Archive for the ‘Grease (1978)’ Category

Blu-ray Digibook Cover

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Release Date: April 24, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:50:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English Dolby True-HD Audio

Alternate Audio:

5.1 Castilian Spanish Dolby Digital Audio
Mono Latin American Spanish Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 French Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 German Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 Italian Dolby Digital Audio
5.1 Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital Audio
2.0 Japanese Dolby Digital Audio
English Descriptive Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Latin American Spanish, Castilian Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin Traditional, Mandarin Simplified, Korean, and Thai

Ratio: 2.35:1

Notes: This title is also available in a ‘40th Anniversary’ UHD/Blu-ray edition. Both the Blu-ray/DVD and the UHD/Blu-ray versions include an Ultraviolet copy of the film. The disc covered in this review is the Blu-ray/DVD edition.

Title

It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning… It’s difficult to imagine anyone needing a primer on Grease—which seems to enjoy the affectionate popularity of millions of viewers both young and old. Featuring an explosion of song and dance, as well as star-making performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, Grease made an indelible impact on popular culture. Everyone seems to know the film’s plot (and we use this term rather loosely in this particular instance), the characters, and (most importantly) the music. Boasting unforgettable songs including “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” ” “Beauty School Drop Out,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and (of course) “Grease,” the film is a timeless feel-good celebration—but it is rather difficult to figure out the reason behind the film’s continued success.

A subjective appraisal of the film will illuminate an excess of extremely obvious flaws that have been written about for the past 40 years. A review published in Entertainment Weekly at the time of the film’s 1998 theatrical revival read like a scathing diatribe and yet one senses that the reviewer had a grudging respect for the film.

“Don’t sic Rizzo and Kenickie on me for saying this, but Grease  was—and still is—a clunker… [It] is a crummy, crudely put together movie—Kleiser’s camera doesn’t swing, the action doesn’t flow, the big set pieces (the girls with ‘Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,’ the boys with ‘Greased Lightnin,’’ the National Bandstand Dance, the Thunder Road race) look like they were shot on a high school stage. But my oh my, will you get a load of slinky, skinny, sex pistol John Travolta, less than a year out of [Saturday Night] Fever, burning with ambition and possibility (seconds before taking a wrong turn with Moment by Moment)…

Grease, with its catchy-but-mediocre music and busy-but-uninspired dancing, is cheesy and faded—and still, we smile with indulgence… Grease is a creaker, but it’s America’s creaker…” –Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly, April 03, 1998)

Roger Ebert’s review shared Schwarzbaum’s sentiments but still gave the film three out of four stars (which isn’t at all bad).

“…No revival, however joyously promoted, can conceal the fact that this is just an average musical, pleasant and upbeat and plastic. The musical is being revived not because it is invaluable, but because it contains an invaluable cultural icon: the singing, dancing performance of John Travolta.

It is now clear that, slumps or not, comebacks or not, Travolta is an important and enduring movie star whose presence can redeem even a compromised Grease. This is not one of his great films—it lacks the electricity of Saturday Night Fever or the quirky genius of Pulp Fiction—but it has charm. If Travolta lacks the voltage of Elvis Presley (his obvious role model for this film), at least he’s in the same ballpark, and Elvis didn’t make such great movies, either…

…It’s fun, yes, but it doesn’t lift off the screen… Its underlying problem is that it sees the material as silly camp: It neuters it. Romance and breaking up are matters of life and death for teenagers, and a crisis of self-esteem can be a crushing burden. Grease doesn’t seem to remember that. Saturday Night Fever does.” –Roger Ebert (Chicago-Sun Times, March 27, 1998)

Every negative remark written about this film is absolutely fair and usually on target, but for whatever reason, this reviewer is charmed to the core by its vitality and charm. It is good in the same way that The Rocky Horror Picture Show is good. Neither film is a sterling example of great filmmaking but they elicit an overwhelming amount of joy in the viewer if they are willing to submit their minds to their will.

Actually, it might be said that the film is a “good film” since Grease was only ever meant to offer the viewer a few hours of mindless fun. Isn’t a film successful when it meets the filmmaker’s original intentions? This is a film that has been satisfying those intentions for 40 years!

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Paramount’s Blu-ray and DVD discs are housed inside an attractive Digi-book that looks like a Rydell High yearbook. Better yet, the plastic tray offers adequate protection to the discs (and a good many Digi-books don’t). The book contains several glossy pages of film-related photographs and artwork that adds some aesthetic value to the release (despite a very glaring typo).

