Saturday Night Fever

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Saturday Night Fever
Saturday Night Fever Poster
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Robert Satinwood
Written by Stanley Kubrick
Starring John Travolta
Frank Zappa
Barry Miller
Olivia Newton John
Music by Barry Gibb
Robin Gibb
Maurice Gibb
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) December 16, 1977
Running time 112 minutes
Language English
Budget USD$3.5 million

Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 American song-and-dance film and a direct sequel to the 1960s Korean war movie Friday Night Fever. Both films were written and directed by Stanley Kubrick against his will and are produced by Robert Stigwood. Although its prequel was a huge success worldwide, Saturday Night Fever struggled to gain popularity and is classified as a flop, having only made $35,000 back from its $3.5m budget. It is thought that a key reason to it’s underachievement at the box office, and subsequent hatred of the film, is down to the appalling soundtrack and tight cock-revealing costumes.

edit Plot

As a continuation of the story from Friday Night Fever, Korean war veteran Tony Manero (John Travolta) returns home from abroad to find that America has changed beyond recognition. As he steps off the boat he is greeted by his parents (Val Bisoglio and Julie Bovasso), both now dressed as transgender punks emulating the style of the band The New York Dolls. Disgusted with what American society has become, Tony begins drinking heavily until by chance he meets his old friend Joey Trammps (Frank Zappa) on a park bench, and over a bottle of cider they rekindle their friendship. Soon after Joey introduces Tony to the disco scene, and offers to become his teacher and dancing partner to help Tony settle in. Reluctantly but wisely, Tony agrees. Before long it becomes apparent that Tony has a talent for dancing, showing his groovy moves on the dance floor of Do Me A Solid, the most popular disco club in New York.

Having discovered his new talent, Tony begins entering disco competitions to fund his alcoholic lifestyle. As he gradually adapts to his new surroundings, Tony begins to relish the trends of the time and begins wearing ever more elaborate and ridiculous clothing. In the climatic end scene, Tony is startled by his friend 'Mashbag' (Olivia Neutron Bomb) who enters the dance floor bollock-naked with her knickers on her head. Her grotesque mutt horrifies Tony, who runs screaming from the dance floor and out onto the streets of New York where he is hit by a garbage truck and dies.

edit Cast

edit Production

The famous mustache and goatee

Frank Zappa sharing a joke with Daniel Rabies.

At the time, musician and comedian Frank Zappa was considered a strange choice for the role of Bobby. Kubrick, having seen Zappa's performance in Weasel Ripped My Flesh - The Porno, reasoned that he'd be ideal for drunken down-and-out WOP Bobby. Zappas influence on 70s fashion and music also helped give producer Robert Stigwood reason enough to grant Kubrick's request. Controversially, this caused mass upset within the film crew who went on to stage a 3 day protest against the decision.

During the filming of the ‘porridge scene’ (deleted from the DVD version), a Rocky poster can be seen stuck to the fridge in homage to Sylvester Stallone who initially turned down the role of Tony Manero, allowing John Travolta to nab the part.

Over the course of the film there are 496 scenes in which John Travolta is eating pizza. Due to this incredible intake of food, Travolta gained 150lbs during filming. As a result, most of the disco club scenes featured a body double. In the new digitally remastered version of Saturday Night Fever, digital effects have been applied to Travolta significantly thinning his face throughout the film.

By a quirk of fate Marlon Brando, filming Superman in the studio next door, visited the set and reportedly stole the crews lunch trolley and wheeled it out into the car park where he sat and ate 26 portions of pastrami. In an interview in 1981 Brando was asked if this was true and he replied: "Don't be ridiculous, that's a ridiculous story, nobody believes it. I was next door in another studio doing urhh, Superman... with that prick Donner, and I went over to see Bob Hoskins and I wanted his urhh, autograph, and then I saw this buffet tray on a trolley, so I had a little snack. They say I ate all this pastrami, but urhh, well, it was urhh, chicken I think."

edit Soundtrack

Saturday Night Fever LP

The Bee Gees performed many of the tracks on the album.

Widely regarded as the sole purpose the film was a tremendous flop, Saturday Night Fever: The Original Soundtrack was an international tragedy. Banned in 38 countries worldwide, it was rumored that over 8 million copies of the LP were amassed from around the U.S. by Paramount Pictures themselves and secretly buried in the Nevada desert. Other rumors say that the 8 millions LPs gathered were burned, to the cost of $22,000, at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

