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HTF REVIEW: Grease (with screenshots)

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#1 of 71 ONLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 12 2002 - 08:15 PM

Posted Image


Studio: Paramount
Year: 1978
Rated: PG
Film Length: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: English & Spanish

Grease is the word!

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Well, it took long enough! For over five years
DVD fans have been patiently awaiting the release
of GREASE on DVD. The blame shouldn't go
to Paramount however --- the DVD was actually
slated to be their very first release to the format
back in 1998. The problem? A lawsuit by Olivia
Newton-John over the song rights held up the
release for four years. Now, finally, Grease
is finally THE WORD!

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If you think about the most fondly remembered films
of the 70s era, Grease goes near the top of
the list. Not only was it one of the top box
office draws in 1978, but it made 70s icons out of
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The enduring
popularity of the 50s songs kept the film's
soundtrack at the top of the charts for decades to

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The film begins during the Summer of '58 as Danny
(Travolta) and Sandy (Newton-John) pledge their
love to each other and say goodbye for the Summer,
as Sandy leaves for Australia. As fate would have
it, her parents decide to stay in America and
she finds herself attending the same school as
Danny. Instead of the romantic Danny she met
at the beach, Sandy finds a tough-talking member
of the greaser gang "The T-Birds." Sandy, a sweet
innocent Sandra Dee-type, cannot believe Danny is
the same person she met over the summer.

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Filled with song, dance, and dialogue, the film
follows the couple and their vivacious friends
during their last year at Rydell High. There's
Rizzo (Stockard Channing), the Pink Ladies leader;
Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) a tough-talkin' T-Bird;
and Frenchie (Didi Conn), an aspiring beautician.
A rival gang Scorpions want to race the T Birds
car and a National Dance TV show is coming to
Rydell High. What a year to graduate!

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GREASE arrives in the most unusual
combination of cardboard packaging with plastic
hub housing that holds the DVD. Beneath the
housing is a picture of Olivia and Travolta
dressed in black.

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In the corner left pocket sits a 16-page
colorful songbook. Here you will find
the lyrics to every song from the film complete
with a photo from that song. You'll be happy
to know that none of the racy lyrics from "Greased
Lightening" have been cleaned up.

How is the transfer?

Upon watching this film, I got a little nervous.
The first five minutes of the film doesn't look
exceptionally good. You'll notice a barrage of
blemishes amidst the film's opening with Danny
and Sandy on the beach. These problems continue
with the film's dirty and scratchy opening
animated sequence. In defense of Paramount, I
would put the blame on the source material, but
someone should have taken the time to clean this
up. Following those credits, however, the film
suddenly changes for the better.

Posted ImagePosted Image

What I suddenly found myself watching was a
drop-dead gorgeous transfer of this film unlike
I had ever seen before on any previous format.
Here is this immaculate, well detailed transfer,
enriched with gorgeous, vivid colors. The pink
ladies' jackets have never look so pink -- and
Danny's athletic shirt and ball cap have never
looked so red. The deep jet-black levels of
Travolta's hair, T-shirt and jacket have never
looked so black, adding texture to this film
that I never knew existed. Flesh tones are
amazingly accurate and colors remain stable
throughout. There is a certain amount of film
noise present, reminding you of the age of this
film. Most of the problems are with any shot that
involve bright blue skies. It is there that you
see the transfer's limitations. The darker night
scenes lose none of its fine details. This
transfer falls just short of perfection and you
sort of get the feeling that this transfer could
have been perfect if it were done today instead
of 4 years ago.

Having never been originally recorded in 5.1
digital surround, the mix has its limitations.
This mix actually has two main modes here. The
first is what I will refer to as the dialogue
mode. It is here where the dialogue and action
rest mainly in the center channel with limited
dynamic range. The rears provide a few low-level
ambient noises such as crowd effects during a
pep rally or patrons in a malt shop. Then there's
what I will refer to as the music mode. Here is
where the front channels suddenly come in out of
nowhere with musical numbers that have been
overdubbed with enhanced recording. These musical
numbers are full of deep-heavy bass and wide
dynamic range with excellent detail and stereo
separation in the front channels. Unfortunately,
the rears provide nothing more than low-level
echo and the LFE channel is almost non-existent.
I still found myself tapping my feet along to
such hits as Summer Nights and Hand
-- and wait until you hear how wonderful
We Go Together comes across the front

Special Features

I am a little saddened that so little has
been included for a DVD we waited 4-5 long
years for. It's almost if Paramount had these
DVDs sitting in the vault for all these years
and have issued them in exactly the same form
they were in at that time. I say that because
everything about this DVD is rather vanilla,
as if we went back in time to 1998 when DVD
was still in its infancy and there was hardly
such a thing as a Special Edition.

