Blog Directory CineVerse: The Fever still a campy kinda way

The Fever still a campy kinda way

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

by Erik J. Martin

In 1977, chances are you were paying big bills at the gas pump, wearing wide collars and polyester, and dancing to the Bee Gees.

One of the defining films of that generation and the ultimate statement of the disco era, "Saturday Night Fever" is still stayin' alive after nearly 23 years. In the two-plus decades since, we've witnessed the rapid rise and fall of punk, new wave, club dance, grunge, hip hop, and the film's star, John Travolta himself.

Is it still possible to channel your inner disco and appreciate this pop culture artifact from the late seventies, or should it have been buried and forgotten long ago? Let's explore the evidence.

Weak on plot, but long on grooves and discotheque moves, "Fever"--based on a story published in New York Magazine by Nik Cohn--tells the tale of a young Brooklynite struggling for an identity independent of his dysfunctional Italian family and dead-end bound hoodlum friends. Travolta's only talents--and his only chance of winning the girl of his dreams--lie on the dance floor, where he outshines all else with his improvised moves and flashy white suit. With legs spread apart, one hand on his hip and the other pointing its index finger back-and-forth between his upper right and lower left, Travolta created a nationwide dance move sensation that is still imitated (in an irreverent manner of course) to this day.

The performance earned Travolta his first best actor Oscar nomination. "Fever" also spawned a virtual cottage industry of urban discos that popped up around the country, including the infamous Studio 54 club that quickly became the hottest niteclub in the Big Apple. The soundtrack, meanwhile, featuring such disco hits as "More Than a Woman," "Disco Inferno," "How Deep is Your Love," and the title track, went on to become the biggest selling motion picture soundtrack in history.

And in the late 1970s, the film made the top 10 box office champs list. The R-rated movie was so popular, in fact, that a PG version was released a year later, keeping "Fever" in the theaters for a seemingly endless run and introducing it to a younger generation.

A sorry excuse for a sequel, "Staying Alive," starring Travolta and directed by Sylvester Stallone, was released in 1983, but earned at best a lukewarm reception from audiences. By this time, after all, disco was as dead as a Dodo bird. Several years later, however, the music and the fashion made a campy nostalgic revival in the nineties, when disco was to that decade what the grease and 50s rock n' roll renaissance was to the 1970s, and what the psychedelic 1960s resurgence was to the eighties.

I guess that means we're in for a wave of 1990s nostalgia in this new decade. Brace yourselves for a comeback by Nirvana, Julia Roberts and Macarana, I expect.) In the immortal words of Gloria Gaynor, "I will survive"--indeed.

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