Grease [1978]

The Travolta DVD Collection collects three films from the beginning of John Travolta's career after he was plucked from the cast of the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. In Saturday Night Fever (1977), Travolta plays Tony Manero, a 19-year-old Italian American from Brooklyn who works in a humble paint store and lives with his family. After dark, he becomes the polyester-clad stallion of the local nightclub. Director John Badham captures the electric connection between music and dance, and also the desperation that lies beneath Tony's ambitions to break out of his limited world. The soundtrack, which spawned a massively successful album, is dominated by the disco classics of the Bee Gees, including "Staying Alive" and "Night Fever." The OscarĀ®-nominated Travolta, in his first starring role, is incandescent and unbelievably confident, and his dancing is terrific. Oh, and the white suit rules. In 1978, Travolta went on to Grease, an adaptation of the Broadway musical. With vibrant colors, unforgettably campy and catchy tunes (like "Greased Lightning," "Summer Nights," and "You're the One That I Want"), and fabulously choreographed musical numbers, the '50s-nostalgia story about the romantic dilemmas experienced by a group of graduating high school seniors remains fresh, fun, and incredibly imaginative. Travolta struts, swaggers, sings, and dances appropriately, while Olivia Newton-John's portrayal of virgin innocence is the only decent acting she's ever done. Travolta traded in disco duds for a cowboy hat in Urban Cowboy (1980), a corny love story about a workingman who breaks up with his girlfriend (Debra Winger), then plays out their relationship's turmoil inside a huge honky-tonk called Gilley's. The story essentially parallels Saturday Night Fever in its blend of ordinary life, incomplete relationships, and personal pride channeled into niche stardom at a neighborhood club, and the film is really a time capsule on a lot of levels--notably Travolta's career and late-'70s Western kitsch.

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