The Secret Disco Revolution is a glittery, peculiar, comic journey into the cultural and political soul (it digs deep to find one!) of disco. From disco’s eternal queen, Donna Summer, to its final days of record burnings” and Disco Sucks”, director Jamie Kastner hypothesizes that the ’70s disco era was not all drugs, polyester, and mirror balls but rather, a time of liberation for gays, blacks, and women—a “secret revolution.” This most likely is not the case, however it’s fun to take Kastner’s tongue-and-cheek journey back to 1970s New York City as he explores disco’s roots. Kastner’s didactic music-history exploration traces disco’s roots back to Nazi Germany where underground parties filled with young people dancing to jazz records that were played by a “disc jockey.” Kastner’s infuses the film with just enough academics to give the documentary credibility and Disco its place in music history.
Some of the films more engaging moments include interviews with Nicky Siano, the original Studio 54 DJ and—thanks to some great stock footage—shots from his earlier club days at The Gallery; also embittered one-hit wonders like Evelyn “Champagne” King “Shame”) and Thelma Houston (“Don’t Leave Me This Way”), and of course, those campy kings of disco, the Macho-YMCA-Navy-loving (“subversive”?) Village People make this playful documentary a little more fun and perhaps more thought provoking (not!) than any old episode of VH1 Behind the Music.
—John David West