Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: Saturday Night Fever 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, May 2, 2009.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Saturday Night Fever 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition (Blu-Ray)

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: R (for strong language, sexuality/ nudity and some drug content)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
    Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish mono; French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
    Time: 118 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD 50
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 1977
    Blu-ray Release Date: May 5, 2009


    Twenty, er, nineteen year old Tony Manero (John Travolta) cares about dancing, and plenty of it. He’s a good Brooklyn kid, part of a small Italian family with its requisite little sister, a priest for a brother, an abusive father and a penitent mom. Tony works a nowhere job at the local hardware store schlepping paint to the customers while trying to figure out a way to pay for his weekends at the dance club, 2001 Odyssey. He’s at a turning point in his life where the trappings of his teen years are falling away and the demands of adulthood are pulling at him. The problem is, Tony’s not really good at anything except dancing, and there’s no way to make a living at that. He’s got a group of friends who are in the same spot as him, but they seem fine with their position in life. On the dance floor, Tony comes alive, he commands respect and attention, capturing the hearts and loins of many a girl, especially the clingy Annette (Donna Pescow), although he wants nothing to do with her. While practicing at a local dance studio, he meets the slightly older Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), a girl who’s got her act together, knows what she wants out of life and she can dance. As their relationship builds with each shuffle step, Tony’s old life tumbles forcing him to make a break if he really wants to stay alive.

    The tale of Tony Manero as told in director John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever hearkens back to another story about a troubled youth, that of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, who wants more out of life, but he has no direction or ability to get there. Dreams are a great thing, but you must have the skill to back it up. Here, however, Tony has a natural talent yet he seems to blow it off as a symptom of his conditional malaise, unable to make the connection of how he can get out of Brooklyn and make it across the bridge to the big city. He spins his wheels along with his friends, but he’s trying to put on the breaks even while his friends do not. The popularity of the movie in 1977 was a phenomenon, perhaps reigniting the thoughts and feelings of that generation much as it did their parents in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955.

    Saturday Night Fever captured the zeitgeist of American pop culture at the exact right second catapulting Travolta to super stardom and proclaiming disco the national anthem, at least for a few years. You can see Travolta’s Tony as existing in the same universe as Vinnie Barbarino and Danny Zuko, as he infuses his characters with that mild ethnic swagger and youthful optimism that symbolizes everything that’s great about America and the dreams it fulfills. One of the strangest things I discovered about this movie, which I’d never seen in its entirety until now, was just how little dancing is in it. For the rap it gets as being a cultural icon, with its music and swanky threads, all of that’s window dressing which facilitates the actual story of youthful anomie to play out. Saturday Night Fever may not be the deepest cautionary story for the youth of America, but it’s certainly the grooviest.

    Movie: ****/*****


    Video:
    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

    The Blu-ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I recently reviewed the BD of Grease and I was overwhelmed at what a fine image that was presented. Paramount gives the same love to Saturday Night Fever, maybe even a little more, as we are presented with a sharp and clear transfer that parades around its glorious details. I had to run the disc back to pay attention to the story because I was enthralled by the level of detail in the hardware store, the Manero’s house and the clothing. The film itself varies from razor sharp to a somewhat softer image, particularly around Stephanie, but this appears to be the way it was shot in such diffuse whites. The color palate is muted and slightly drab, especially in any of the scenes outside of the club, but once inside it, the red of the lights and flashing hues of the dance floor spring to life on screen. Again, this is a stylistic choice and probably the victim of some negative aging, but for its vintage, we can forgive such things. Dimensionality is good and it too varies from scene to scene. Black levels are excellent showing fine detail and depth. Edge enhancement is barely noticeable, but you will see it occasionally. There was no film dirt or video noise observed. So far this year, this is the best catalog transfer I have seen.

    Video: ****.5/*****


    Audio:
    The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

    I watched the disc with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. Paramount seems to have done a new 5.1 mix for this release and it is truly exceptional, especially the music. I re-watched several scenes in the movie, such as the first night we see Tony at the club and Night Fever is playing. As the crowd line dances along with the beat, the surrounds open up giving you an incredible “you are there” feel, enough to get you up and dancing along. Thanks to this, that scene emphasizes the culture of the time, and Badham’s camera work and editing only seek to make these couple minutes part of a great film going experience. Outside of the musical numbers, the soundtrack itself contains a lot of songs (and I’m pretty sure almost everyone has a copy of the soundtrack in their collection) and they seem to remain in the background while the dialogue floats above them. It still remains a cohesive soundtrack, but since so many of the scenes were filmed in and around the city and crowds, ADR is very noticeable. Thankfully, it is well done so it doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience. LFE’s are restrained, adding just a little boost to the music. The only real drawback is it sounds like it was recorded when it was as it lacks the warmth of today’s more robust soundtracks. This is a beautiful soundtrack to compliment the similar image.

    Audio: ****.5/*****


    Bonus Material: all of the bonus items are in HD unless otherwise noted.

    Commentary by director John Badham: Badham is very chatty about the details of the shoot and he also talks about the culture of the era. There are very few breaks in the commentary, and Badham provides fun and interesting stories from the set, Travolta and the music.