40th Anniversary 'Grease' Releases

Paramount’s 40th Anniversary Releases of Grease

The animated Blu-ray menu features footage from the film and is accompanied by a snippet of “You’re the One that I Want.” It is an extremely attractive menu and is easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Paramount worked with director Randal Kleiser to restore Grease to its original vibrancy with the highest quality sound, picture resolution, and color. The original negative was scanned and received extensive cleanup and color correction using previously unavailable digital restoration tools such as high dynamic range technology and the result is a marked improvement from earlier home video releases. The 2009 Blu-ray was acceptable but didn’t really live up the potential of the Blu-ray format. This new 40th Anniversary Edition improves on every aspect of the image—with an especially noticeable spike in fine detail. Colors are gorgeous throughout the duration, and black levels are perfectly within an acceptable range. There are a few shots that come across as soft, flat, and processed but these shots look this way on all of the various releases. This suggests that these issues are inherited from the source elements. It is reasonable to assume that this is very close to the absolute best this film can look. The transfer is nicely handled as well as there aren’t any nasty compression issues to annoy the viewer.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The audio was enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release, giving the music more clarity. There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming difference between the audio transfer on this new release and the mix found on the 2009 disc, but the audio on that earlier release was serviceable and represented the original film adequately and this track follows suit. For a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio mix, the sonic experience isn’t terribly dynamic and might disappoint those hoping for an engulfing musical experience—even if the musical numbers are spaced out around various channels in a pleasing way. It is simply too front-heavy to really amaze the listener. One has the feeling that there were issues in the source audio that keeps the audio from being the perfect experience that fans are no doubt hoping to enjoy. However, it represents the source and this is all it really needs to accomplish.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Most of the supplemental material has been carried over from previous releases and are therefore presented in standard definition, but there are three newer features that are blessed with 1080P transfers: Grease: A Chicago Story, Alternate Main Titles, and an Alternate Ending. Nothing on the disc really offers a comprehensive look at the making of this landmark film or any instructive insight into the reasons behind its continuing success, but the sum of all of these features do add up to more than the sum of their individual parts. It is simply too bad that Paramount hasn’t included the Grease Day USA television special that originally aired upon the film’s release (instead of merely presenting excerpts). While, it wouldn’t make for a very informative addition to the package, it an interesting look at the film’s marketing and release (with plenty of disco thrown in for good measure). It seems likely that they would’ve had to license some of the unrelated music in order to include the program in its entirety.

Commentary by Randal Kleiser (Director) and Patricia Birch (Choreographer)

Randal Kleiser and Patricia Birch may not offer a lot of revelatory information or analysis in their comments but they are able to offer quite a bit of fun trivia and details about the production while keeping the commentary interesting throughout the duration. Theirs isn’t the best commentary in the universe but it is far from the worst and is at very least a fun diversion for die-hard Grease fanatics.

Introduction by Randal Kleiser – (00:24)

It’s impossible to understand why these introductions are even made for these home video releases. With the occasional rare exception, they bring absolutely nothing in the way of instructive information to the table. Kleiser’s introduction is not one of these exceptions and its inclusion here brings absolutely nothing of value to the disc. It merely takes up space.

Alternate Animated Main Titles – (03:44)

The original song is included here (in demo form) and is synced to the animated sequence as originally planned before Barry Gibb came up with its replacement. Frankly, it doesn’t work nearly as well—but this is what makes this one of the disc’s better features. It offers a real glimpse at the creation and evolution of the classic. What’s more, there is a contextual introduction offered at the beginning of the feature before playing the titles. This was very much appreciated.

Alternate Ending – (00:45)

Again, it was a blessing in disguise that they were unable to use this alternate ending. The footage used here comes from the original black and white work-print of the film but has been shoddily colorized. In any case, it’s nice to have it here.

Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes – (480i) – (10:17)

It is nice to have the following deleted material in their black-and-white “work-print” form (even if there isn’t any noteworthy or substantial material that was left on the cutting room floor).

