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Saturday Night Fever

Paramount // Unrated // May 2, 2017
List Price: $16.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted May 4, 2017 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Made in 1977 at the height of the disco trend, Saturday Night Fever takes place in and around Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Here a working class nineteen year old named Tony Manero (John Travolta) spends his days working at a local hardware store. His home life isn't so hot. He's constantly fighting with his blue collar dad and he can't seem to measure up, in his parents' eyes at least, to his older brother, a priest.

At night time, however, it's a different story. Tony and his pals hit the local discos, their hair done up just right and all decked out in the finest clothes. It's here that Tony forgets about the drudgery of his day to day existence. When he hits the dance floor, people pay attention. When his friend Annette (Donna Pescow) lets him know about an upcoming dance competition, he agrees to partner with her for it. Things start off pretty smoothly but once Tony sets his eyes on Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), he pushes Annette aside in favor of her, a better dancer who will give Tony a bigger shot at taking the prize.

Travolta was nominated for an Oscar for his turn in this picture and while he didn't take the statue home, there's a reason he's still so closely associated with this picture and so fondly remembered for this role: he's very, very good in the part. Sure, it's easy to snicker at the seventies fashions and to ape on the actor's speech patterns but Travolta makes Tony believable. He's not the smartest kid on the block, he doesn't have a lot of career options and it doesn't look like he's the type of guy who can really make much of himself… until he hits the dance floor. Once he does, he's alive, no longer concerned with measuring up to his brother or having to put in overtime selling paint to old ladies. He's also not distracted by the self-destructive tendencies of some of his pals. When Tony's dancing, he's a star. So you can see why he'd take to disco the way that he does. It's the type of competition he's got a shot at winning. Of course, tossing Annette aside in favor of the flashier Stephanie doesn't wind up doing him any favors in terms of ‘nice guy appeal' but Tony's not out to be a nice guy, he's out to win. Travolta shines during the dance scenes, the guy really could move, and he handles the film's not insignificant dramatic content just as well. The supporting players are all pretty solid here too, but it's Travolta's show, let there be no doubt.

Shot on location in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the movie is also a fascinating snapshot of New York City's aged love affair with disco. All the clothes, the lights, the crazy fashions and the over the top dance moves are captured with loads of style by director John Badham and his crew. It's a very glossy, polished film in terms of its visual style, at least during the dance scenes (the more dramatic scenes have a heavier, grittier tone to them which accurately reflects the feel of the story being told here). If the film is undeniably an obvious product of its time, so be it. The coming of age themes that the plot deftly explores still hold true today. You don't have to be a disco fan to appreciate the story that Saturday Night Fever tells.

Of course the film's use of music is also extraordinary. The soundtrack was a huge hit in its own right when it was first released and many of the Bee Gees tracks used in the film have gone on to become iconic in their own right. From the opening scene where Travolta walks down the street to the sounds of Staying Alive to the infectious boogie of tracks like More Than A Woman, Night Fever and More Than A Woman the movie wouldn't have been nearly the hit that it was without the contributions of the Gibbs.

Note that this Blu-ray release of Saturday Night Fever contains the original theatrical cut of the movie (running an hour and fifty-nine minutes) as well as the never before released director's cut of the film (clocking in at two hours and two minutes). The main additions to the director's cut? A scene where Tony gets out of his friends car and stares, deep in thought, at the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, a scene where Tony's dad winds up going back to work and a scene where Tony stops at Stephanie's apartment to talk to her. These additions don't change the film much but they do add to Tony's relationship with Stephanie and flesh out his relationship with his family a bit more effectively.

