunch of inescapable disco tracks; in reality, it's a pretty stark look at the realities (well, as real as a Hollywood film can get) of the disco generation, albeit based upon a "New York" magazine article that was later learned to be fabricated.
Nevertheless, it was one of the first films to aggressively promote its soundtrack -- there aren't many music collections without a copy of the Bee Gees-heavy album -- and also have its fingers upon the fashion and sexual zeitgeists. There's also the fact that this, along with the previous year's Grease, made Travolta a white-hot superstar ... until, of course, that ill-advised Saturday Night Fever sequel, 1983's Sylvester Stallone-helmed Stayin' Alive tarnished his star a bit.
The story is elemental stuff -- Tony Manero (Travolta) meets the frosty Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), who makes the Brooklyn-born Tony realize he needs to make something of his life -- and, upon my most recent re-watching of the film, really strikes me as akin to Swingers, albeit with "Disco Inferno" and polyester instead of bowling shirts and swing music. It's a timeless, occasionally raw story, directed by John Badham, that occasionally pulses with an authenticity many flicks from the period lack. It's not art by any means, but Saturday Night Fever is a film very much of its time and one that holds up decades later.
This "30th anniversary special collector's edition" is, incredibly, only the second DVD release of Saturday Night Fever, following a 2002 release that marked the film's 25th anniversary. Die-hard fans will want to hang onto the previous disc, since a trio of deleted scenes and a VH-1 special are missing from this release. I'll detail the differences further below.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks sharp throughout, belying the film's advanced age -- there's nary a fleck, scratch or other flaw to be found. While the image carries the presence of film grain, Saturday Night Fever never looks rough. A very clean presentation.
A expansive Dolby Digital 5.1 track is on board, making those Bee Gees classics spring to life and rendering every thickly accented line of dialogue with clarity. A French Dolby 2.0 stereo track is included, as is a Spanish mono track and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Carried over from the 2002 disc is a commentary track from director Badham, but the rest of the supplements are new to this release. The biggest extra is the 52 minute, 39 second documentary "Catching the Fever," presented in anamorphic widescreen and split into five parts -- "A 30-Year Legacy," "Making Soundtrack History," "Platforms & Polyester," "Deejays & Discos" and "Spotlight on Travolta" -- which are playable separately or all together. The doc features newly filmed comments from most of the film's major players. The nine minute featurette "Back to Bay Ridge," presented in anamorphic widescreen, revisits the film's setting, a Brooklyn neighborhood, three decades later. The goofy nine minute, 49 second "Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese" and the four minute "Fever Challenge!" pay homage to the film's choreography (although "Fever Challenge!" feels like a rip-off of the video game "Dance Dance Revolution"). Selecting the header "70's Discopedia" just (curiously) kicked me back to the main menu, with a trailer for Dreamgirls completing the disc.
To most, Saturday Night Fever is a goofy Seventies lark with that dreamy John Travolta and a bunch of inescapable disco tracks; in reality, it's a pretty stark look at the realities (well, as real as a Hollywood film can get) of the disco generation, albeit based upon a "New York" magazine article that was later learned to be fabricated. It's not art by any means, but Saturday Night Fever is a film very much of its time and one that holds up decades later. Recommended.