Saturday Night Fever appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a terrific transfer that looked better than expected.
Sharpness appeared positive. The picture came across as crisp and detailed throughout the film. I noticed no significant indications of softness or fuzziness during this distinct presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects also caused no concerns, and I detected no prominent edge enhancement. As for print flaws, this was a clean presentation. I saw a handful of tiny specks but nothing else here.
Fever provided a naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated the hues with good accuracy. The most notable potential concerns showed up during the nightclub scenes, as the colored lighting threatened to become somewhat thick. However, the tones looked nicely clear and realistic, and they showed no signs of noise or bleeding. Blacks appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail was concise. Given the movie’s age and budget, I thought the flick looked really solid.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever seemed good but unexceptional. I didn’t expect a very active soundfield, and what I heard seemed good considering those restrictions. The mix favored the forward channels and created a reasonably engaging sense of atmosphere. Music showed fairly positive stereo delineation in the front, and effects popped up in logical locations. They blended together in a somewhat awkward and artificial manner, but this didn’t become a significant distraction. The surrounds usually just reinforced the music and sense of environment, but they did provide some occasional unique elements, such as the split-surround movement of a subway car.
Audio quality appeared acceptable across the board. Speech showed the greatest number of concerns. Fever featured more than its fair share of poorly looped dialogue; these offered some distractions during the relevant scenes. In addition, dialogue occasionally demonstrated some edginess. However, most of the lines seemed reasonably clear and distinct, and intelligibility never turned into a problem.
Effects played a relatively modest part of the film, and they seemed decent. At times they came across as a little thin, but generally they presented clean and accurate material that lacked significant distortion or other issues. The all-important music seemed good but not as strong as I’d hope. The songs packed some nice bass thump and appeared acceptably clear, but they could occasionally come across as a little limp and lifeless. Overall, however, most of the soundtrack seemed positive, and the audio worked fine given its origins.
How did the picture and audio of this “30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the original DVD from 2002? I felt both editions presented identical audio, but the 2007 disc provided noticeably improved visuals. The new transfer was cleaner and fresher than the old one. It slightly tightened up colors, blacks and shadows as well. I thought the 2002 image seemed good – I gave it a “B” – but this new one was a definitely upgrade, as it merited an “A-“.
In terms of extras, the 30th Anniversary set mixes old and new components. For something found on the original disc, we check out an audio commentary from director John Badham. He offers a running, screen-specific track. The director looks at script and influences, cast and performances, music and its use in the film, sets, locations, technical elements, and many anecdotes from the shoot.
At times, this commentary suffers from an excessive number of empty spots; Badham often falls silent. However, the gaps don’t seem truly problematic – they pass fairly quickly – and the director provides enough useful information to make the spaces more forgivable. Badham proves to be a chatty and engaging participant. He seems honest and open about the production, and he tosses out lots of good notes. He includes many compelling anecdotes and gives us a nice overview of the film in this lively and likable chat.
Next come a series of featurettes new to this set. Catching the Fever breaks into five subdomains and lasts a total of 52 minutes, 40 seconds. It features movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Badham, producer Robert Stigwood, executive producer Kevin McCormick, costume designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, composer David Shire, former Studio 54 deejay Nicky Siano, the Bee Gees’ Barry and Robin Gibb, Last Night a Deejay Saved My Life authors Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster, Studio 54 publicist Joanne Horowitz, filmmaker Neil Meron, and actors Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Denny Dillon, Barry Miller, Sam J. Coppola, Martin Shakar, Karen Lynn Gorney, Donna Pescow, and Monti Rock III.
“Fever” covers the flick’s origins and development, studio concerns about the material, cast and performances, John Travolta’s impact and the movie’s influence. From there it looks at the flick’s music and the Bee Gees’ involvement, the film’s fashions and style, the Seventies disco scene and how the film affected it, and thoughts about Travolta.
While the absence of Travolta disappoints, it doesn’t surprise. Even without him, “Catching” presents a lot of good information. After the fine primer offered by Badham during his commentary, this one fleshes out various issues and supports the movie nicely. We get a good look at the flick and its era across these programs, though the final “Spotlight on Travolta” is a fluffy waste of time.
Another featurette called Back to Bay Ridge runs nine minutes, one second, and includes a tour of the movie’s locations. We hear from Cali, Pescow, and location executive Lloyd Kaufman. At no point does this piece boast a lot of substance, but it includes a reasonable amount of info about the various locations. It’s also fun to see how they look today.
For the next featurette, we get the nine-minute and 50-second Dance Like John Travolta with John Cassese. We initially learn of some of Cassese’s students. Let me get this straight: Cassese taught the Edge to dance? When did the Edge ever dance?
That puzzling question aside, “Dance” offers a pretty forgettable piece. Cassese and partner Jennelle Wax demonstrate some moves and then offer step-by-step directions. Maybe someone will find this useful, but it does nothing for me.
Fever Challenge! goes for four minutes, one second as it presents some dance moves. We’re supposed to follow these and see if we can emulate some steps from the film. It plays like a poor man’s version of those dance video games and doesn’t seem like much fun.
A text commentary comes to us via the 70s Discopedia. It presents notes about the film and those who made it, its impact on society in the Seventies and related efforts, music, dance sequences, various bits of minutiae about aspects of the flick. Text tracks can be hit or miss, but this one’s quite good. It throws in plenty of fun movie details along with nice facts to fit us into the late Seventies era. I like “Discopedia” a lot.
The DVD ends with some Previews. Actually, we get only one preview, an ad for Dreamgirls. No trailer for Fever appears on the disc.
Do we lose anything from the 2002 DVD? Yup. This set drops a 30-minute 2001 documentary called “Highlights from VH-1’s Behind the Music” as well as three short deleted scenes. Much of the VH-1 show gets wrapped into the featurettes, so I don’t really miss that show. I’m not as happy about the lack of deleted scenes. While none of these were especially memorable, they were good to see, and it stinks that they don’t show up here.
Although Saturday Night Fever probably should come across as frightfully dated, the movie still seems compelling and engaging after 30 years. The flick comes across as surprisingly natural and spry, and it benefits from an excellent Oscar-nominated performance from John Travolta. The DVD offers terrific picture along with very good audio and extras.
If you don’t own Fever on DVD, I’d definitely recommend this 30th Anniversary disc. If you do have the old one, I’d still push for you to get this one just for its improved visuals and new extras. Unfortunately, the die-hard fans won’t be able to get rid of the 2002 disc since it includes some features that don’t pop up here as well. I like this 30th Anniversary set, but it’s not as good as it should have been since it loses some of the prior release’s supplements.
To rate this film, visit the original review of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER