Saturday Night Fever (1977)

2010 #17
John Badham | 114 mins* | TV | 18 / R

Saturday Night Fever couldn’t be more ’70s if it were made today as a period piece (if you can see how that isn’t a contradiction). From the posters on Tony’s walls, to the fashions, to how it’s shot, it seems to have been designed specifically to exude seventies-ness in a way few other things seem to. It feels natural, then, that some of its original elements have become shorthand definitions for the era: the Bee Gees music, the dancing, and in particular that pose.

The side effect of these, I think, is that some still think it must be a Grease-a-like jolly musical love letter to the past. Maybe that’s what it somehow became in the kid-friendly PG-rated post-Grease re-edit (I wouldn’t know), but in its original form it’s certainly nothing of the sort. It’s a whole lot seedier, in fact, with dead-end jobs, late-night fights, turn-taking back-of-the-car sex, and other unsavoury pursuits. It’s no wonder Tony wants to escape.

The film it most reminded me of (for some reason) was Mean Streets. I’m not sure that’s anything like an accurate comparison, but it popped into my head more than once.

4 out of 5

Saturday Night Fever is on Film4 tonight at 12:55am.

* There are multiple versions of the film. This is the uncut one in PAL. ^

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