Saturday Night Fever

With its iconic suit and lapels that look like if they flapped hard enough they’d send a wearer skyward Saturday Night Fever comes with a lot of fashion baggage, that’s for sure.

However, what most people who haven’t seen it would not be aware of, this disco flick is more like Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting with corny ethnic strife gang violence and casual racism — there’s a helluva lot of carnage, fist-fighting, death.

Needless to say, this is a move that’s on the surface, a Bee Gees four-on-the-four platform booted dance-fest, and yet it’s dragged in all different directions and doesn’t really know what it wants to be.

At its centre, John Travolta as Tony Monera (and a brief appearance by Fran Drescher as his teen sister), a bridge-and-tunnel hardware store lunkhead. The reason for his existence is taming the dancefloor at 2001 Odyssey, a nondescript warehouse that looks more like a downmarket Hells Angels clubhouse.

He connects romantically with a college student, a more schooled dancer. Him and his moron buddies clown around atop the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, and he realizes that despite having no ambition, smarts, or focus, he’s no longer the black sheep of the Monera clan as his brother’s left the priesthood.

A mystifying breakout hit that grossed 68X its budget, and even Pauline Kael gushed, “Nirvana is the dance; when the music stops, you return to being ordinary.”

However, the themes, at their core, resonate perhaps now more than ever: aspirational stardom (regardless of how relatively insignificant) to escape the hum-drum, pre-social media peacocking/preening, and misplaced youthful priorities/exuberance/drug taking.

*** (out of 5)

 

Making Contact aka Joey

Despite there being a demonic ventriloquist in Making Contact, nobody quips, “you’d be angry too if you had a hand up your butt.” Lost opportunity.

Despite its title, Making Contact is not an alien move. That’s just one of the many, many odd things about this one.

Youngster Joey loses his father, and we, the audience don’t know either the extent of the relationship, nor what happened to pops. It’s not like that’d be dramatically interesting or anything. Soon after the burial, Joey is communicating with him through the great beyond, and via a ridiculous giant red telephone.

Soon, Joey is possessed by the aforementioned ventriloquist dummy that looks like Dr. Edwin Tyrell, the replicant creator from Blade Runner. Then Joey develops telekinetic powers. Why? Damned if we know, but fire us a message if you do…

Soon, Joey’s telekinetic powers are the subject of lots of scientific investigation (that is, LOTS of investigation. Soon, about a hundred or so neuroscientists, psychologists, physiologists, descend on the homestead).

When it was released in North America, the movie switched titles to Joey and had a bunch of minutes trimmed from the finished product. At 79 minutes, it makes not a lick of sense. Perhaps at 98 minutes, there’s more meat here?

In 2016, Kino Lorber announced a Blu-ray with new high definition transfer.

(Check out our podcast discussion of Joey/Making Contact here)