Thank God It’s Friday (1978)
Cast: Donna Summer, Debra Winger, Jeff Goldblum, The Commodores, Paul Jabara,
Director: Robert Klane
Nutshell: Its the Disco Boom of 1978 and all the squares and geeks are heading to new newly opened Zoo which functions as the Tinder/Grindr for the Disco Generation.
1978 was synonymous with Studio 54, Chic, Donna Summer, Sister Sledge, Sylvester, Blondie, Earth Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang and Disco was music was the soundtrack to this era of Gay and Black and Underworld Ghetto power rising to the top of the pop charts all over the world. Chic exclaimed “Everybody Dance” and everybody did indeed flock to the Disco that speckled every metropolis from East to West and danced till the early hours to the thumping sounds of the pumping disco beat. Thank God It’s Friday attempted to cash in on this craze with distinctly mixed results.
Saturday Night Fever’s success had taken the black-Latin-gay subculture of Disco music to the white mainstream and the rich, famous and beautiful all thronged the latest pre-internet way of hooking up by going down to the local Disco which also served as the Tinder or Grindr of the times. You got dressed up in your disco gear and pulling look, most of it horrendously embarrassing, slipped on your dancing shoes and proceeded to make a total fool of yourself (if you weren’t black) by dancing like a paraplegic in public and paying to do this to yourself.
Yet, in the late 70s, the Disco was the place to go to be seen, to strut your stuff, and mostly to pull and indeed it was a way of life exemplified by the rise and rise of Studio 54. The disco boom gave flagging soul funk artists a second wind and many went back to the studios recording songs with a pumping dance beat, trying to cash in on the new thing; some succeeded and some didn’t but this was the time for soul funk and RnB artists to come to the party and many of them did driven by super producers none better than the duo behind the trademark sound of Chic, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and their band.
It was during this boom time that Motown records, enjoying the biggest success since its golden era of the 60s and Casablanca Records who housed Disco’s greatest rising star Donna Summer and an array of disco oriented artists including Funk outfit Cameo and the marketing gimmick known as Kiss. These two studios came together to try to capture a slice of the lucrative cinema and soundtrack market by ceonceving of Thank God It’s Friday and putting out a Disco film featuring some of their artists as well as an accompanying 3 record set featuring the films songs.
The soundtrack did in deed perform fairly well, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard charts and it even managed to win an Oscar for the years Best Song “Last Dance” written by Paul Jabara and performed by Disco Diva Donna Summer. The film however didn’t perform nearly as well and fortunately the Disco feature film craze dwindled until there was a batch of Freestyle – Breakdance – Rap Hip Hop oriented movies that hit screens in the early 1980s.
Thank God it’s Friday’s action is based around a happening new Disco in Los Angeles called The Zoo which is attracting a very hip crowd just like Studio 54 and everybody is lining up to get a piece of the action. A bunch of exceedingly dull, square white people are also making a beeline to the Zoo in order to try to “loosen up” from their stiff white boring routines. There are a bunch of other loveable losers who are all desperate to find some magic within The Zoo. Some are there for a dance competition while Donna Summer playing an aspiring disco singer Nicole is there to try to get a break and sing for the crowd. There is the smug owner of the Disco who is a typical Romeo greaseball with all the women swooning over him.
There is supposed to be much humour that drives the film but its all rather imbecilic and reminiscent of a very bad Disco oriented episode of Love Boat. One of the stereotypical characters is a “Leatherman” whose sole aim in life is to win the dance competition and show the world his amazing dancing skills. All his character amounts to is another tired and woeful cliché crammed into the films running time.
Thank God It’s Friday’s songs are slight compensation with The Commodores lending their sizzling Brick House for a moment as well as the super funky and rather delicious Too Hot to Trot which serves as one of the highlights of the otherwise brain numbingly dumb movie. Sadly, the Commodores track is wasted by dull, unimaginative presentation which leaves only Donna Summer’s Last Dance as the stand out moment of the film. Take those two moments away and you are left with a film that ranks as one of the impossibly awful moments in cinematic memory and along with Can’t Stop the Music; both staggeringly awful and utterly incompetent cinematic experiences with no merit whatsoever.
There are filler discos songs laced on the soundtrack from the most fabulous (Too Hot To Trot to the rather dull and insipid Meco and worse).
Among Thank God It’s Friday’s cast are Debra Winger and Jeff Goldblum who went on to bigger and better things. Ultimately this “Disco Classic” is anything but that, with a low point being a shameless plug for Casablanca Records product the jack-ass, Spinal Tap-esque Kiss who went on to sell millions of records simply on the strength of marketing and human stupidity.
Thank God It’s Friday has one moment that stands out and it comes in the first ten seconds of the film when the famous Columbia Films statuette swirls and shimmies to a disco beat before the nightmare begins to unveil itself. The Disco age provided some of the history’s greatest turkeys and Joan Collins’ epic The Stud and The Bitch must also qualify as among cinematic dregs of all time battling it out for the title of the worst Disco oriented (or not disco oriented) movie of all time.
A truly painful and cringe-inducing experience. Not for the feint hearted and only recommended to those who enjoyed “Can’t Stop the Music”. Personally, I shall forever rue my wayward youth where I actually spent money to watch both these films in the first run and lived to tell the tale. I even bought some satin pants but fortunately never had the courage to wear them. I loved me some hot soul funk and disco and loads of Cameo and Donna Summer but am so glad Disco died even if it never really did.