Grease: Rockin Rydell Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (5th August 2009).
The Film

Just as with “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), “Grease” (1978) was another mega hit John Travolta classic that I had heard, read and knew so much about I felt as though I had seen it, even though I never actually had. Back in my less cinematically-cultured days, the thought of a musical featuring greasers, dancing and Travolta turned me off about as much as anything possibly could have. But, as with Saturday Night Fever” (and some years of maturity), I was eagerly anticipating my first viewing of this teen classic. I’ve known dozens of people in my life who were literally obsessed with this film, so I felt now was the time to see what all the fuss was about. Though the end result didn’t pleasantly surprise me as much as “Saturday Night Fever”, I still found this to be a very enjoyable teen comedy featuring some very strong songs.

Summer is over and the kids are back in high school. Bad boy Danny Zuko (John Travolta), leader of The T-Birds gang, returns with a tale of summer love he had with a girl who was visiting from Australia. But little does he know that she never left and is now a student at Rydell High School. That girl, Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John), joins up with The Pink Ladies, led by Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing), a female gang who occasionally hangs with the T-Birds. Once the two discover they are attending the same school Danny does his best to maintain his macho image among his friends, although he secretly pines for Sandy like a puppy. Typical high school practical jokes ensue as the gangs dance and sing their way to a showdown with rival high school gang The Scorpions.

The film opens up with an animated title sequence which, quite frankly, felt a little out of place and featured some rather crude animation. It reminded me of the animated opening to “One Crazy Summer” (1986), another film featuring an animated opening that I wasn’t particularly thrilled about. Coincidentally enough, it features the song “Grease” as written by Barry Gibb, a major player in Travolta’s previous smash hit “Saturday Night Fever”.

Despite the fact that this is very much an ensemble film, make no mistake that Travolta shines here as the star. Similar to his role as Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever”, his character of Danny Zuko is an outsider within his own inner circle. Sure, he acts tough when he’s around the guys, hooting, hollering and pretending women don’t mean a thing, but in reality he’s a pussycat who fell in love and can’t find the right way to express himself to her. Travolta has a great voice in addition to his impressive dance movies, so his acting abilities really made him a triple-threat back in the 70’s. If his previous role as Tony Manero started his meteoric rise to fame, this role as Danny Zuko cemented his status as a major player in Hollywood.

Olivia Newton-John had little experience before her role here as Sandy Olsson. Prior to this film she had done a couple of musical pictures that went nowhere and she knew this could be her big break, as another flop would surely derail her career plans. Luckily, she won the role and the rest is history. I know that many a young lad had quite the crush on Newton-John during their youth and it’s easy to see why. She has a gorgeous face, a beautiful voice and she looks damn good in the final dance number. Olivia is originally from Australia and she has admitted to having a difficult time trying to master an American accent for the film, so the producers simply changed her character’s back story to make her Australian, therefore she didn’t have to worry about covering up her natural accent!

Jeff Conaway, who plays Zuko’s right-hand man, Kenickie, had previously starred in the stage play, and did understudy work for 9 different characters, so he was extremely familiar with the source material. He brings a confidence to his role that may even rival that of Travolta. It’s a shame to see how he has ended up on VH1’s “Sober House” (2009) reality show because the guy had some considerable talent back in his day. I think of all the film’s many characters I enjoyed his performance the most.

Stockard Channing stars here as Betty Rizzo, leader of The Pink Ladies and powder keg of the two groups. Rizzo likes to stir the pot, so to speak, and she is constantly caught doing something to rile someone else up. Channing plays the role with just the right amount of snide arrogance and masked low self esteem to make viewers realize that, although Rizzo may have a hard exterior, deep inside she yearns for someone to love her as Danny loves Sandy.

I found the film’s songs to be hit-or-miss, though they are mostly a hit in my opinion. I enjoyed the first big dance sequence set to “Summer Nights”. The choreography was impressive considering the amount of people that participate in the scene. I also liked “Born to Hand Jive” which takes place at the school dance contest. The moves were all very unique and each character displays some of their own style in an effort to win over the judges. The only track I really don’t like is “You’re the One That I Want” which I found to be corny and annoying. I always think of chickens in a hen house when I hear that tune, though I’m not entirely sure why that is.

Video

Though I’m not familiar with the previous home video versions of “Grease”, I think it’s safe to say that this is easily the best the film has ever looked. The film’s 2.35:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer looks simply stunning. Considering that the film is over 30 years old the results are even more impressive. The image is clear as day; it’s almost like you’re looking through a window in some scenes. Colors are sharp, vibrant and radiate with incredibly clarity. Sharpness is like a razor, with every little detail inherent in the film present and clear to see. Black levels are rich and deep, while whites look cool and natural. This is exactly how catalog titles should be handled and Paramount deserves some major kudos for doing such a fantastic job.

