HTF REVIEW: "Saturday Night Fever" (Highly Recommended) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Oct 1, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Saturday Night Fever

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 1977
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 118 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)

    Where do you go when the record is over
    Though fans have been haunting Paramount for such
    titles as Grease and Raiders of the Lost
    , it is actually Saturday Night Fever
    that has been the object of my desire since Paramount
    entered DVD nearly 5 years ago.
    With the release a mere week away, I went through
    my own little hell trying to get my hands on a copy
    for review. Paramount was very late in getting
    screener copies out to the Press, and as a result,
    members were posting the earliest reviews of this
    title. You need to understand how important this
    film is to me. It ranks as one of my top three
    favorite films, and no matter what, I wanted to
    review this film as soon as possible. That prompted
    me to find an alternate means of getting a copy of
    the DVD in my hands, and I really need to thank
    Moderator Steve Simon for loaning me his copy.
    In 1976, Dick Clark interviewed an up and coming
    singer named John Travolta who told the American
    Bandstand host that he was currently working on
    his first feature film, promising it would hot.
    Little did anyone know that a year later, Travolta
    would rise to superstar status as Tony Monero, in
    this coming-of-age film tale about a guy who
    struggles to be the disco king at a local disco
    and learns the value of life in 1977 Brooklyn.
    The film opens in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge section.
    A teenage Tony Monero (John Travolta) struts his
    way through the dreary streets of Brooklyn, as he
    swings a paint can to the beat of The Bee Gees. We
    follow him to work as he contends with a menial
    job at a paint store and comes home to constant
    harassment from his Mother and Father who wish
    he were more like his brother Frank (Martin Shakar)
    who turned to the priesthood -- or has he? At night,
    Tony is the boss as he dons a polyester suit and
    takes control of the local disco with his hordes of
    followers. When Tony is dancing on the dance floor,
    his problems are forgotten and his limitations soar.
    While he has no problem attracting women like Annette
    (Donna Peskow) who will do anything for him, Tony's
    attraction turns towards Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney),
    a beautiful but snobbish woman who represents his dream
    of class.
    Saturday Night Fever prompted a cultural
    revolution making white polyester suits an instant
    fashion craze, defined a generation of disco dancers
    and put the music of The Bee Gees in just about every
    household with the largest-selling soundtrack in
    history. It was a film that defined the 70s era with
    its portrayal of youth and rebellion.
    Saturday Night Fever arrives in a very
    unique digipack box. I generally hate these damn
    flimsy cardboard packages, but for once, I can
    forgive Paramount for choosing it. I was quite
    surprised by the box's cover art that features
    a posing Travolta against a glittering dance floor
    background that almost looks totally holographic.
    This is a wonderful packaging idea and I give thanks
    to Paramount for adding something special to the
    cover art.
    It took a little bit of time to figure out how
    I could pull the inside packaging out without
    damaging the box sleeve, but I managed to do it.
    The cardboard innards opens to a 2-pane gatefold
    with plastic hub housing that holds the DVD. The
    artwork inside is exceptional, featuring Tony
    Monero sitting alone in a graffiti-adorned subway
    car with cigarette in his mouth. On the left pane
    is a pop-out pocket of Tony Monero which holds a
    single-page chapter listing.
    How is the transfer?
    I think I died and went to heaven. This transfer
    is everything I had only dreamed it would be.
    There is no doubt that Paramount spent a lot of
    time and effort in making this DVD transfer look
    as exceptional as it does. In fact, it looks and
    sounds like a totally brand new film.
    Let me talk a little about the picture and sound
    together, as both go hand in hand in making this
    a totally satisfying movie experience.
    As the film begins, and the camera pans over the
    span of the Verazzano bridge, you can hear the