The following material is included here:

Introduction by Randal Keiser – (00:17)

“T”-Birds Harass Eugene – (00:38)

Extended: Classroom Announcements – (02:36)

Extended: Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – (00:46)

Extended: She’s Too Pure to Be Pink – (00:46)

Extended: Intro to Summer Nights – (00:21)

Rydell Pep Rally – (00:59)

Extended: Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s – (00:36)

The Stroll – (00:24)

Extended: National Bandstand – (01:15)

Alternate: At the Dance – (01:22)

Thunder Road – (00:12)

Grease: A Chicago Story – (24:30)

‘Grease’: A Chicago Story features new interviews with writer Jim Jacobs and original cast members of the Chicago show. It is probably the most substantial program included in the disc’s supplemental package and certainly the most informative. It covers how the original idea came about, and how the writing originated, the inspiration for location and characters, the collaborative process with Warren Casey, the original Chicago production, and even how it was discovered and became a successful Broadway show.

The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering ‘Grease – (22:27)

This retrospective is an engaging look back at the film and its production and includes quite a bit of raw “behind the scenes” footage throughout its duration (which is really the featurette’s strongest attribute). Unfortunately, the interview content doesn’t probe into the production in any real depth and tends to lean towards the typical navel-gazing and generic complimentary phrases about the others involved. The participants really need to get out of PR-mode and offer real information about the production. There is no need to sell the film at this point. Grease was a massive hit, its decades later, and we own it on home video! However, it is still worth watching for the general information that we are actually given.

2002 ‘Grease’ Reunion: DVD Launch Party – (15:13)

One of the pleasant surprises on the disc is this coverage of the DVD Launch Party held in 2002. Frankly, one doesn’t expect very much from this feature. In fact, it doesn’t seem as if it will offer much of interest to the viewer in its first three minutes. It begins with an E! Entertainment-style montage of various cast and crew members (including John Travolta and Olivia-Newton-John) having their photographs taken and interview snippets that don’t provide any real insight into the film. These consist of statements like, “No one expected the film to be such a phenomenon.” However, this portion of the proceedings takes up less than three minutes of the duration. The rest of the program features three live concert performances with Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, and other cast members. These include, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Summer Nights.” Olivia Newton-John carries these performances as her voice was the strongest after the many years that had passed since the film was originally released, but everyone seems as if they are having a blast and their enthusiasm is really quite charming.

The Moves Behind the Music – (08:14)

The dance numbers are briefly discussed in this featurette featuring Patricia Birch (choreographer), Bill Butler (director of photography), and Randal Kleiser (director). They discuss how the dance sequences were a collaboration that melded camera and dance and also reveal some extremely general information about how some of these dances were conceived and pulled off. I believe Olivia Newton-John makes an extremely brief appearance as well to comment on the film’s lengthy dance contest sequence.

Thunder Roadsters – (05:22)

This short featurette isn’t terribly informative but may be of interest to vintage car and hot rod enthusiasts. The famous “Greased Lightning” car is discussed for a brief period and various people discuss their own vintage car projects.

Grease’ Memories from John & Olivia – (03:25)

This dual interview finds both John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at the DVD launch party in 2002 and the most interesting thing about this short clip is their rapport with one another. They seem like very close friends with a genuine affection for one another. The interview content is pure fluff and finds them talking generally about the film’s legacy. It’s not particularly instructive but it is kind of charming.

John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview – (01:47)

Perhaps it is the archival nature of this interview with John Travolta more interesting. Taken from footage of the aforementioned Grease Day USA television special, the interview focuses on Travolta’s early career as a stage actor and his history performing Grease on stage (in a much smaller role). It isn’t nearly long enough to offer much in the way of substance, but what is included is worthwhile (if only as a time-capsule of the time the movie was released). As mentioned before, it is a shame that the entire program couldn’t have been included.

Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview – (02:07)

Another clip from Grease Day USA finds Olivia Newton-John giving her impressions of the film’s reception and is more obviously publicity oriented than Travolta’s interview. However, it is really a very charming addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:09)

Luckily, Paramount has seen fit to include the film’s original theatrical trailer on this release. It’s an interesting artifact that should please fans of the film.

Rydell Sing-Along

This feature offers fans the option of watching the musical numbers separately with the lyrics appearing on the bottom of the screen to create a karaoke video. One can also choose to watch the film in its entirety in this manner.

Photo Galleries

The photos included on the disc are presented in slideshow form and organize into four galleries: Rydell High Year Book, Production, Premiere, and ‘Grease’ Day.

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Final Words:

You owe yourself a night of mindless fun, and this new 40th Anniversary Blu-ray will provide that in abundance!

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