Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: Grease Rockin' Rydell Edition

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Apr 30, 2009.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Grease Rockin’ Rydell Edition (Blu-Ray)

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: PG
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
    Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish mono; French Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+
    Time: 110 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD 50
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 1978
    Blu-ray Release Date: May 5, 2009

    NOTE: Portions of this review were originally seen in my SD-DVD review of this title.

    I was eight years old when I first saw Grease, and although I didn’t know it then, I really didn’t get it. I knew I liked the music and the dancing, and Olivia Newton-John quickly became my second boyhood crush (sorry, Farrah), but it took years of repeated viewings and life experiences to understand all the jokes. For example, I didn’t get what a hickie was, “Feel your way” later became very exciting, “bun in the oven” added some weight to Rizzo’s character, and the rhyming of “shit” and “tit” puts other songwriters to shame. Once you get that part of it, the movie becomes that much better. I also never noticed the actors playing the teenagers in the movie were really just a bit too old.

    Grease is a pretty simple story of boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy gets girl. Aussie goodie two shoes Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) meets greaser Danny (John Travolta) during the summer at the beach. Since Sandy is heading back home to Australia, she and Danny must part much to their yearning teen chagrin. Danny heads back to school at Rydell High and we meet the rest of his gang, the T-Birds, as well as their female counterparts, the Pink Ladies. The guys and gals dance and sing about what goes on around them, and at the Homecoming game, the Pinks re-introduce Danny to Sandy. Turns out Sandy wound up staying stateside and she’s going to Rydell. Torn by staying cool in front of the boys and seeing his chick again, Danny blows off Sandy and breaks her heart (the first of many times during the movie). Sandy then does what she needs to do to make Danny jealous and they wind up back together. But Danny must stay true to his cool roots, so he, of course, screws it up again and Sandy splits. After a big car race, Sandy decides she’s got to tart it up if she wants to keep her man. As school ends, the graduation carnival will provide a chance for everyone to show who’s devoted to whom.

    Most everyone from my age group have fond memories of this classic picture. While it’s not deserving of an Academy Award for its acting or story, it’s got a great soundtrack that I’m sure many of us have worn out over the years. I would also venture to say that it’s one of those soundtracks that as soon as it goes on at a party or a bar, everyone is singing along and mimicking the moves. Classic pictures, regardless of critical merit, evoke this from the viewer and allow you to have a great time. I’ve seen Grease nearly as many times as some of my other favorites since, even when it’s on TV, the remote is put down and I am compelled to watch until the last “We’ll always be together.” Even while working on the review of this edition, I’d lose track of time and thoughts since the lyrics and beats took me over and I was right back in the story. Great cinema? Probably not. Great time? Absolutely! It’s even the highest grossing movie musical of all time if you need further proof.

    To answer a few questions other HTF members have been asking about this new release: it does not have the original Paramount logo; the audio mix seems to be the same one from the previous SD-DVD releases; the Coke signs behind Newton John and Lorenzo Llamas are still blurred, but Director Randall Kleiser notes in the commentary this is how it was in the theatrical release. If you look closely to the blurring, you can see the optical blurring in the print around the actor’s heads, so I tend to believe what the director says and not our alleged memories of the theatrical presentation.

    Movie: ***/*****


    Video:
    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

    The picture is presented at 2.35:1 aspect ratio from the original 1978 release of the picture which was a 35mm print. Subsequent theatrical re-releases of the movie was a 70mm release at 2.20:1. Supposedly for the 2006 SD-DVD, this was a new transfer that had gone through digital processing to clean it up. Color correction was done for that version and this is the same transfer. While I was very impressed by the SD-DVD, this BD only improves on it, tightening up the picture’s detail and sharpness and squeezing a little more color saturation out of the image. Detail showed subtle nuances in the clothing and lettering. Colors and flesh tones exhibit very nice, accurate saturation (the beach scene at the beginning shows a great range of colors, for example). Contrast is exceptional and the blacks show good detail. Edge enhancement is barely noticeable, but you will see it occasionally. There was no film dirt or video noise observed.