    distinct noises of boat horns in the front channels
    and the sound of city bound traffic in the rears.
    Suddenly we catch an incoming Brooklyn-bound "B"
    train as The Gibb Brothers' vocals rise from the
    sounds of the train's brakes as it comes to a
    screeching halt. Suddenly we find ourselves
    immersed in 5 channels of Bee Gees music. Tony's
    vividly red-collared dress shirt peaks out beneath
    his jet black leather jacket as he struts with paint
    can in hand to the heart-pounding LFE channel beats
    of "Staying Alive".
    As you sit back and watch these opening moments,
    you can't help but gape at the visual and audio
    presentation that plays before you. Here is a
    film that looks as good as it sounds.
    The transfer is nothing short of incredible when
    you consider how lackluster this film has looked
    through repeated cable broadcasts, and how similar
    films of this period have transferred over to the
    DVD format. I swear to you, the film looks as if
    it was shot yesterday. Images are razor-sharp and
    immaculately detailed. There is not a single bit
    of film grain or noise to be seen anywhere. Colors
    look vivid and extremely well balanced. Night scenes
    on the dark lamp lit streets of Brooklyn never lose
    any detail whatsoever. Most of all, for the first
    time on any format, the colors inside the Odyssey
    2001 dance club no longer look smeared with its
    colors breaking through the smoke-filled room.
    There is far sharper detail and color balance here
    than ever seen before.
    If you think you never saw Saturday Night
    Fever look this good -- wait until you
    hear the new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. You of
    course realize that the sound has been totally
    re-engineered to take advantage of the 5.1
    spectrum -- and while it's not as perfect as
    it would have sounded today, it comes very close.
    Dialogue does stay mostly in the center channel,
    though it does somewhat bleed to the fronts. There's
    also an equal amount of front action distributed
    between the front and center channels. The rear
    channels are constantly filled with the sounds of
    the city, making the film's listening environment
    more realistic. All the music in this film has
    been souped-up and remixed. Fortunately, the dialogue
    to music mix has been engineered very well in that
    one never overpowers the other. The disco sounds
    of The Bee Gees music along with artists such
    as The Trammps, Kool and the Gang and
    Walter Murphy come across the front channels
    with immense beat-pounding sonic force unlike I have
    ever heard before, supplemented by a very aggressive
    LFE channel that pounds away to every musical beat.
    I was extremely happy with the dynamic range and
    subwoofer response of this film's soundtrack.
    Special Features
    The DVD begins with the pulsating sounds of
    Disco Inferno as the multi-colored lights
    of the 2001 Odyssey dance floor reveal window
    shots containing snippets of scenes from the film.
    This is the kind of menu that really sets the mood
    for the film. A wonderful job by Paramount!
    There's a full length commentary by
    Director John Badham, who is a pleasure to
    listen to simply because he is very enthusiastic
    about talking about his film. Through the film's
    opening we learn that Travolta's sister had a cameo
    as the pizza vender, and that his brother Joey
    stood in for him during some of the paint can
    shots while John was away grieving the loss of
    his girlfriend. Badham talks about the experience
    of shooting on the streets of Brooklyn rather than
    on a studio back lot, and the difficulties they had
    with mobs of fans that showed up to the film shoots.
    Searching from disco to disco through the city of
    New York, Badham kept coming back to the 2001
    Odyssey simply because it represented Brooklyn.
    The club was much simpler than what presented.
    A company came in and built a $15,000 dance floor,
    while the set designer bought roles of aluminum
    foil and hung it on the walls to give a glittering
    effect to the film. Suffice to say, the club owner
    was very happy with what was done. Badham reveals
    that throughout the film, the original music was
    played to the actors, but a mistake in a timing
    synch almost caused the film to be released in
    mono rather than stereo. Though I was a little
    disappointed that the Director remained silent
    during the sequence on the Verazzano Narrows Bridge,
    he does manage to make it up later during the
