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Grease (1978)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/5/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio:
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/6/2009

Would it be fair to say that each generation gets its own special movie musical? Sure, many musicals are released during one's formative years, but there's usually that one movie which defines a generation. For example, for my daughter's, it's High School Musical, and there's little debating that at the moment. My generation was hit with a much odder entry. Those of us who were growing up in the 70s were bombarded with a movie which celebrates the 50s! Well, at least we could bond with our parents over Grease.

Set in the late 1950s, Grease opens with Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) meeting at the beach, falling in love, and hating to part. Danny returns to Rydell High School for his senior year, where his reunited with his friends, The T-Birds, who include Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci), and Putzie (Kelly Ward). He also runs into school flirt Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and her "Pink Ladies", Frenchy (Didi Conn), Jan (Jamie Donnelly), and Marty (Dinah Manoff). Danny is shocked to learn that Sandy's family moved to town and she is now at Rydell. However, Danny doesn't want the guys to know that he wasn't his usual cool self when he was around Sandy and he blows her off. From there, Danny begins to do everything that he can to win her back. Meanwhile, Kenickie buys an old car, determined that he can turn it into a racing machine. Rizzo attempts to reconcile her feelings for Kenickie. Everything comes to a head at the high school dance.

Anyone under the age of 25 may not understand the appeal of Grease, but when the film was released in 1978, it was huge. The movie was a box-office smash, the songs were all over the radio, and the soundtrack was one of those things (be it on 8-track or vinyl) that you simply owned - no questions asked. John Travolta was still a very hot commodity thanks to the success of Saturday Night Fever and Olivia Newton-John was one of music's most popular performers. I have no idea how many people were familiar with the stage version, but everybody saw the movie.

So, watching the film some 30 years later (God, I am so old!), I have very mixed feelings about the movie. I still know the words to every song and many of the images, especially from the finale, as so ingrained in pop culture, that it's nearly impossible to imagine a world without them. While I'm not a fan of any of his current work, John Travolta is perfect in the role of Danny Zuko, and for a non-actor Newton-John holds her own. (Although, if you really examine the movie, she isn't in it very much.) However, seeing the movie through adult eyes, I see that Grease isn't a very good movie at times. Director Randal Kleiser was helming his first feature film and something of this scope (with big song and dance numbers) may have been too much for him to handle. The editing is jarring at times, there is basically no character development, and when one puts a microscope to the story, we see that it's virtually non-existent. It's as if the stage musical was taken, a few songs were added, a few were removed, and then put in front of the camera with hopes that the whole thing would work. So, I can definitely imagine a modern tween coming across this movie and thinking, "What the heck is this?"

But, none of that matters, for a certain generation, Grease will always be the word. The movie isn't a technical marvel and the acting is often forced, but the songs still hold up today and Sandy's transformation (while sending a horrible message to young girls) is still one of the great moments in movie musicals.

Grease presents the filthiest song about a car ever on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. Grease is one of those movies which wasn't available in a letterboxed format and when it would show up on TV, it would look terrible. At the outset, I was very impressed with this transfer, as the image looked very sharp and clear, and showed a nice amount of depth. When Danny is reunited with the T-Birds, Grease looks the sharpest that I've ever seen it. Then I noticed something unusual -- in most scenes, the bottom part of the screen is blurry. Simply check out the section of the screen just above the bottom black bar and it looks out of focus. I've never seen anything like this. It doesn't necessarily ruin the experience, but it's impossible to ignore in some shots. That aside, the colors look very good, especially reds. The image is a bit dark during the bonfire scene. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Well, we're here for the music and it sounds very good. The stereo effects are nicely done, and the music is separated from the vocals, making both distinct. The bass in the songs, especially "You're The One That I Want", gives the subwoofer something to do. The surround sound effects are very intermittent, but they do crop up during some of the musical numbers.

The Grease Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Randal Kleiser and Choreographer Patricia Birch. Kleiser also provides an optional introduction for the film. "Rydell Sing-Along" offers the musical numbers with karaoke-style lyrics. "The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease" (23 minutes) is a retrospective featurette which contains interviews with some of the cast, the producers, and Kleiser. They discuss the evolution of the play from stage to screen. From there, we get a discussion of the cast and chracters, and a chat about the production. The Disc contains eleven DELETED/EXTENDED/ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 10 minutes and contain an intro from Kleiser. The new footage is in black and white (we aren't told why) and most of the moments are simply longer versions of scenes which exist in the finished film. "Grease on DVD Launch Party" (15 minutes) takes us inside the 2002 event which celebrated the DVD debut of the movie. "Grease Memories from John & Olivia" (3 minutes) is a brief interview with the two stars who share their thoughts on seeing the film years later. Choreographer Patricia Birch discusses the film's dancing in "The Moves Behind the Music" (8 minutes). "Thunder Roadsters" (5 minutes) examines the vintage cars used in the film. "John Travolta and Allan Carr 'Grease Day' Interview" (2 minutes) is a brief chat from 1978. "Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood 'Grease Day' Interview" (2 minutes) is another short talk from the 70s. The extras are rounded out by four PHOTO GALLERIES (Rydell High Year Book, Production, Premiere, Grease Day) and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long