    Video: ****.5/*****


    Audio:
    The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

    I watched the disc with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged and it appears to be the same one from the previous release. The 5.1 track is…boring, I guess is the best way to put it. It’s a very flat presentation that stays centered in the fronts, predominantly in the center channel. The TrueHD track improves it slightly as it sounds like it has a bit more richness and warmth to the songs. Panning and stereo effects are minor. The soundtrack maintains a very balanced level set squarely in the mid ranges. There is little surround activity except when they try to add spaciousness and echo to the songs, but I found this to be distracting. The main place I noticed the LFE’s were when Craterface sends the flames out of the tailpipes of his car. The TrueHD track does allow the dynamic range to creep into the LFE’s, at least more than it did for the SD track, for the music. ADR is noticeable in the movie, but there is no hiss or distortion. This movie screams for a new mix and I think Paramount really missed the boat by still not giving us an upgrade. There was also a 2.0 mix on the 2006 disc, but it has been dropped here.

    Audio: ***/*****


    Bonus Material: All of the items are in SD and were on the 2006 SD-DVD.

    Commentary by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch: The two fill up the track with information about the production. It’s an interesting give and take between the two as Kleiser tries to go on about the technical aspects of the shoot, but Birch pops in about the limited topic of choreography. Either way, it’s a good listen.

    Rydell Sing-Along: Finally, you can sing along with Danny and Sandy karaoke style. There are eleven songs to sing along with, and you can watch them separately song by song or with the feature itself. For Grease geeks like me, we don’t need no stinkin’ subtitles.

    The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease (22:23): Interviews with Producers Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood, Kleiser, Travolta (in T-Birds jacket and a familiar hairstyle), Newton-John and others as they talk about how the project started and was made. All of the clips from the picture are in their native OAR from this new transfer. There are some great behind the scenes shots here also.

    Deleted/ Extended/ Alternate Scenes (10:16): Randall Kleiser does an intro, followed by these scenes in various forms of quality and completion, and in black and white: The T-Birds harass Eugene, classroom announcements, Pink Ladies and Sandy at lunch, she’s too pure to be pink, intro to “Summer Nights”, Rydell pep rally, Kenickie and Danny outside Frosty’s, the stroll, National Bandstand, at the dance, Thunder Road. These scenes are mildly interesting but they aren’t essential to the completed picture.

    Grease on DVD Launch Party (15:11): Video footage from the 2002 DVD release party, with cast and crew interviews. Olivia sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, and she and John sing “You’re the One that I Want”. The rest of the cast that was present then all join in for “Summer Nights”.

    GreaseMemories from John and Olivia (3:23): Again, from the ’02 DVD release party, another clip of the aforementioned stars.

    The Moves Behind the Music (8:09): Birch, Kleiser and others talk about the adaptation and what went into the dance numbers in the production.

    Thunder Roadsters (5:19): George Barris, king of the kustomizers, and other car buffs discusses how Greased Lightnin’ was built and the importance of classic cars.

    John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview (2:00): A vintage interview from a “Grease Day” special that aired on network TV in 1978. Travolta talks about how he got started as well as Grease.

    Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview (2:05): similar to the above, but with different people.

    Theatrical trailer (2:10):

    Photo Galleries: A bunch of pictures from the Rydell High yearbook, production, the Hollywood premier, and the “Grease Day” special. Newton-John is in a hot pink suit similar to the black one in the movie. She must be prepping for Xanadu.

    Bonus Material: ****/*****


    Conclusions:
    One of the best musicals ever done and a nostalgic movie favorite, Grease still gets me up, singing and dancing along, and it will probably do the same to you. The Blu-ray only improves on what was already a great transfer, but does very little for the audio. The extras are as fun as the feature.
     
  2. Fritz Nilsen

    Fritz Nilsen Second Unit

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    The "25 cent insurance policy". A mystery to me at 10.
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Very excited about this release along with Saturday Night Fever.

    One of the big issues over the years was the blurring out of a
    Coca-Cola sign in the background of a malt shop. I wonder if that
    is still blurred in this new version.

    ....and honestly, that has never been a huge issue for me but I
    remember it being talked about several times on this forum in the past.
     
  4. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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    Still blurred...
     
  5. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    If only someone would write up a review of the disc that address this puzzling issue...
     
  6. Jeff Swindoll

    Jeff Swindoll Supporting Actor

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  7. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I always found it odd they just didn't settle the issue with Coca-Cola, it is free advertising etc, besides it isn't like it is a tasteless film using the image. I see coke cans and signs in the oddest of films and I am sure they got the ok to do so but this is Grease.

    I remember reading storys about the Coca-Cola usage when the DVD was finally released but forgot the whole story since then.
     
  8. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    Director Randall Kleiser maintains it was like that theatrically.
     
  9. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

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    Then why only give the movie three stars? Was that a typo? Or do you just not like musicals?