    second climatic bridge sequence where we learn
    why Travolta was determined to stay out of certain
    It's a joy listening to Badham talk. You can tell
    how much he loved this film as well as the music
    that became a part of it.
    Highlights from VH1's Behind The Music,
    concentrates on the filming of Saturday Night
    Fever, which we are told was anything but
    magical. Before the documentary's opening credits
    has a chance to roll, a recent interview with
    Travolta reveals that he never thought he'd ever
    get through it all. First there was the huge
    amount of choreography that had to be learned,
    some of which we see here briefly in John Avidsen's
    home movies. Then there were the mobs of fans
    that showed up on the set, almost halting film
    production. In the middle of filming, Travolta
    lost his real-life girlfriend to breast cancer.
    Featured interviews with cast members John
    Travolta, Donna Peskow, Paul Pape and Barry Miller
    as well as critics like Gene Siskel, talk about
    how the film triggered a new social movement in
    America. People were suddenly finding something
    new in their lives as they danced to a whole new
    disco beat. It was talented Producer Robert
    Stigwood that laid out the money and bought the
    film rights to a trendy 1975 magazine article
    written by Nik Cohn. Through many script and
    character revisions as well as the firing of an
    initial Director, John Badham came on board to
    take over a project that most doubted would ever
    be completed. Alongside home movies, we watch
    dance coach Denny Terrio talk about teaching an
    enthusiastic Travolta floor splits and knee drops.
    Being an experienced dancer, Travolta was able to
    easily learn the new dance moves. We even get to
    see Travolta having a humorous moment watching
    this seemingly lost home video footage for the
    first time. Director John Badham talked about
    the crisis he faced as he came aboard a dying
    project -- one without a leading actress. A recent
    interview with Karen Lynn Gorney reveals how she
    got the role from a chance taxi cab interview.
    We learn that once the film was completed and
    Travolta saw the rough cut, he was devastated by
    the fact that his favorite dance sequence had been
    wrongly cut -- especially since he worked so hard
    on it. A contact to Robert Stigwood gave Travolta
    final say to how a dance sequence would be edited.
    There was also great fear that this film was being
    made at a time when the disco trend was dying off.
    Little did the filmmakers know that this would be
    the film that would bring a brand new awakening to
    the disco movement. A really superb documentary
    that I am so happy to see included on this DVD.
    (length: approx. 30 minutes)
    Three deleted scenes have made their way
    to this explosive DVD release. They include...
    * Tony driving Stephanie to the front steps of
    her suburban home as he attempts to make out with
    her in the front seat, despite Stephanie's harsh
    objections. (1:28)
    * Tony accepts a telegram for his father. His
    father learns that he is being called back to work
    as he banters with his son about household money.
    * An extension of the film's final scene finds
    Tony arriving at Stephanie's home as he apologizes
    to her over an intercom. (:58)
    All of these scenes are in finished form.
    Now here's a question....where the heck is the
    film's trailer? How on earth did Paramount
    overlook this small detail?
    Final Thoughts
    Saturday Night Fever is a film that set
    trends and captured imaginations. Two decades
    after its release it has lost none of its appeal.
    Paramount has done a tremendous job with this
    film's transfer. It was almost worth waiting
    5 years for this, as I don't think such care would
    have been given to this DVD back in 1997. With
    the exception of not including the film's original
    trailer, I am very happy with the quantity of
    supplemental material that has been included on
    this DVD.
    Perhaps after seeing the amount of screenshots
    I have included here and the enthusiasm in my
    words, you'll realize how proud I am that one of
    my top three favorite films has been done right
    on DVD.
    Whether you're a brother or whether you're a mother
    you deserve to own the hottest DVD of the year! Pop
    it in your player and literally feel the city breakin'
    and everybody shakin'.
    Release Date: October 8, 2002
  2. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Another film I've always meant to see, but never got around to.

