Forty years ago, Grease hit movie screens and became a cultural phenomenon and cemented John Travolta as a movie star. For its anniversary, Paramount has released the film on 4K UHD Blu-ray, featuring a restored picture and soundtrack.
The Production: 4/5
In the summer of 1958, Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) shared a beach romance that ended as school was about to begin again at Rydell High, with Sandy presumably moving back to Australia. Danny is a “greaser,” the leader of the T-Birds, and as the school year begins, he relates his summer fling to his fellow T-Birds with much embellishment. Sandy, though, didn’t return Down Under and instead is now attending Rydell High and is befriended by Frenchie (Didi Conn) and her Pink Ladies pals, led by Rizzo (Stockard Channing). When the two are re-introduced at the pep rally, Danny denies his love for Sandy, mostly due to peer pressure from the T-Birds. There is obvious chemistry between these two, but will the social differences keep them apart or will true love bring them together?
Grease was originally a stage musical set in Chicago (where it debuted) and had a successful run on Broadway before producer Robert Stigwood, who had a hit the year before with Saturday Night Fever, acquired the movie rights from Allan Carr, with Paramount releasing the film in the summer of 1978. Stigwood cast his SNF lead John Travolta in the role of Danny, pop sensation Olivia Newton-John as Sandy (her first major movie role), and brought in director Randal Kleiser (who had only directed a few TV movies at that point) to helm the project. The location shifted from the windy city to Southern California, and Barry Gibb was hired to write a title track that would be performed by 1950s pop favorite Frankie Valli. Grease captures the 1950s as many would like to recall (my mother, who was in high school during that time period, enjoyed this film tremendously), with splashy visuals and energetic musical numbers, particularly Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, and You’re the One That I Want, which were also Top 40 hits that summer. Travolta and Newton-John shine in this film, which solidified Travolta as a movie star with back-to-back hits, launched Newton-John’s acting career (she would follow-up Grease with the cult favorite Xanadu in 1980) and the two would reunite five years later in the ill-conceived Two of a Kind. The success of the film also helped launch or broaden the careers of Eddie Deezen (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 1941), Jeff Conaway (Taxi), Michael Tucci (It’s Gary Shandling’s Show, Diagnosis Murder), Lorenzo Lamas (Falcon Crest, Renegade), and Dinah Manoff (Soap, Empty Nest). The film also features fine performances from veterans Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks, The Mothers-in-Law), and Sid Ceasar (Your Show of Shows, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World).
3D Rating: NA
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Grease, Paramount has restored the film with an all-new 4K scan of the original camera negative and applying Dolby Vision high dynamic range under the supervision of director Randal Kleiser. The 2160p transfer on this 4k UHD Blu-ray features both Dolby Vision and HDR10 flavors of high dynamic range. The result is one of the best looking film-based catalogue titles so far released on the format. Viewing this on an HDR10 capable display, this is a very stable image overall, with increased clarity and vibrancy probably not seen since the movie’s original 70mm engagements. The pinks in the Pink Ladies jackets really stand out in addition to the colors of the carnival in the closing number. There has been some grumbling about softness in some sequences on this transfer, particularly the Greased Lightning number, but I recall that sequence was always softer than the rest of the film. It is the increased contrast ratio that really places the 4K UHD Blu-ray head and shoulders above the Blu-ray release (included here and struck from the same source), with the black leather jackets and Travolta’s greased dark hair standing out during many of the night-time sequences (particularly the pep rally and the drive-in), while varying degrees of whites and grays stand out in the two numbers featuring a bright white backdrop, Beauty School Dropout and Greased Lightning. This is how catalog titles should look on 4K UHD.
Paramount went back to the original 70mm six-track magnetic soundtrack to create this restored Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Although somewhat front-heavy (as many late 1970s stereo and multi-channel mixes were in the day), there is a perceived increase in dynamic range and clarity and a much wider and deeper soundstage during the musical numbers. Dialogue, particularly lyrics, are clear and understandable throughout, never getting lost in the mix.
Special Features: 4/5
With the exception of the audio commentary, all special features can be accessed on the included Blu-ray edition of the film.
Audio Commentary with director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch: A carryover from previous releases, the track can be found on the 4K UHD Blu-ray under Audio Setup, and under both Audio Setup and Extras on the Blu-ray.
Introduction by Randal Kleiser (480i; 0:24)
Rydell Sing-Along (1080p): View the entire film with karaoke-style lyrics on-screen for ten musical numbers or each song individually. Summer Nights; Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee; Hopelessly Devoted To You; Greased Lightning; Beauty School Dropout; Born To Hand Jive; Sandy; There Are Worse Things I Could Do; Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee (reprise); You’re The One That I Want; and We Go Together.
The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering “Grease” (480i; 22:26): A carryover documentary on the making of the film.
Grease: A Chicago Story (1080p; 24:30): New to this edition, a look at the origins of the musical, including interviews with the creators and members of the original Chicago cast.
Alternate Animated Main Titles (1080p; 3:44): New to this edition, director Randal Kleiser introduces the original animated titles with the original main title song that was later replaced by Grease by Barry Gibb and performed by Frankie Vali.
Alternate Ending (1080p; 0:45): New to this edition, unfortunately only a 35mm workprint remains and, again unfortunately, it was colorized twenty years ago.
Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes (480i; 10:17): Director Randal Kleiser introduces 12 scenes, all sourced from a black & white workprint. T-Birds Harass Eugene – Extended, Classroom Announcements – Extended, Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – Extended, She’s Too Pure to be Pink – Extended, Intro to “Summer Nights” – Deleted, Rydell Pep Rally – Extended, Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s – Deleted, The Stroll – Extended, National Bandstand – Alternate, At the Dance – Alternate/Extended, and Thunder Road – Deleted.
Grease Reunion 2002 – DVD Launch Party (480i; 15:13): Home video highlights of the launch party. Remember when these releases were big deals to the studios?
Grease Memories from John and Olivia (480i; 3:23): John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are interviewed on the red carpet prior to the 2002 DVD Launch Party.
The Moves Behind the Music (480i; 8:14): A look at the choreography and dance numbers in the film.
Thunder Raodsters (480i; 5:22): A look at the classic roadsters used in the film.
John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview (480i; 1:48): An archival interview from 1978.
Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview (480i; 2:06): An archival interview from 1978.
Photo Galleries (1080p): Production and promotional stills, featuring the following categories – Rydell High Year Book, Production, Premiere, and Grase Day.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:09)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem digital copies on UltraViolet partners (such as Vudu and FandangoNow) and iTunes.
Paramount has reset the bar for catalogue titles on 4K UHD Blu-ray with the 40th Anniversary edition of Grease, which has never looked or sounded better in the home. Recommended.