Wednesday 24 August 2022

Saturday Night Fever (1977)


Saturday Night Fever

“Saturday Night Fever” is a mediocre movie with perhaps the best soundtrack in movie history.

It is sometimes said that a single great actor is so good that he or she alone can carry a movie and make it worth watching. In the case of “Saturday Night Fever” the same can be said about the soundtrack. I can almost like this movie simply by thinking of the soundtrack.

Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a young man in Brooklyn who hangs out with his fellow Italian-American friends and spends all his money earned as an assistant in a hardware store on going out to dance on the weekends. His little gang is oh so tough and cool, picking fights with other ethnic gangs in Brooklyn and they really have very little going for them outside the dancehall. Inside the 2001 Odyssey discotheque however they are lording it and Tony is the king. His awesome dance skills combined with his macho arrogance makes him a real ladies man, at least in his own head.

There is a dance competition on the horizon and Tony want to win it. Annette (Donna Pescow) is gushing over Tony and offers herself as a dance partner for the competition, but Tony is not interested in the sort of relationship she is fishing for and she is not that good a dancer. That is when he spots Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) who is an excellent dancer. She agrees to dance with him as an equal, but on all other accounts she is way out of his and his friends league.

This is not really a Cinderella story. Tony is not an unpolished gem waiting to be discovered. At “2001” he is very much discovered, and we never see him making some sort of phenomenal breakthrough. It is more of a coming-of-age story with Tony needing to realize that he must leave that juvenile dead-end life he is living and grow up. Something that would require a serious attitude adjustment for Tony.

I do not really like Tony and his friends. Their indulgent macho arrogance does nothing for me, and I do not even find them charming, which is why it is so hard for me to root for Tony. Maybe I am just of the wrong gender. Frankly there is something a bit ridiculous about them. How can you respect a guy who complains about being hit on the head because it ruins his hair?

But then the music plays, disco lights are blinking and the dancing start. I have never been fond of watching dance, but this is pretty awesome, even iconic. And the music…

This summer I was on holiday with my family at a resort in Mauritius where there would be music every evening (a bit cliché…). Not really great music and not something to lift people out of their lazy seats. But one evening they changed pace and went disco. “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees could still, 45 years later, start a party and get everybody dancing, young and old. And that is how it is with the entire soundtrack. “Night Fever”, “More Than a Woman”, “How Deep is Your Love”, “You Should Be Dancing (Yeah!)” and these are just the Bee Gees songs. This is music that makes me happy and feel like moving. “Staying Alive” makes me want to walk down the street with a swagger feeling really cool. “You Should Be Dancing” makes me yell “YEAH!” and I want to dance. And trust me, that is not a pretty sight.

“Saturday Night Fever” is one of those movies I really do not need to see more than once, but I want to hear the soundtrack again and again and for that I will forgive the movie and watch it a few extra times. Apparently, I am not alone. The “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack is the second-best selling soundtrack of all time.


  1. I agree with you that it's not a movie that needs to be seen over and over, but it desperately needs to be seen at least once. Culturally, this movie is still incredibly important.

    And you're right about the soundtrack.

    1. Indeed. The cultural importance is immense and cannot be understated. To not have watched this movie is to miss a key piece of the seventies. I do not have to like it to acknowledge that. But the soundtrack, oh boy...

  2. My own four word review was fabulous sound track ugly story. And the PR really did not prepare viewers for how raw and disgusting the story was.

    1. The actual movie is, i sense, quite divisive. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I also admit that even the movie itself has a huge cultural significance.