    And as for Kleiser saying the sign was blurred theatrically, did he mean in the reissue? I know it was then. But I would have been surprised if it was in the original release.
     
  10. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Jon, read the Savant article in the link above. It answers the question on the blurred Coke sign. As for the rating, I agree with Pat; it's not a great film, but it is fun.
     
  11. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Bummer about the audio. I always choose the 2.0 Pro-logic track on the current SD release since the reverb on the songs is only set on "stun" vs. the "kill" setting of the 5.1 mix. [​IMG]

    Regards,
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Ken,

    That is a bummer about the audio, and without hearing it for myself,
    all I can say is that based on what I have read, this was a hugely
    missed opportunity.

    I remember sitting in one of Paramount's small screening rooms
    a few years back when they first released their remastered version of
    Footloose. The studio had put such an emphasis on restoring
    the audio portion of the film -- and let me tell you -- you could hear it.
    It was one of the most dynamically pleasing DVDs I have ever heard.

    For Paramount not to put the same care into the soundtrack of one
    of their biggest films of the 70s. Makes me wonder how good or bad
    Saturday Night Fever is going to sound on Blu-ray.
     
  13. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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  14. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

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    This is why I hate starred ratings.

    Anyway: as a movie it's only average and if I didn't have nostalgia over it I don't think I'd be too impressed with it seeing it now. I try to envision seeing it now and how would I rate it, as a brand new viewer? That's what I was trying to do, remove myself from it and look at it objectively. If I was reviewing Star Wars Ep. IV, while its my favorite movie of all time, it is not the best movie ever made. That would be Citizen Kane.
     
  15. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    I think you guys are making this too hard. There are plenty of movies that I love that if I looked at them objectively I wouldn't feel the same way about. However, the point of film is to resonate with the viewer. If it resonates with you, sing its praises to the rafters and be damned what your objective side tells you.

    For example, Flash Gordon (1980) **** 1/2. There, I said it! Grease ******! Grade your movies with your heart, I say. [​IMG]
     
  16. Vern Dias

    Vern Dias Stunt Coordinator

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    I remember that we had issues with the Dolby Stereo optical track when this was originally released on 35mm. A "flangy" variable phase shift effect, that we were never able to fully eliminate, despite fine tuning the scanning lens azimuth adjustment.

    This was on a Phillips FP70 projector at the Continental Theatre in Denver. I wonder now if the issues were with the optical track on the print, or with the preprint elements???

    Vern
     
  17. Virgoan

    Virgoan Second Unit

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    Seriously, folks (referring to the DVD Savant's explanation for the blurring of the Coke ad)...has anyone EVER been in a theater where the audience groaned at something like a product placement?

    As for why they shot the scene without an understanding from Coca-Cola, it seems silly to have shot it like that without having an understanding up front that Coke would pay or endorse the advertisement. It seems more likely they sought approval from Coca-Cola for the ad's use and Coke said, "No."

    I seem to recall Spielberg asked "M&M's" for permission to use the candies in "E.T." "M&M's" said, "No!" and "Reese's Pieces" was all right with the idea. "Reese's Pieces" sales went through the roof....but I don't believe the candy had to pay a thing for Spielberg to have this cultural reference product in his film.
     
  18. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    It really is a shame that Paramount did not go back to the music masters and remix this soundtrack. The singing has so much echo, it sounds like they are singing in a large hall. I am sure these effects were added later, so the original master tapes should have stunning recordings of this score. Even the soundtrack album does not have this echo and actually has better dialogue recording. Shame on you Paramount!
     
  19. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

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  20. RobertSiegel

    RobertSiegel Screenwriter
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    Yes very odd, I think that's the only positive note I've read on the audio anywhere. He is correct in that the sounds of the ocean from the start and the fidelity of the music is very good, but Grease's main problem, in my humble opinion, is the echo that was equalized into the singing voices for the video release. I had a friend who projected Grease in stereo and I visited him many times at the booth and sat through it 6 or 7 times in the auditorium. I can tell you there was no such echo in the voices during the musical numbers. They sounded more closely to the soundtrack album, which doesn't have it at all. I would have hoped for a complete remaster from the original session masters, especially for a film of such importance for Paramount. This is the same soundtrack used previously, maybe cleaned up a bit but in no way was it ever released with that terrible echo in the voices...it sounds like they are singing in an empty opera house.

    Let me stress again that I think this is a fine transfer with a great picture, actually wonderful. My beef is with the echo in the dialogue during musical numbers.
     

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