A Slice of Excess: Our Review of ‘Studio 54: The Documentary’ on Blu-Ray

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies by - February 03, 2019
A Slice of Excess: Our Review of ‘Studio 54: The Documentary’ on Blu-Ray

It’s a rare thing for lightening to strike and even rarer to be able to have had it documented…

Studio 54: The Documentary is a fascinating look into a moment in the pop culture ethos that has burned brighter than many others that came before it, even if it does loose a little bit of focus towards the end of the film.

For 33 months, from 1978 to 1980, the nightclub Studio 54 was the place to be seen in Manhattan. A haven of hedonism, tolerance, glitz and glamour, Studio was very hard to gain entrance to and impossible to ignore, with news of who was there filling the gossip columns daily. Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, two college friends from Brooklyn, succeeded in creating the ultimate escapist fantasy in the heart of the theater district. Rubell was the outgoing party-boy who wanted to be everybody’s friend and was photographed with every celebrity du jour who entered the club and Schrager was the quiet, behind-the-scenes workhorse who shunned the limelight. Studio 54 was an instant success and a cash cow, but the drug-and-sex-fueled dream soon imploded in financial scandal and the club’s demise.

Director Matt Tyrnauer gives us a solid glimpse into not only the genesis of the club itself but also the motivations behind why it came at the perfect time along with a glimpse at what happened to all involved.

The film works its way through a very solid and expected arc as archival footage and the myriad of subjects that we’re available (including Ian Schrager) paint a picture of New York at the time and the whole that was ultimately being filled buy Studio 54 as it fully embraced the showy and over the top nature of not only disco music in creating a near show like experience every night for its patrons but also in the environment of acceptance that it created which quickly blossomed into hedonism right before the AIDS epidemic would rock not only the gay community but the world over.

Tyrnauer deftly navigates through the trashy fun moments as well as making sure that the crimes that Schrager and Steve Rubell were committing by side stepping the city system on so many occasions.  It was the combination of all that which ultimately led to the eventual downfall of the club as the wild, anything goes ideals of the 1970’s gave way to the button down, high octane excesses of the 1980’s

Towards the third act of the film however things do get a little scattered as we end up talking less about the club and more about the aftermath of its closing and what happened to Schrager, Rubell and other’s in its aftermath.  There’s nothing wrong with that to be fair, but some more details and stories from inside one of the most notorious nightclubs and celebrity hotspots to ever exist could have made this a little more spicy and interesting.

The picture and sound quality are top notch as you’d expect but sadly there are no special features on this release.

Ultimately, Studio 54: The Documentary is a solid slice out of pop culture history that anyone will find themselves enjoying, but had it gotten a little more salacious in its storytelling we could have gotten a glimpse into the world of excess that only the famous and the beautiful had access too for 33 iconic months.


  • Release Date: 1/29/2019
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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