Review & Memories of Saturday Night Fever (1977)
“Can ya dig it….I knew that ya could”
This could be a long one folks. This movie easily makes it into my Top 10. To say I’ve loved this film since the first time i set eyes on it over 40 years ago, would be the understatement of the century.
To understand how absolutely huge this film was, way back then, you have to transport yourself back to 1977. Most people who haven’t seen it, or have merely heard about it, imagine it as some kind of cute 70s disco movie, but those of us who have seen it, remember it very differently. It’s a bleak, sometimes dark and controversial movie, set in Brooklyn, and based around the lives of a group of friends, including Tony Manero, played by Travolta, who work hard all week in deadend jobs, and basically live for Saturday nights at the local nightclub. Most of the guys are complete Neanderthals, racist, homophobic and sexist. The women as you would expect are treated very badly even by 1970s standards. Karen Lynn Gorney plays Stephanie, Tony’s main love interest, and Donna Pescow plays Annette, who basically worships him, but is nothing short of a doormat. He behaves horribly towards her, as do his friends. This eventually results in a particularly nasty gang rape in the back of a car, and the death of one of the main characters. So not really the sunny tale of disco life you were maybe expecting, but it is played brilliantly by everyone concerned. As I’ve already said this is one of my favourite movies ever. I love it’s power, it’s raw feel and the sheer coolness of it, but, if you’ve seen it you’ll know it is more than deserving of it’s “X” certificate.
The first time i heard of Saturday Night Fever, i was 15 years old. I can’t remember which kids show it was, but they screened a short clip of the film, the solo dance performance to the Bee Gees You Should Be Dancing, which featured an actor, then unknown in the U.K, by the name of John Travolta. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was probably the only sequence they could find, that was fit for broadcast on kids television.
I had to see this movie. The anticipation was unbearable. I bought every film magazine and newspaper i could get my hands on. Anything which contained articles on the movie or interviews with the stars, I grabbed hold of eagerly. I even bought the paperback novelisation of the film, which I read cover to cover.
I also, obviously, bought the soundtrack on vinyl, which was never off the turntable, I played that poor record to death. Finally they announced a U.K release date. I immediately contacted Burton Odeon cinema for screening times, and was devastated to discover that the movie i’d waited so long to see, had been given an “X” certificate, strictly over 18s only.
I was 15 years old but the problem was i looked about 13, which meant I had no hope whatsoever of seeing this much anticipated movie.
Fast forward a couple of years.Rumours began to circulate of a possible watered down version of the movie being released, a version everyone would be allowed to see. Apparently they’d cut out the swearing, sex scenes and some of the milder scenes featuring moderate drug use, and given it an “A” certificate, which meant that pretty much anyone could see it. Just removing the swearing must have been a major undertaking, as to be fair, most of the movie featured Travolta and his mates “effin n jeffin”, pretty much every other word. To me, and every other person who saw it, this is what gave the film it’s authenticity, and made it raw and earthy. But, if this was the only way i was going to get to see the film then so be it.
As predicted I was totally blown away. It was quite easily the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and left me, more than ever, wanting to see the original uncut version, knowing full, having read the book and the movie reviews, that it was going to be an altogether darker affair than the version i’d seen. Enter the Super 8mm revolution and a small electrical store in the town. Glynn Williams Electrical, amongst other things stocked Super 8mm projectors and the films to go with them……including Saturday Night Fever. Three 400ft reels of pure magic, to me it was anyway. To cut a long story short, I asked him if he’d mind showing me one of the reels. He kindly agreed and put it on for me. He had to wait for the store to empty, due to the adult nature of the film, but I finally got a taster of the full uncut version, swearing, sex and all. All I needed now was the full length 2 hour cut of the film, and my life would be complete. Enter the VHS tape.
Released on CIC video, this was the version I had to have.
Totally uncensored and uncut. I bought an ex rental copy which Glynn Williams sold to me. I can’t remember how much I paid for it but it was worth every penny.
Safe to say I near enough wore the tape out, i fact i lost count of how many times i watched it.
Fast forward a few more years, and i now own the film on bluray. I also have the directors cut which contains a few extra minutes, cut from the original. I have the feeling in a few more years were going to have a 50th Anniversary Collectors Edition, which obviously i will be first in the queue to purchase.