The major news services and film journals have yet to pick up on news that was released (or leaked, or perhaps even dribbled) from the publicity division of Paramount Home Video this weekend, but it is, I think, worth passing along, even if it ultimately proves to be little more than a novelty footnote in the logbooks of film history. Saturday Night Fever, the 1977 hit film that ignited the disco phenomenon, is now 31 years old and according to Ehren Faltermeier, vice president of the studio’s restoration and archiving division, footage thought to have been consigned to the editing room trash bin when director John Badham pieced together the original version for a studio test screening on November 22, 1977, less than a month before the movie premiered to American screens on December 16 of that year, has been found. Faltermeier revealed that the footage, part of a Christmas-themed dance sequence featuring stars John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney which was originally intended to capitalize on the movie’s prestigious holiday release schedule, was scrapped largely because of the involvement of an unidentified contract player also featured in the sequence whose performance, according to notes written by Badham found in the storage can along with the footage, was “sub-par and rather desperate.”
Despite the brevity of the sequence and the presence of the insufficiently talented supporting dancer, Faltermeier expressed disappointment that the footage wasn’t found in time for the studio’s home video department to adequately capitalize on it this year. “I would have loved to have been able to bang out a new Christmas-oriented DVD or Blu-ray box orbiting around this dance,” Faltermeier admitted. “It’s kinda cheesy, and I definitely understand why Mr. Badham decided it wasn’t right for the finished movie, but it’s exactly the kind of value-added item that fans of the movie would have gobbled up. I’m not completely dismissing the idea for Christmas 2009, however, or maybe even earlier than that. This crazy bit is, like it or not, a real find.”
Fortunately, for those fans who have never really quenched their thirst for the silken moves of Tony Manero, Faltermeier, in a press release dated this morning, made the sequence available on YouTube in the hopes of generating increased fan interest which would then encourage Paramount to hasten the release of the footage in a digitally christened format. Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule is proud to be among the first of any media outlet, big or small, to make this newfound footage available for your viewing pleasure.
Merry Christmas, then, from Travolta, Gorney, John Badham, Ehren Faltermeier and the night shift dubbing crew at Paramount Home Video and, of course, the mysterious character player who missed his place in movie history thanks to a judicious (or perhaps too hasty?) editing choice back in November 1977. Feel free to light the disco inferno on this yuletide log and burn, baby, burn!
(Thanks, Larry... I think.)