    Catching the Fever (52:32): this documentary is broken up into five smaller pieces, which can be viewed separately or together. They are: a 30-year Legacy, Making Soundtrack History, Platforms & Polyester, Deejays & Discos and [/i]Spotlight on Travolta.[/i] This is an exhaustive doc covering the origins of the story, getting Travolta, interviews with the Bee Gees about the music, the clothing and costumes, a spotlight on disco, the clubs and Studio 54, and finally a piece on Travolta (and makes his absence from these interviews quite obvious). This is a pretty complete doc that gives you an incredible amount of information, but I just wish Travolta would have been involved as it seems a little empty without him.

    70’s Discopedia: this is a pop-up feature that gives you trivia about the era in which the movie is set.

    Deleted Scenes (3:36, SD): three deleted scenes, “Tony & Stephanie in the car”, “Tony’s Dad Gets His Job Back” and “Tony at Stephanie’s Apartment”. The first one only serves as a precursor to a later event in the plot, while the second one adds nothing to the picture and almost makes Tony’s dad likeable. The last one is just another version of what is already in the movie.

    Back to Bay Ridge (9:00): Joseph Cali escorts us around Bay Ridge revisiting several of the locations seen in the movie.

    Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese (9:50): the self proclaimed “Dance Doctor to the Stars” shows us how to do the moves from the final dance number between Tony and Stephanie.

    Fever Challenge (4:00): this interactive, Wii inspired piece has the colored dance floor on screen and you have to move your feet to mimic the dance steps.

    Bonus Material: ****/*****


    Conclusions:
    Paramount does an incredible job with the AV portion of the disc, with a stunning transfer and an immersive and exciting soundtrack, specifically when it comes to the songs. The extras are good, but Travolta’s absence really sticks out. Get on your boogie shoes and head out for this one!
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    This is one of my top 5 favorite films of all-time.

    Quite thankful that Paramount put this out on Blu-ray so early on,
    as quite frankly, I thought fans would wait forever for this. Meanwhile,
    based on Pat's review, it looks like extreme care was given to this film
    to ensure that it would be a highly satisfying audio and visual experience.

    Cannot wait to watch this next week.
     
  3. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Given that they refer to this as a 30th Anniversary edition, I'm guessing this was ready to go around the same time as Paramount went exclusively HD DVD. Still, it's good to see they made a major effort on the transfer. I would have liked to see the PG version incorporated in some way, as there are several deleted dancing sequences included in it.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Stephen,

    Yeah, actually, Saturday Night Fever was announced over a year
    ago for high-def release. I think the demise of the HD-DVD format put
    the title on hold.
     
  5. Steven Simon

    Steven Simon Producer

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    Also can't wait for this... Will be buying sight unseen!!
     
  6. MattFini

    MattFini Supporting Actor

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    One of my favorite films as well. I can't wait to get it.
     
  7. Vegas 1

    Vegas 1 Supporting Actor

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    Good news, I was never to pleased with the SDDVD. Looking forward to this one.
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Don't get rid of your old DVD just as of yet....

    Had a very limited amount of time today to look through this disc,
    but I did have the opportunity to look at portions of the film and most
    of the included featurettes.

    The good news....

    Paramount took a considerable amount of care to make certain that
    Saturday Night Fever looked and sounded incredible for the
    hi-definition format. Though much of the film is lensed soft and comes
    across as a bit dull, the 2001 Odyssey scenes look exactly opposite --
    very rich in color and detail.

    The bad news is the featurettes.

    There is a good deal of newly recorded material (now 2 years old since
    this was prepared for a 2007 release) that brings together many of the
    original cast members for a pretty decent retrospective. I was actually
    surprised just whom they were able to interview when you consider one
    of the guys played the owner of the hardware store where Tony worked.

    The problem I found is that one, the studio was not able to secure
    Travolta to be part of this retrospective which may have been a decision
    on his part. Second, there is the glaring omission of the VH1 "Behind
    The Scenes" documentary on this film that is WAY better than any of
    the material presented here. Highlights of this documentary are on
    the original DVD release but were never ported over for the Blu-ray
    release.

    ...and is there a trailer anywhere in existence? Never have seen
    the original trailer for this film and it would have been great if that
    would have been included.

    Finally, would it have been so difficult for the studio to have included
    the PG version of this film as well?

    All in all, this is a worthy Blu-ray upgrade, but I would have loved to
    have seen the original "Behind The Music" documentary on this film
    presented in its entirety for this release.

    Thank you Paramount for the care you put into this release.
     
  9. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Producer
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    I haven't seen this movie in years and was never a huge fan (though I respect its place in cinema and pop culture history), but I did know that there were two different versions, the R and the PG. I have no idea what was different between the two of them, or when or why the PG version was created (I'm assuming the R is the original). Can someone here comment on this at all? Definitely been curious about that for a while.
     
  10. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I wasn't either until a year or so ago when I re-watched it and I liked it alot more. I will say that if you probably didn't grow up with it or have a fascination with the 1970's (like me), it probably will not do much for you.
     
  11. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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