Wednesday, October 01, 2014

At Flashbak: You Should Be Dancin’: The Five Movie Musicals that Killed Disco at the Box Office

In 1977, John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever took the box office and pop culture by storm.

Based on the New York article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” the movie depicted the story of blue-collar Brooklyn-native Tony Manero (John Travolta), “the king” -- or perhaps God -- of disco. Audiences thrilled to Manero’s attempt with his dance partner (Karen Lynn Gorney) to win a dance contest at the local disco, a victory that made Manero set his eyes beyond the lights of Brooklyn, on something bigger.

Scored wall-to-wall with Bee-Gees tunes like “Stayin’ Alive,” Saturday Night Fever was an authentic phenomenon that made Travolta a movie star and sold more than twenty-million copies of the film’s soundtrack.

As one might expect, the success of Saturday Night Fever also meant that Hollywood was soon attempting to cash in on a new trend. Before long, a whole cycle of disco movies was in the offing. Unfortunately, most of the ensuing efforts proved dreadful, and the disco fad died a brutal death at the box office.

Here then, for your consideration, are five of the movie musicals that hammered the final nails in disco’s coffin. These movie musicals-- all of 1978 -1983 vintage -- remain to this day among the most bizarre, garish, and lurid films ever produced.


  1. I actually enjoy Steve Martin's rendition of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Has a nice demented feel to it that fits the song well.

  2. John ..John could you forget Roller Boogie?

  3. I actually like Can't Stop the Music. The moment which reaches the greatest heights, for me, is when the boys audition for the record company with the song, "Liberation". It perfectly encapsulates why the Village People clicked with the public and the times. In the same breath this scene, and its song, rings of melancholia... as though 'they' know that the time has passed. "LIberation", perhaps, sums up the movement.

  4. Scott1:50 PM

    While I would never say Xanadu is a good movie, it did produce one of the absolute greatest soundtrack albums of all time. The music was simply outstanding. There were five hit singles from the film: "Magic" (#1), "Suddenly" (#20), "I'm Alive" (#16), "All Over The World" (#13) and "Xanadu" (#8). "Don't Walk Away" was a sixth hit from the album in the UK. It is a soundtrack album that I still listen to on a regular basis 34 years later.

  5. Somewhere online, I think at the IMDB, there is a story about a man who was working a theater the night The Apple premiered. They gave away free copies of the movie soundtrack. That ended after the first showing as the audience members tossed them all at the screen.