  1. "Back from Zipperhead Mountain" performed by Frank Zappa – 4:45
  2. "Meat in the Backseat" performed by the Bee Gees – 4:05
  3. "Fuck Off" performed by the Bee Gees – 3:33
  4. "More Than a Woman" performed by Tavares the Bee Gees – 3:17
  5. "If I Can't Have You" performed by Yvonne Elliman – 3:00
  6. "The Filth of Beethoven" performed by Walter Murphy – 3:03
  7. "Mashbag's Mutt" performed by David Shire – 4:44
  8. "Big Cock’s Breakdown" performed by Ralph MacDonald – 7:50
  9. "Disco Bollocks" performed by David Shire – 5:12
  10. "Lesbot Parade" performed by the Bee Gees – 3:17
  11. "Open Sesame" performed by Kool & the Gang – 4:01
  12. "Weasel Neck" performed by The Bee Gees – 3:43
  13. "You Should Be Dancing" performed by the Bee Gees – 4:14
  14. "Burn Baby Burn" performed by The Trammps – 10:51

edit Reception

Saturday Night Fever was poorly received by critics and at the box office. Although the cinematography, direction and production are considered to be on par for a low-budget pile of 70s drivel, both the acting and soundtrack are considered dreadful. Mark Kermode, famous film critic and 50s time capsule, said: “The film looks okay, well, for a low-budget 70s flick, but as soon as the music kicks you know you're up shit creek. All you do is try to stay sane as the merry-go-round of musical torture continues... and just as you think you can cope with the awful racket the actors begin ‘acting’ and make a complete bollocks of it all. Fucking awful.”

Some critics were less harsh with their review. Slack-jawed sphere of misery; Roger Ebert, said: "It's not too bad but don't believe the hype. The film is okay, and I like dancing as much as any other straight man, but that scene of Mashbag's mutt at the end turned my stomach completely, didn't see that coming. Wish I never saw it, but hey-ho."

edit Digital restoration

Saturday Night Fever Comparisons

Screenshot comparison of the digital restoration in three stages.

Various restored versions of the film have been released since its original theatrical version in the 70s. The first of which was the 1986 VHS 'directors cut' restoration which cut around 12 minutes from the original film. This version was poorly received citing color imbalances and motion blur as the two main offenders. With the advent of DVD, the next restoration came in the 1996. Digital technology had improved dramatically since 1986 allowing Paramount to fix the color balances criticized in the previous release making the film warmer and brighter. They also made a few subtle edits changing the running time from 119min to 105mins (cutting the controversial 'porridge scene' in particular). This version was well received by critics and is the best selling version of the film to date.

edit DVD edits

Many edits were made across all three versions of the film. Please see Saturday Night Fever Complete Edits List for the full list. Below are some of the most well recognized.

  • Scene 12. Mashbag reveals her mutt to Fatneck for the first time - This scene was shortened from 43 seconds to 12 seconds and features only one close-up of the mutt.
  • Scene 45. Tony pisses himself - This scene was shortened from 56 seconds to 35 seconds. The viewer only sees the result of Tony pissing himself, a wet patch on his trousers, as opposed to the full scene whereby he pisses uncontrollably down his leg.
  • Scene 186. Fatneck rapes Mashbag - This scene was shortened from 17mins and 44 seconds to 12 mins and 31 seconds. The anal fisting scene was cut in it's entirety.
  • Scene 264. Swindles finds Tony locked outside his own front door. - This scene was cut from 10min 24 seconds to 2mins 53 seconds. Swindles drinking tea from a vase was cut, and the shot of Tony manically scratching his arse was shortened.

edit Bluray failure

The 2014 release on Blu-ray has been a disaster so far. Sales of less that 500 copies world wide (over a 24 month period) have rendered the newly restored version a complete flop. This in part is thought to be due to harsh criticism from the press. Although the image is sharper and warmer than previous versions, critics have claimed that 'the digital restoration of John Travolta's face, in an attempt to slim him, is excessive and detracts away from the films plot'. Fans of the film we less positive in their reviews and have sent hate mail and death threats to the production house. Unusually, John Travolta has weighed in and addressed the fans concern himself. In 2015 he tweeted: "I look weird in the new version. I was eating 10lb of pizza day for a least 3 months. I was huge. There's no way that even looks like me."

Plans to release another newly restored version, reverting Travolta's face to it's original shape, are currently underway.

edit In popular culture

Saturday Night Fever has been referenced throughout pop culture since its original release in 1977. At the height of his career popular English comedian Bernard Manning performed a live comedy sketch on Bruce Forsyth's The Generation Game in which he parodied Bob Hoskins 'comb-over scene'. The scene, where Hoskins stares into a mirror combing his baldy head with a screw driver, is amongst the funniest in the film. Struggling to get his hair right, he has the piss ripped out of him by a bunch of piccaninnies taunting him from the street corner below. A kaleidoscope of racist abuse soon follows.

Timmy Mallet, weird children's entertainer from the 80s, frequently used the film's catchphrase "Do me a solid" on his hit TV programme Wacaday.

In the popular TV series Game of Thrones, the character Muffblood Wetsnatch frequently refers to his dog as "Fatback Chitlins", referencing the SNF character played by Barry Miller.

edit See also

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