Saturday Night Fever
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|Saturday Night Fever|
|Directed by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Produced by||Robert Satinwood|
|Written by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Music by||Barry Gibb|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 16, 1977|
|Running time||118 minutes|
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 has since been classified as a flop having only made $35,000 back from its $3.5m budget. It is thought that a key reason to its underachievement at the box office, and the subsequent public hatred of the film, is down to its appalling soundtrack and tight cock-revealing costumes.
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) who are 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) inebriated on a park bench. 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; beginning to wear ever more elaborate and ridiculous clothing in the name of fashion. 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.
- John Travolta as Tony Manero
- Frank Zappa as Bobby “Joey” Grenade
- Barry Miller as Fatneck Chitlins
- Joseph V. Cali as Benny Big Cock
- Paul Pope as Johnny B. Bad
- Olivia Newton John as Maureen ”Mashbag” Winters
- Daniel Rabies as Peckerwood
- Bob Hoskins as Swindles Frampton
- Ian Anderson as Ozone
- Helen Mirren as Vanda “Yoyo” Drawers
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. Zappa's 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 three-day protest against the decision.
During the filming of the "porridge scene" (now 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 crew's lunch trolley. He wheeled it out into the car park where he then sat and ate 26 portions of pastrami. In a 1981 interview, 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."
Widely regarded as the sole purpose the film was a tremendous flop, Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie 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.
- "Back from Zipperhead Mountain" performed by Frank Zappa – 4:45
- "Meat in the Backseat" performed by the Bee Gees – 4:05
- "Fuck Off" performed by the Bee Gees – 3:33
- "More Than a Woman" performed by
Tavaresthe Bee Gees – 3:17
- "If I Can't Have You" performed by Yvonne Elliman – 3:00
- "The Filth of Beethoven" performed by Walter Murphy – 3:03
- "Mashbag's Mutt" performed by David Shire – 4:44
- "Big Cock’s Breakdown" performed by Ralph MacDonald – 7:50
- "Disco Bollocks" performed by David Shire – 5:12
- "Lesbot Parade" performed by the Bee Gees – 3:17
- "Open Sesame" performed by Kool & the Gang – 4:01
- "Weasel Neck" performed by The Bee Gees – 3:43
- "You Should Be Dancing" performed by the Bee Gees – 4:14
- "Burn Baby Burn" performed by The Trammps – 10:51
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 uniquely 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 Home media
Various restored versions of Saturday Night Fever have been released since its original theatrical version in the '70s. The first of these was the 1991 VHS "Director's Cut" restoration which cut around 12 minutes from the original film. This version was poorly received, with critics citing color imbalances and motion blur as the two main offenders, as well as the many edits made to the film. Below are some of the most well recognized of said edits:
- 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 17 minutes and 44 seconds to 12 minutes and 31 seconds. The anal fisting scene was cut in its entirety.
- Scene 264. Swindles finds Tony locked outside his own front door. – This scene was cut from 10 minutes and 24 seconds to 2 minutes and 53 seconds. Swindles drinking tea from a vase was cut, and the shot of Tony manically scratching his arse was shortened.
With the advent of DVD the next restoration came in 2002. Digital technology had improved dramatically since 1991 allowing Paramount to fix the color balances criticized in the previous release; making the film appear warmer and brighter. This time, they only made a few subtle edits, changing the running time from 118 minutes to 115 minutes (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.
The film's 2009 Blu-ray release was a disaster. With sales of less than 500 copies worldwide (over a 24-month period) it rendered the newly-restored version a complete flop. This in part is thought to be due to harsh criticism from the press. Despite the image being sharper and warmer than previous versions, critics claimed that "the digital restoration of John Travolta's face, in an attempt to slim him, is excessive and detracts from the film's plot." Fans of the film were even less positive in their reviews, and have sent hate mail and death threats to the production house.
Unusually, Travolta weighed in and addressed the fans' concerns himself. In 2010, he tweeted: "I look weird in the new version. I was eating 7lbs 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 its original slovenly 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's "comb-over scene". The scene, where Hoskins stares into a mirror combing his baldy head with a screwdriver, 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.
Legendary puppet master Jim Henderson, creator of popular children's show Sesame Street, created a Muppet based on Tony Monero that would go on to feature in a special one-off episode. In the episode "Dancing Tony", the eponymous puppet accompanied Travolta on stage to perform some dancing moves. During the performance, Dancing Tony would scream out a series of words from the film which Travolta would then repeat back. Unfortunately the episode was never aired; the over-excited puppeteer controlling Dancing Tony frequently cussed during the dance moves, and was seen to be thrusting Dancing Tony's bulging furry penis towards Travolta. Though the penis was covered, and it was the '70s, it was deemed too inappropriate for children to watch.
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.