Audio

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as impressed with the audio. The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit sounds a little on the flat side. The track does roar to life when the many musical numbers kick in, but I found dialogue to be slightly on the tinny side. The levels could certainly have used a boost, but it isn’t at such a low level that things aren’t discernible. There isn’t much use for the surrounds, even during the songs, but they do get some sparse use to fill out the track when needed. I think I expected a little more after the good use of surrounds from “Saturday Night Fever”. There are also French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks included. Subtitles are available in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

“Grease” comes to Blu-ray in a feature-packed edition with all the bells and whistles, all of the included features have been ported over from the previously released “Rockin’ Rydell Edition” on DVD. Included are an audio commentary, an introduction, a sing-along feature, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, featurettes, interviews, photo galleries and the film’s theatrical trailer.

The audio commentary with director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch is a rather boring listen. The two have several gaps in the track and most of their comments sound dry and lifeless. I’m sure casual fans of the film will likely glean some good information from this, but they don’t give out enough anecdotes or information to make it worthwhile for hardcore “Greasers”. Kleiser sounds like he’s about to pass out at any moment.

There is an introduction to the film by director Randal Kleiser that runs for 24 seconds in which he reiterates just how successful “Grease” was in terms of box-office success and pop culture.

“Rydell Sing-Along” sing-along feature contains all of the film’s musical numbers complete with lyrics so fans can sing along at home. The following songs are available:

- “Summer Nights” runs for 4 minutes and 2 seconds.
- “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee” runs for 1 minute and 53 seconds.
- “Hopelessly Devoted To You” runs for 3 minutes.
- “Greased Lightning” runs for 3 minutes and 18 seconds.
- “Beauty School Dropout” runs for 4 minutes and 1 second.
- “Born to Hand Jive” runs for 4 minutes and 37 seconds.
- “Sandy” runs for 2 minutes and 32 seconds.
- “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” runs for 2 minutes and 18 seconds.
- “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)” runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds.
- “You’re the One That I Want” runs for 3 minutes and 21 seconds.
- “We Go Together” runs for 2 minutes and 56 seconds.

There is also the option to play the film from the beginning with the sing-along feature activated.

“The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease” is a featurette which runs for 22 minutes and 27 seconds. The cast and crew (including Travolta) discuss the transition of bringing the film from the stage to the silver screen. Producer Robert Stigwood had a three-picture deal with John Travolta (the first of which was “Saturday Night Fever”) and he felt the rising star would be an ideal fit for the role of Danny. Once the Travolta love-a-thon ends, the remaining cast members talk about how they got their respective roles. There is also some great behind-the-scenes footage included along with the interviews.

A series of deleted/extended/alternate scenes are included, along with an optional introduction by director Randal Kleiser, for the following:

- “T-Birds Harass Eugene” runs for 38 seconds, the gang gives nerdy Eugene a hard time in the stairwell.
- “Classroom Announcements” runs for 2 minutes and 36 seconds, Principal McGee makes some announcements as scenes with the students are shown.
- “Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch” runs for 46 seconds, the girls eat together and get to know Sandy.
- “She’s Too Pure to be Pink” runs for 48 seconds, the girls discuss whether or not Sandy could join them.
- “Intro to Summer Nights” runs for 21 seconds, some dialogue before the big song.
- “Rydell Pep Rally” runs for 59 seconds, more footage of the school pep rally in the gym.
- “Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s” runs for 36 seconds, the two have some brief dialogue about the Scorpions and Sandy.
- “The Stroll” runs for 24 seconds, more footage from the dance contest.
- “National Bandstand” runs for 1 minute and 18 seconds, more footage of the televised dance contest.
- “At the Dance” runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds, fighting, drink spiking and more antics from the dance.
- “Thunder Road” runs for 12 seconds, Kenickie talks about his luck.

“Grease on DVD Launch Party” is a featurette which runs for 15 minutes and 13 seconds. Director Randal Kleiser provides an introduction to the video of the film’s DVD release party featuring the entire cast and crew reminiscing about the picture and singing some of the songs on stage.

“Grease Memories from John & Olivia” is a brief featurette which runs for 3 minutes and 29 seconds. The film’s two stars discuss their roles on the red carpet at the DVD release party.

“The Moves Behind the Music” is a featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 14 seconds. Choreographer Patricia Birch, director Randal Kleiser and others discuss how they staged each scene in the film extensively in order to emulate the energy and excitement that the stage show produced.

“Thunder Roadsters” is a featurette which runs for 5 minutes and 23 seconds. “King of the Kustomizers” George Barris talks about the modified classics used in the making of the film.

John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview” is an interview which runs for 1 minute and 47 seconds. Travolta talks about how he got involved with the film while sitting at a very cheesy-looking table.

Olivia Newton-John and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview” is an interview which runs for 2 minutes and 7 seconds. Olivia gives a similar short interview at the same table, this time talking about her character and if she could relate to her.

Photo galleries are available for the following albums:

- “Rydell High School Yearbook” contains 36 images.
- “Production” contains 12 images.
- “Premiere” contains 18 images.
- “Grease Day” contains 6 images.

Finally, the film’s theatrical trailer runs for 2 minutes and 11 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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