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The DVD begins with an awfully plain menu
structure. I dunno, perhaps I was expecting
something a little more from a title this big.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Then there's the question of the supplemental
featurette that celebrates the 20th Anniversary
of Grease
. 20th Anniversary? That puts us
back to the DVDs original planned release date
of 1998. In any event, this is a pretty decent
retrospect that reunites all the principle cast
members and people involved with the film. The
impression you get from Travolta, Newton-John and
Stockard Channing is that filming Grease was
like being at one big party. Travolta specifically
talks about how he wanted to play a greaser all
his life. Olivia talks about the totally different
standards of schooling she had in Australia (as
compared to Rydell High). Producer Alan Carr talks
about Travolta having the perfect combinations for
the part of Danny, full of charisma and a great
dancer to boot. Olivia Newton-John recalls her
first meeting Travolta at her home, and being very
nervous about taking the part. A screen test with
both actors showed without a doubt that there was
the right chemistry between them. And how were
the actors chosen for their roles? Director
Randal Kleiser and Producer Alan Karr talk about
how inspiration led them to selection. There
isn't much here shown from behind-the-camera
except for a few publicity shots and perhaps mere
seconds of footage. We do, however, get a small
look at the film's premiere at Grauman's Chinese
Theater. Not a bad retrospective, but 4 years
too late.
(length: approx. 16 minutes)

The film's original theatrical trailer is
also included.

Final Thoughts

After so many years of waiting for the release
of this DVD, I sort of feel let down. This is
one of Paramount's most requested titles of all
time, and yet, aside from the transfer, the disc
is sort of lackluster.

Personally, I would have opted to wait another
year if it meant a release that contained a
commentary, perhaps some deleted scenes, or
even a brand new retrospect for its 25th
anniversary. I believe that part of the problem
could be is that what we have here was originally
intended for release back in '98 when DVDs had
very little supplemental material added to them.

Posted Image

Still, who is going to pass up buying Grease?
Nobody! This would certainly still be the hottest
selling DVD of the year even if it was sold in a
paper bag. It's one of those films that go down
as smooth as a soda shop malt.

Release Date: September 24, 2002


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 71 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted September 12 2002 - 08:28 PM

Nice review Ron. Man you're right though. Of all the Paramount titles, this is the one I've been waiting for and it does look underwhelming. Still glad to get it on dvd though, and maybe they'll release a true CE like they're doing for the Trek films? Suckers like me though will buy it again thus sending the studio the message that we'll buy anything. Still, Grease brings back alot of memories. I think I was in the 8th or 9th grade back in 1978 and remember knowing all the songs. I can still recite the great number, "Beauty school drop-out"...."who wants their hair done by a slob?"

#3 of 71 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted September 12 2002 - 08:35 PM

thanks for the review as well. Still thinking about whether or not I should buy it

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#4 of 71 OFFLINE   Brian W.

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Posted September 12 2002 - 10:09 PM

Peter Bracke on DVDFile felt the same way, that it was a bit of a letdown. He also said the transfer LOOKED four years old.

#5 of 71 OFFLINE   Jerry Almeida

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Posted September 12 2002 - 10:32 PM

Great review! Posted Image

Kind of a bummer that there's no commentary, and I have to agree that from the look of that screen shot the menu's do seem rather plain.

But I've been waiting for this release for such a long time, I'll still be getting in on 9/24. Posted Image
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#6 of 71 OFFLINE   Chris Dugger

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Posted September 13 2002 - 12:13 AM

Think I'll hold off and just watch the laserdisc until Paramount steps up and does this title right... Dugger


#7 of 71 OFFLINE   Chris Brunner

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Posted September 13 2002 - 12:20 AM

Is there any indication that this DVD utilizes the same transfer as the THX laserdisc?

#8 of 71 OFFLINE   Brendon


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Posted September 13 2002 - 12:57 AM

The Grease disc was sitting on my doormat when I nipped home from work at lunch. Whilst I was quite prepared for the picture quality (quite passable, *roughly* as good as say the Criterion issue of Silence Of The Lambs), I was ill prepared for the soundtrack... What HAVE they done ?! I listened to the opening credits in DD 5.1 which sounded like whoever remixed the soundtrack had just got their first subwoofer and they were damned well going to use it! I have rarely heard a soundtrack that made such unsubtle, obvious and unwarranted use of a sub as this. Upon the song/sequence finishing, the track reverted to a very indistinct and tinny mono sound. I have laserdiscs of MGM musicals over twice this films age that sound much better. There was no way the original soundtrack of the film was this overcooked. Thinking that the DD 2.0 mix might be better, I switched to that and watched the same sequences again. Whilst the transition between dialogue driven and song driven portions of the soundtrack didn't jar so badly, the overcooked bass was still making itself know. No amount of THX post processing etc made this disc sound anything other than gimmicky. Tonight I'll try the DD 2.0 track again with the sub turned off. I hasten to add that I am not normally given to "bitching" about discs. Except for the odd glaring error/mistake in either the transfer or the authoring, I have been continually delighted with DVD issues of films, old and new, put out by the studios. Does anyone know if the film's director or producers had any kind of control or sign off over these "enhancements" ? And finally, hoping beyond hope, does the 20th Anniversary laserdisc of Grease have the same sound as the DVD ? if not, I may just "regress"! Cheers, Brendon

#9 of 71 OFFLINE   Enrique B Chamorro

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Posted September 13 2002 - 01:42 AM

Given Paramount's track record on extras (see the Star Trek film) I am not surprised that the only extra is a laserdisc port. I am surprised on the video transfer, Paramount has put out some beautiful transfers. I would not be surprised if a SE comes out in 1 1/2 years.

