HTF REVIEW: Grease (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 12, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein


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

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    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. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Apr 15, 2002
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    thanks for the review as well. Still thinking about whether or not I should buy it
  4. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

    Jul 29, 1999
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    Los Angeles
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    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. Jerry Almeida

    Jerry Almeida Second Unit

    Jun 7, 1999
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    Tampa, FL
    Real Name:
    Jerry Almeida
    Great review! [​IMG]
    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. [​IMG]
  6. Chris Dugger

    Chris Dugger Supporting Actor

    Jun 5, 1998
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    Think I'll hold off and just watch the laserdisc until Paramount steps up and does this title right...

  7. Chris Brunner

    Chris Brunner Second Unit

    May 9, 1999
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    Is there any indication that this DVD utilizes the same transfer as the THX laserdisc?
  8. Brendon

    Brendon Second Unit

    Jun 15, 1999
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    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"!


  9. Enrique B Chamorro

    Enrique B Chamorro Supporting Actor

    Sep 2, 1999
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    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. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

    Apr 8, 1999
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    Real Name:
    David Scarpa
    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.
  11. Chuck L

    Chuck L Screenwriter

    Feb 12, 2001
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    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 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. Mike_G

    Mike_G Screenwriter

    Jun 1, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Are those shots of the Coke logo in the restaurant still blurred out? [​IMG]
  13. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

    Jul 17, 2000
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    From what I read in another thread Mike, yes they are.
  14. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

    Jan 24, 2000
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    I don't have a choice but to buy this....I have a wife.
  15. Peter McM

    Peter McM Supporting Actor

    Nov 18, 1999
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    Indianapolis, IN
    Real Name:
    I'm still looking forward to this; but I hope they have done a better job with Flashdance.
  16. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

    Jul 18, 2002
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    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. Jeff Adkins

    Jeff Adkins Screenwriter

    Sep 18, 1998
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    Real Name:
    Jeff Adkins
  18. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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    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. Geoff_D

    Geoff_D Supporting Actor

    Jul 18, 2002
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  20. MichaelG

    MichaelG Second Unit

    Jul 10, 2000
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    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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