Staying Alive Blu-ray Review: They Say the Neon Lights Are Bright on Broadway

I might be in the minority but I think Staying Alive is a better film than Saturday Night Fever. (Yes, I was a child of the ’80s and everything was better in that decade.) Co-written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive offers a lighter tone and has a greater focus on the dancing.

Set five years later, Tony Manero (John Travolta) is still trying to find success as a dancer. He has moved to Manhattan where he is working as a waiter and a dance instructor. While he is trying to change is ways, he still can’t help himself when it comes to women. He cheats on his girlfriend Jackie (Cynthia Rhoades) regularly. When he falls for a fellow dancer, Laura (Finola Hughes), Jackie has had enough. Laura doesn’t appreciate how aggressive Tony is so their relationship doesn’t last. Tony manages to score a small part in the Broadway production Satan’s Alley where Laura is the lead and Jackie is a background dancer. The intensity between the three of them escalates as the show moves towards its premiere. The dance numbers are highly entertaining with the sequences during the opening night of the musical being especially visually impressive.

In general, the women shine the brightest and are the main reason I have watched Staying Alive so many times. I have always felt that Cynthia Rhodes was an underappreciated actress, from her stellar performance in Dirty Dancing and here as one of Tony’s love interests. Like her role in Dirty Dancing, she showcases her dancing skills. In addition, she reveals her singing abilities with the beautifully heartbreaking ballad “Finding Out the Hard Way”. Finola Hughes as Laura is the perfect counterbalance to the sweet Jackie. She is strong and determined yet shows some vulnerability. Hughes is also a phenomenal dancer. It may seem that Tony is calling the shots as he treats the women poorly, but I have always thought that the film highlights the strengths of their characters and their unwillingness to put up with his behavior. Julie Bovasso returns in a small role as Tony’s mom and is such a delight.

The soundtrack is another one of the major reasons that I love this film. I still listen to it often to this day, not only for the great Bee Gees songs but “Far From Over” by Frank Stallone is a go-to whenever I need a pick me up or during a great workout. “Look Out For Number One” by Thomas Faragher also does the trick.

This new high definition release comes from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The special features include an audio commentary from film historian David Del Valle and Ed King of the Irish Film Institute along with an interview with Finola Hughes.

Where Saturday Night Fever offers high intensity, very depressing drama, and perhaps more gritty realism, Staying Alive is about the glitz of New York and trying to make it on Broadway. While it didn’t prove as successful and received almost unanimous negative reviews, Staying Alive did open to the biggest weekend for a musical at the time and ranked in the top ten of 1983 financially.

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Lorna Miller

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