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Saturday Night Fever arrived in U.S. movie theaters on December 12, 1977, quickly becoming a hit with audiences and critics alike. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Fever, Paramount will release a Director’s Cut of the film, featuring a new transfer and audio mix.

Since I have reviewed a previous release of Saturday Night Fever on this site, many of my thoughts on the movie itself are duplicated. However, I have added information about the additional footage in the film.

Saturday Night Fever changed the way people dressed, communicated, and socialized. Tight bell bottoms, gold chains and platform shoes quickly became the in fashions. While large conventions are held to honor the mastery that is the Star Wars saga, it was Saturday Night Fever that truly changed how people lived. Classes in disco dancing popped up all over the place, as people yearned to learn the latest moves, the idea of a movie soundtrack started to become commonplace after three songs written and recorded by the Bee Gees (“How Deep is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever”) rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for over twenty weeks.

Norman Wexler’s screenplay was based on a July 7, 1976 New York Magazine cover story titled, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn. The article talked about how new generations of young men in the suburbs were agreeably working nine to five jobs during the week. However, on Saturday nights they were all breaking out into the discos to dance, party and score with the chicks.

John Travolta is perfectly cast as Tony Monero, a seemingly slacker paint store employee living in Brooklyn with his parents. On Saturday nights, Tony is the king of the disco. On the dance floor, he exudes confidence and is the epitome of cool to all his buddies. Saturday Night Fever starts out as the story of Tony’s all-consuming effort to win a dance contest at a club called Odyssey 2001. After he spurns his former dance partner Annette (Donna Pescow) for the smarter and sexier Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney), the plot takes a much darker turn, focuses a bit less on the disco.

When Saturday Night Fever first arrived on screens back in 1977, most people just saw it as a disco flick with great beats. Very little mention was made of the underlying darkness of the whole story. Tony is really a fairly pathetic character, desperate to get out of his dead-end life in Brooklyn. Stephanie lives in Manhattan, and represents Tony’s chance to escape a life of broken dreams. For Tony, staying with his friends in Brooklyn, likely means eventually marrying a girl he doesn’t love (because it’s the right thing to do), stuck in a dead-end job. Annette, a rather naïve, trusting girl, is gang raped by a couple of Tony’s friends, while he sits in the front seat. Tony’s friend Bobby C. (Barry Miller) gets a girl pregnant and throughout much of the film he seeks advice on how to handle the situation, even as the boys hit the disco and live their Saturday life. No one around Bobby truly offers to help and he “accidentally” plunges to his death off the Brooklyn Bridge. Saturday Night Fever was really a film about youth looking for a way to escape the monotony of poverty, than a dance contest.

It’s the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that rises above all else. A series of Bee Gees dance grooves along with several other dance friendly songs helped the soundtrack spawn several hit singles and gross $285 million in just the albums first eight months of release. The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack has sold over forty million copies and is one of the biggest selling records of all time.

The Director’s Cut available on this Blu-ray adds 3:13 to the runtime. Unfortunately, the new material doesn’t do much to enhance cell the film, but it doesn’t hurt it either. Casual fans might not even notice the additions. There are three additional sequences. The first comes at the 28:10 mark. Previously available as part of a television version, Tony gets out of his friend’s car, and stares longingly at the Brooklyn Bridge. The second comes at 1:31:45. Offered as a deleted scene on previous home video releases, Tony’s father receives word he’s going back to work after a long layoff. Previously available as a deleted scene, the third extension appears  at 154:28. Tony gets on the intercom to persuade Stephanie to let him into her building.

These sequences fill out a scene, and offer you bit more information about the character(s) involved. While they don’t add anything of substance to the story, I’m a fan of having good the Director’s Cut (presumably his or her vision), available for viewing.

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Paramount has provided a strong 1080p transfer. The image is surprisingly sharp, with just one or two moments of slight softness. The colored lighting in the disco were a bit thick on occasion, but still managed a realistic look, and showed no signs of bleeding. Blacks are inky, and shadow delineation is solid. Given the film’s age, and relatively modest budget, it looks great.

The True HD 5.1 soundtrack is a solid one. All off the Bee Gees songs sound very good. The tunes have been given heft, and depth, with punchy low bass and clear highs (perfect for all those falsettos). The surrounds aren’t overused on the music to gimmicky effects. The rest of the mix can’t quite compare to the music but it’s still strong for a ’70s film. There is some flatness to dynamic range, and low bass doesn’t pump like it does with the music. Dialogue is intelligible. Surrounds are sometimes active with a decent level of atmosphere and sporadic discrete effects. This remix doesn’t totally compensate for the dated aspects of the original source, but it delivers where it really matters — the music.

English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles are included.

Aside from the Theatrical Cut of the Film (HD, 159:02) all of the included extras were ported over from the Saturday Night Fever: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray released in 2009.

  • Audio Commentary: Director John Badham provides a solo commentary that balances nicely with the retrospective documentary. ‘Fever’s pop masterstroke would prove to be a wonderful accident: the Bee Gees songs were a last-minute choice because they were so cheap! Badham also offers the best insight on casting Travolta and what he brought to the film, both as an actor and a dancer.
  • Catching the Fever (HD, 52:39) Interviewed are Badham, stars Donna Pescow, Karen Lynn-Gorney, Barry Miller and Martin Shakar, producer Robert Stigwood, and Bee Gee Barry Gibb (again, only Travolta is missing). There isn’t much behind-the-scenes footage, but just about every important aspect of the Saturday Night Fever phenomenon is covered.
  • Back to Bay Bridge (HD, 9:01) Actor Joseph Cali (Joey) takes us on a tour of some of the locations where Fever was filmed.
  • Dance Like Travolta with John Cassese (HD, 9:50) The celebrity dance instructor teaches viewers some of Travolta’s dance moves.
  • Fever Challenge! (HD, 4:00) See if you can emulate some dance moves from the movie!
  • 70’s Discopedia: A pop-up trivia track. The graphics are simple but cute, and the facts focused more on the disco era than the same old production tidbits we learned in the featurettes.
  • Deleted Scene (HD, 1:32) “Tony & Stephanie in the car.”