The Blu-ray:


Saturday Night Fever is presented on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded transfer framed in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1 widescreen. Restored in 4k from the original negative, the picture quality on this release is really strong. The image is very clean but it never looks scrubbed, there's no obvious DNR here and grain looks nice and natural, never distracting or clumpy. Detail is, in many scenes, outstanding. You can make out all the fibers in the different outfits and the scenes that take place in the hardware store, a well-lit environment, allow you to take in all the different labels, stickers, et cetera. once things shift to the various nightclubs, it's a bit of a different story, but that's part of the movie's look. In these scenes the players are bathed in all manner of lights, often times deep reds, and understandably detail isn't as strong in these scenes but even still, with all of that stylized lighting being used here the picture is still really impressive. Colors look great, skin tones nice and natural and black levels are deep but never to the point where they exhibit any crush.


The main track on this disc is an English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, but you also get French and Portuguese tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Spanish track in Dolby Digital Mono. Optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish. Getting back to that lossless mix, it sounds pretty great. The dialogue here is easy enough to understand, it has good presence to it and it sounds natural enough. The surround activity here isn't bombastic but pay attention to the rear channels during some of the more active scenes and you'll pick up on some interesting activity. Most of the mix comes at us from the front, however, with the iconic Bee Gees' soundtrack thumping and bumping with some serious weight and push behind it. It's during the scenes where music is used that the track really impresses, but even in the quieter moments it still sounds really good.


Supplements (all of which will look familiar to those who have the previous Blu-ray release) start off with an audio commentary from director John Badham available only over the theatrical version of the movie. Despite some dead air here and there, it's a pretty informative track with Badham basically guiding us through his experiences making the film. He talks not only about staging the famous dance scenes but also offers up some observations about the different characters in the film. He shares some stories about shooting the movie on location, working alongside Travolta and the other cast members, the use of music in the film and quite a bit more. This is a genuinely interesting, informative talk worth checking out. The disc also allows you to watch the movie with its 70's Discopedia option enabled. This is basically a pop up track that offers up information about various elements of the film as it plays out in front of you, with an emphasis on the disco fad that the film is clearly based around.

From there we move on to a five-part featurette called Catching The Fever. The first part, A Thirty Year Legacy, spends fifteen minutes discussing what makes the film a popular picture more than three decades after it originally screened, thanks to its music, its themes and the star power of a young John Travolta. In Making Soundtrack History we get thirteen minutes of insight into the work that The Bee Gees did on the picture and how important it was to getting the music just right for the film. Platforms & Polyester is a ten minute segment that goes into a good bit of detail about how and why the costume design turned out the way that it did, while Deejays & Discos spends another ten minutes exploring the how disco culture and discotheques obviously played a huge part in the genesis of the film. The fifth and final segment is Spotlight On Travolta, a four minute piece that gives us a quick overview of his work on this film and how it led to bigger things for the actor.

The disc additionally includes some shorter featurettes, starting with Back To Bay Ridge with Joseph Cali. Here the actor spends ten minutes exploring a bunch of the locations that were used in the film was the existed when this was made in in 2007 or so. It's interesting to see what's changed and what hasn't (thankfully the pizza joint is still around!). Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese is a ten minute instructional video that shows you how to recreate some of the actor's infamous dance moves from the film's big finish while Fever Challenge is a four minute dance off style interactive game. Last but not least, there's a single Deleted Scene included here featuring Tony and Stephanie in a car together. Unfortunately Paramount opted not to include the original theatrical trailer here.

Outside of that we get menus and chapter selection. The disc is housed inside a standard Blu-ray keepcase that in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover. There's also a paper insert included inside the case advertising the upcoming reissue of the soundtrack.

Final Thoughts:

Saturday Night Fever holds up really well, a genuinely solid film that mixes the fun inherent in the disco sequences with some honestly believable human drama. Say what you will about Travolta, but he's great here in the lead and the supporting players are strong too. The movie has style to spare and an iconic soundtrack. Paramount's new Blu-ray disc doesn't do much with new extra features, but it does look and sound great and include the director's cut for the first time. Owners of the first disc will have to decide if this is worth the double dip, but for those who don't have that disc, this release comes highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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