#10 of 71 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted September 13 2002 - 01:49 AM

Hmm... this is totally opposite from the review over at DVD File that said the Transfer appeared to be dated and sporting some nasty Halo's and Edge Enhancement. Your screenshots look ok, but they are really to small to tell anything major. Now I'm even more uncertain of what I should do.
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#11 of 71 OFFLINE   Chuck L

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Posted September 13 2002 - 02:07 AM

I will be buying the DVD simply because I love the film. I feel certain that Paramount took the wise decision to finally release the version that they prepared four years ago, instead of wasting money and repressing, art and everything else. Does this mean that I am happy with it...no...but what can I do. If this is the case that is the same that has been sitting in a warehouse for this time, it was made way before DVD advances and I am sure that they thought the case was really cool....BACK THEN. Not now though. BUT...on the flip side of this, with all the DVD is lacking, I feel only more certain that this will be revisited for the 25th anniversary. If they don't, they are foolish. BUT (As well)...if this is the case, maybe a better price...but oh well that is what creative shopping can do to find the best price.

#12 of 71 OFFLINE   Mike_G



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Posted September 13 2002 - 02:16 AM

Are those shots of the Coke logo in the restaurant still blurred out? Posted Image


#13 of 71 OFFLINE   Scott_J



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Posted September 13 2002 - 02:22 AM

From what I read in another thread Mike, yes they are.

#14 of 71 OFFLINE   MatS



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Posted September 13 2002 - 02:55 AM

I don't have a choice but to buy this....I have a wife.

#15 of 71 OFFLINE   Peter McM

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Posted September 13 2002 - 02:58 AM

I'm still looking forward to this; but I hope they have done a better job with Flashdance.
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#16 of 71 OFFLINE   Geoff_D


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Posted September 13 2002 - 03:03 AM

Strange how the people on the mountain are putting a comparative shed-load of extras on Saturday Night Fever and not for Grease. They didn't even include the Vh1 'Behind the Music' documentary on Grease - but they included a BtM docco for Saturday Night Fever! Was the disc actually pressed four years ago and has been sitting around waiting for replication ever since? Regardless, Paramount have been damn lazy on this one. I think I'll try and pick up the remastered LD somewhere and hole up waiting for the eventual SE of Grease. Unless the endless wrangling over rights means that this DVD will be the best (only?) version released. Ho-hum.

#17 of 71 OFFLINE   Jeff Adkins

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Posted September 13 2002 - 03:32 AM

[quote] Was the disc actually pressed four years ago and has been sitting around waiting for replication ever since? Regardless, Paramount have been damn lazy on this one. I think I'll try and pick up the remastered LD somewhere and hole up waiting for the eventual SE of Grease. [quote]
Why would you want the LD? Even if this disc was mastered 4 years ago, the LD is even older and certainly won't have the resolution of an anamorphic DVD.


#18 of 71 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted September 13 2002 - 03:55 AM

To bad Paramount decided to sit on the DVD for 4 years instead of improving its content. That said, the transfer seems pretty decent and at a price of $21.99 CAD at Futureshop, it's really hard to pass up on.

#19 of 71 OFFLINE   Geoff_D


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Posted September 13 2002 - 03:59 AM

[quote] Why would you want the LD? Even if this disc was mastered 4 years ago, the LD is even older and certainly won't have the resolution of an anamorphic DVD. [quote]
Jeff, don't you think I know this, mate? I like LDs (especially later THX Paramount releases) because they really do kick ass. My NTSC LD of Face/Off puts the abysmal R1 DVD to shame. The DVD's 5.1 soundtrack is harsh and compressed-sounding, whereas the LD's is less harsh and more dynamic as a result. The DVD's anamorphic image is also shot through with grain from start to finish, whereas the LD is so clear and crisp it looks AMAZING, even when zoomed in on my widescreen tv. And the same is true for other Paramount R1 DVD/NTSC LD releases, most notably Star Trek Generations.

I can live with non-anamorphic LD's, especially when discs have that lovely THX badge on them. And especially when, in the case of Grease, the DVD offers nothing over the LD but anamorphic enhancement and subtitles. I would rather have an LD at the top of it's game than a below-par DVD.

#20 of 71 OFFLINE   MichaelG


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Posted September 13 2002 - 04:06 AM

No brainer, I will be getting this, can't wait. This one was almost as bad as waiting for BTTF. Thanks for the review Ron.

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