I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was about 13 years old I was completely obsessed with disco music. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. I would borrow my friends' parents CDs and dutifully copy them (and burn them) and once a week a friend and I would sit at the back of the bus and disco our way home. So with it now being 40 years since the release of 'Saturday Night Fever' - one of the most quintessential disco films of all time - is disco dead?
No, of course not. That’s just a silly thought.
For those who may not have seen 'Saturday Night Fever', the film follows Tony Manero (John Travolta, 'Pulp Fiction') as a young adult in Brooklyn. Working a dead-end job, his only solace is on a Saturday night at the local disco, where he ends up meeting Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney) and they enter the club's disco dancing competition.
That is the very oversimplified version of the plot. In actual fact, it paints a far darker and grittier portrait of life in the 70s, with youths who are displaced and somewhat delinquent trying to make their way in a world that refuses to understand them and that they don’t understand themselves. Not only did ‘Saturday Night Fever’ expose this, but it was the perfect vehicle for rising star Travolta.
'SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER' TRAILER
Now a household name, John Travolta was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Tony Manero. His performance launched him into the world of Hollywood superstardom. Following on with hits in ‘Grease’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, and who could forget ‘Hairspray’? Sorry, I think I’m really bad at watching movies with John Travolta in them… Oh wait, he was also in the stuff of my childhood fears, 'Face/Off'. Safe to say he's a big star, but you guys know that!
It is impossible to talk about this film and not talk about the soundtrack, mostly penned by the brothers Gibb, more commonly known as the Bee Gees! To this day, it remains one of the most successful and purchased film soundtracks of all time. With the iconic ‘Stayin' Alive’, ‘Night Fever’, ‘How Deep is your Love' and ‘More Than A Woman’, it’s almost like if you asked a millennial to name four Bee Gees songs, and they would list out the majority of this soundtrack. Disco-loving 13-year-old me knows all the words... hell, 13-year-old me (now trapped inside 27-year-old me) is still dancing to these tunes!
The impact ‘Saturday Night Fever’ has had on pop culture since the film’s release is almost immeasurable.
The impact ‘Saturday Night Fever’ has had on pop culture since the film’s release is almost immeasurable. Characters have been inspired by and directly copied Travola (I’m looking at you Disco Stu), and we have seen references spanning The Simpsons (obviously) all the way through to 'Airplane!'
A couple of fun facts you might not know about ‘Saturday Night Fever’... There was a stage musical adaption in the late 90s, using the original soundtrack with new songs again written by the Bee Gees! An unsuccessful sequel, I hear you ask?! That’s right! In 1983 ‘Staying Alive’ was released – directed by none other than Sylvester Stallone. Last one, I promise! An extremely important study conducted by the University of Illinois College of Medicine found that ‘Stayin’ Alive’ was the perfect song to use for CPR as it has 103 beats per minute and was easy to follow along and remember!
Whatever your feelings regarding ‘Saturday Night Fever’, there is no denying its lasting cultural impact. It changed fashion, music and film, and created a star out of a young John Travolta. After all of this, I think I’m going to have to go find my old disco CDs and torture my housemate with my falsetto!