In the interest of full disclosure, I’m the creator of Danger! Health Films that stars Randy Jones, the original Cowboy from the Village People. It can be seen on Night Flight Plus and Amazon Prime. While this could be seen as a bias, my feelings about Can’t Stop the Music were formed long before I met the Cowboy in person. Since the movie came out in the summer of 1980, the songs have been stuck in my head. The film itself has changed over the decades. When it first was released Can’t Stop the Music was a bizarre disaster. The release was at a time when Disco music was truly on the way out. It didn’t have the ability to find the same box office success as Saturday Night Fever and Thank God It’s Friday. It played at the same time at the local Cineplex as John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy so there was a new form of music looking to sell soundtracks. While it didn’t get Oscar nominated, it won the first Golden Raspberry (The Razzies) for worst film of the year. But Can’t Stop the Music didn’t vanish from the landscape as its colorful characters and disco spirit kept it alive.
The biopic alleges to tell the story of how The Village People came together in a classic Hollywood setting. But unlike recent musical biopics such as Rocketman, Ray and Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s no pretense that this is even close to the truth of the matters. First off we have Jack Morell (Police Academy‘s Steve Guttenberg) as a kid working at a record store in New York City presented as the musical genius behind the band. The truth is the real man behind the sound was Jacques Morali, who started his musical career in France before coming to America to blow the lid off the disco sound with The Ritchie Family’s dance floor version of “Brazil.” But that’s not nearly as fun as Jack telling his record store boss that he can’t stick around to do inventory because he’s got a guest DJ gig at Saddle Tramps. This leads to Jack quitting his job, swearing soon they’d be stocking his records and rollerskating in the heart of Manhattan. That’s so not the truth, but it’s so theatrical! Luckily the unemployed Jack has a patron in Samantha Simpson (Superman‘s Valerie Perrine). She’s a recently retired supermodel who needs a new challenge in life. She enjoys Jack’s dance music and wants to get him hooked up with a label. He just needs vocalists to cut the right demo. This leads to her recruiting a waiter who dresses like an Indian (Felipe Rose), a model who dresses like a construction worker (David “Scar” Hodo) and a cowboy (Randy Jones). She has them over for a backyard picnic and recording session. This leads to a friend bringing her singing cop brother (Ray Simpson). The band gets firmed up later at a larger audition when they find a leather biker (Glenn M. Hughes) and a soldier (Alex Briley). Glenn passes the audition singing “Danny Boy.”
At this point, things also are weird because of the arrival of Ron White (CHiPs‘ Bruce Jenner now Caitlyn Jenner). He arrives in town to start work on Wall Street, but gets a quick lesson that his small town manners are going to make him a victim in the Big Apple. Samantha takes a liking to the hick in the three piece suit although he has issues with the Village lifestyle. It’s kinda funny seeing Jenner pull off the morally offended character seeing the twists and turns his life has taken. What’s amazing is how far the producers made the Village People seem all straight. But yet the film has a gay vibe to the scenes. The Saddle Tramps patrons aren’t the straight crowd found on the floor of Saturday Night Fever. The film is strange in that there’s a bit of denial and yet the truth is all around these characters.
One of the highlights of the film is the montage where all the character go to the local YMCA and work out to the Village People massive hit “YMCA.” My old boss Ray Regis used to show this clip at film school as part of his lectures on musicals. It truly is a Busby Berkeley-esque with a cast of 100s working out at the gym. What’s especially interesting is that this is a PG rated film and during this sequence you get more male frontal nudity on the screen than had been flashed in the history of Hollywood studio release in total. During the hot tub shot, you can see Perrine’s not wearing a swimsuit top. What was the MPAA thinking?
Can’t Stop the Music is festive and fun at its core. You don’t get bogged down with the normal musical biopic clichés. Jack doesn’t get driven to the brink of suicide from a cocaine addiction. He has little struggles, but nothing to cause him to lose his faith in the disco sound. The same goes for the six Village People who don’t have a creative crisis. They just want to dress up, sing, dance and look fabulous. This is why nearly 40 years later, Can’t Stop the Music is so enjoyable. Unlike some films that get tagged as guilty pleasures that you want to watch alone, this is a movie you want to invite your cool friends over to watch so you can all “do the shake” together. Can’t Stop the Music should never be stopped.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. Cinematographer Bill Butler gives a glitter to the screen. He had previously made Jaws. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround for you to truly bring that disco sound into your living room. Crank up the woofer. There’s also a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo for the original release mix. The movie is subtitled.
A Wink, A Wiggle, And A Wave (25:15) has Randy Jones recount how he became the Cowboy in the Village People. He talks about their early years touring. He graduated from UNC and the North Carolina School of the Arts before he went up to Manhattan and found his fame via Grace Jones.
Can’t Stop the Cowboy (40:59) has Randy Jones discuss making the movie. He does recommend you watch the film with a cocktail and any other legal libations. He talks about how he found out they were making a film after a few years of non-stop touring and recording. This is like you’re sitting at a diner with Randy as he recounts the tales of the time.
Audio Commentary features Bruce Vilanch and Jeffrey Schwarz talking about the film from the perspective of producer Allan Carr. Bruce was the original screenwriter hired. There’s strange connection to the Duke University Diet Center. Schwarz made a documentary about Carr called The Fabulous Allan Carr. Cher turned down the lead role.
Theatrical Trailer (2:57) promises this movie will launch the ’80s.
TV Spots (0:59) promises “you can’t stop the excitement.”
Image Gallery (2:10) includes photographs and lobby cards from the movie.
Poster and Press Materials Gallery (8:57) has tons of posters and press books from around the world.
Vintage Photo Gallery (4:24) are promo items for the Village People including underwear shots. They even found the bubble gum cards.
Shout! Factory presents Can’t Stop the Muisc. Directed by Nancy Walker. Screenplay by: Allan Carr and Bronté Woodard. Starring: Village People, Valerie Perrine, Bruce Jenner, Steve Guttenberg, Paul Sand and Tammy Grimes. Rated: PG. Running Time: 123 minutes. Released: June 11, 2019.
Tags: Can't Stop the Music, Shout! Factory, Village People