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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Saturday Night Fever
Saturday Night Fever
Paramount // R // October 8, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Siechen | posted October 21, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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This film holds a lot of nostalgia for me. It came at a time when few people had ever seen the inside of a disco night club. I would be so bold to say that it was "Saturday Night Fever" that was responsible for much of the disco upsurge in the late 70's. While I was much more interested in Star Wars in 1977, "Saturday Night Fever" still made a lasting impression on me for many years to come. I don't imagine that there are very many people over 30 who haven't seen this film, but if you are one of the few who missed it then you owe it to yourself to give it a look.

Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a troubled, young, 22 year old who loves to dance and spend time with his friends at the local disco, "2001 Odyssey" in New Yorks Brooklyn suburbs. Tony is worshipped as a God in the nighttime dance world where he frequently dazzles the crowds with his talents. By day Tony works in a Hardware store where we get a strong contrast to the flashy lights, and bell bottom pants of the discos. Tonys brother returns home with shocking news that he has quit his life as a priest and wants to find something more fulfilling. The Manero parents take the news very hard and it gives Tony a chance to find out more about his brother that he never knew. Annette (played brilliantly by Donna Pescow) is the puppy dog crush who follows Tony around trying to get him to love her but finding that he just isn't interested. She ends up falling into deeper drug use and the loss of self-respect taking her to the level of giving up herself to the other guys sexual desires. Tony meanwhile is enamored with Stephanie (played by Karen Lynn Gorney) who is older and wiser and keeps a certain emotional distance from Tony that only encourages him. The disco throws a dance contest and Tony uses this opportunity to approach Stephanie and create a partnership for the contest and a friendship.

A very significant credit must be given to Travolta for this film. It was his first shot at the lead in a major motion picture and he pulled it off brilliantly taking an unlikeable character and making him very likeable. He had to deal with the loss of a loved one at the time of filming and this made it even more difficult to deal with the rigors of acting and carrying on with the production. He also worked very hard in training for the dance sequences and dieting to trim down for the role of Tony Manero. This performance carried him completely over the bridge from sweathog to highly respected acting talent and cemented him for a future of high-profile success in Hollywood.

The film is replete with profanity, misogyny, drug use, promiscuity, racism, homophobia, suicide, and even rape. These things would given much harsher criticism today, but in the 70's were dealt with differently. The film is rich with defining moments and events in Tony's life that make lasting changes and create self discovery. His relationship with Stephanie brings a great deal of insight for him about intimacy and respect. The film succeeds very well because it doesn't sugar coat anything, but rather gives it to you in the rawest form, trusting the audience to make up their own minds. Combined with the powerful Bee Gees sound track and sexy nightclub scene makes for a very powerful milestone in filmmaking.

PACKAGING: I have to lodge a serious complaint about the packaging. I have seen this packaging previously in TV series DVD collections such as "24" and "Star Trek, The Next Generation". It uses a hard plastic shell that is glued onto a cheap cardboard foldout. Its shoddy, poorly designed and falls apart over time as the glue hardens and fails. There is a slot where a printed slip of paper with the chapter names is placed that constantly slides out making it very annoying when you open up the package. I urge everyone to send a letter to Paramount telling them to please use the standard Amaray case and spare us from trying to be "cool" by using unique packaging. I would much rather have a solid high quality movie with properly treated video and audio than unusual packaging.

VIDEO: Paramount has done a mediocre job here with the video. We are given the print in anamorphic widescreen, but it falls apart in many scenes with artifacts and lack of definition. I understand the age of the film is a factor, but I have seen 20 year-old films look much better with more attention paid to them. Many of the night club scenes are particularly noticeable with blotches and pixelation in the blacks and dark tones. The day scenes are better, but still just not given nearly enough treatment for a film such as this. While the video isn't terrible, it was fairly disappointing.

AUDIO: Contrasting the bad picture we have a fully re-mixed and enhanced audio track that sounds really nice in Dolby Digital 5.1. The Bee Gees sounds really come alive here with new life making the night club scenes very powerful to see. Its really a shame that such good audio treatment is married with such bad picture quality. French and English Dolby Surround tracks are included as well as a commentary by John Baddham. English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

MENUS: The menu designs are animated and nicely done. Navigation is easy and enjoyable.

Commentary by John Baddham: John gives us plenty of insight into the production and hidden storeys we don't normally hear about in the film.

VH1's Behind the Music - A 30 minute recently made featurette with comments by Travolta, Roger Ebert, and many of the stars of the movie. We also get a bit of a look inside the problems and difficulties that plagued the production. We are shown how a cultural shift was happening in the 70's and how Saturday Night Fever played a part in depicting this shift. The original motivations for the film are also layed out and the steps in bringing this film to reality.

Deleted Scenes - 3 deleted scenes, including Tony & Stephanie in the Car, Tony's dad gets his job back, and Tony at Stephanie's Apartment.

Summary: Those magical feelings of dancing the night away amongst the swinging music, swirling lights, and polyester suits is captured for all time with this Icon of filmmaking lore. One of the greatest "Coming of Age" films of all time, "Saturday Night Fever" will forever remain timeless pop culture at it's best. I give the film very high marks, but the DVD suffers from poor packaging and a lack of attention needed for a film with this significance.
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