- Jun 13, 2002
Grease Rockin’ Rydell Edition
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English DD 5.1, 2.0, French 2.0
Time: 110 minutes
Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
Case Style: Keep case with leather T-Bird jacket cover
Theatrical Release Date: 1978
DVD Release Date: September 19, 2006
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 release; 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.
Packaging: This new edition come encased in a faux leather T-Bird jacket that actually zips up. A pretty cool way to showcase this upgraded edition.
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, this is a new transfer that has gone through digital processing to clean it up. Color correction has been done from the previous DVD version, so this one looks much better. Colors and flesh tones exhibit better saturation and they appear to be more accurate (the beach scene at the beginning shows a great range of colors, for example). Contrast is exceptional and the blacks show good detail. Detail itself is quite good showing subtle nuances in the clothing and lettering. Edge enhancement is barely noticeable, but you will see it occasionally. There was no film dirt or video noise observed.
I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital 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. Panning and stereo effects are minor. The soundtrack maintains a very balanced level set squarely in the mid ranges. There is very little surround activity except to when they try to add spaciousness and echo to the quieter songs, but I found this to be distracting. LFE’s are minimal and they are only noticed when Craterface sends the flames out of the tailpipes of his car. Panning and stereo effects are minor. ADR is noticeable in the movie. This movie screams for a new 5.1 mix and I think Paramount really missed the boat by not giving us an upgrade. There is also a 2.0 mix that is very similar to the 5.1 track, surprisingly, since, as I said, the 5.1 doesn’t offer a whole lot.
Bonus Material: Paramount comes through with a great set of all new extras.
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, 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”.
Grease Memories 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.
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 new edition also gives us a great new transfer and extras that are as fun as the feature.