    I may just end up picking this one up blind, based on that review.
  3. Neil White

    Neil White Supporting Actor

    Jan 8, 1999
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    Can't wait for my copy. Thanks for the review Ron.

  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Great review and I'm going to watch my copy in a few minutes.

  5. Scott DeToffol

    Scott DeToffol Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 25, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I love passionate people! Congrats on getting your movie on DVD, Ron.

    You might have sold me, and I had no intention of buying this one.
  6. Jeff_A

    Jeff_A Screenwriter

    Mar 6, 2001
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    I was planning to purchase this one the moment it was announced - regardless of the quality. Your review has apparently made that a non-issue. You truly have made my day, Ron. Thanks!! [​IMG]
  7. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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    You had me at hello... er... "Saturday Night Fever".
  8. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

    Dec 4, 1999
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    Someone HAS to have the "Ladies Man" Ron picture. I think it'd be very appropriate [​IMG]
  9. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

    Feb 4, 2002
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  10. Tony_Faville

    Tony_Faville Supporting Actor

    Jun 1, 2000
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    I've been waiting for this one....glad to know the wait is worth it.

    Thanks Ron.
  11. Esten

    Esten Supporting Actor

    Nov 15, 2000
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    'Saturday Night Fever' is 1.85:1.The specs say 2.35:1.
    Oh,and great review,btw.I'll pick it up as soon as i have some money... whenever that may be.Damn DVD habit.[​IMG]
  12. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

    Dec 6, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the review, Ron. Of course, I was going to purchase this DVD no matter if there had been a reveiw or not before the release. I was never a fan of disco music, but this movie is more than just a Disco Music Movie. Just like The Searchers is more than a Western movie. I know that is a wierd analogy, but SNF is a real slice of 70s life-style. This DVD is a must for all DVD collectors.
  13. Alex-C

    Alex-C Screenwriter

    Apr 18, 2000
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    Ron, you made my day.
  14. Ed Robitaille

    Jun 2, 2002
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    I get laughed about liking this one all the time being i'm 25 years old an all...This moive is awesome i'll say it.I don't care who knows!! I can't wait to pick it up!![​IMG]
  15. DaveN

    DaveN Extra

    Sep 17, 2001
    Likes Received:
    I have always wanted to post this as a reply - MINE!

    I was nine when the movie came out and eleven when I started to understand its effect. However, the movie and the Bee Gees had been turned into a joke via the demise of disco before I got to see the movie. But when I did see the movie, it was incredible. It really filled in pieces of the 70's that had made an impression on me but weren't detailed enough to put into place. After all, this is a very adult movie and those were adult times. (and I was a very long way from being an adult)

    I've never seen it in OAR - and I cannot wait to get my hands on the dvd! Thanks for the great review, Ron.


    ps - For those who are studying some of the more interesting social aspects of the 70's, I highly recommend 'Looking for Mr. Goodbar'. This is a seriously underrated film starring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere. Talk about adult themes!
  16. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

    Jan 24, 2000
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    I almost skipped reading the review due to the lack of 'Highly Recommended' in the subject heading (??), but decided to knowing you are passionate about this film.

  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Same packaging but I had a little more trouble
    sliding the innard contents out this time.

  18. Tim RH

    Tim RH Second Unit

    Nov 20, 2001
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    I hope they don't screw up the Canadian packaging with a bunch of French stuff.
  19. James_Garner

    James_Garner Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 1, 2002
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    Real Name:
    James Garner
    Good review, Ron. I just wish Paramount somehow added the altenative PG-rated version on the DVD, especially since that version has long been a staple in Paramount's VHS Library. Only 2 more Robert Stigwood-produced musicals (Grease 2 , Paramount; and Sgt. Pepper's... Band , Universal) Remain MIA on Region 1 dvd.(Pepper is available as a pan-and-scan all-region Brazillian dvd)
    Ron, any word on those 2 films?
  20. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Real Name:

    The VH1 behind the scenes segment is an extra on this dvd and it talks in great detail about Gene Siskel's love for this film with Roger Ebert remembering his former partner.


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