Grease (Rockin' Rydell Edition) (1978) 
Blu-ray Music-Concert
Written by Noah Fleming   
Friday, 08 May 2009

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"Grease" was just slightly before my time, but that gives me an interesting point of view.  I hear people talk about how wonderful the film is.  Having watched the film after the initial theatrical release buzz past, I can say that those people are looking at the film through rose-colored glasses.  Don't get me wrong.  The film is not terrible, but it does not flow well.

Nonetheless, "Grease" was one of the first rock musicals transformed from the stage to the screen, and for that, it deserves special recognition.  The film contains some great musical numbers and a simply story.  Beyond that, there isn't much to this film.

For its time, the film's story was probably unique.  However, nowadays, the story is immensely overdone.  The fact that a boy can't get over his ego and pride to be with a girl is a yawn fest.  "Grease" introduces us to the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies.  These are the two most powerful clicks at Rydell High.  The Pink Ladies belong to the T-Birds, which just about the most sexist concept of all-time.

As the film opens, we see Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) on a beach playing a boy and girl in summer love.  Sandy is from Australia and is heading back at the end of the summer.  As we soon find out Sandy has been transferred and just so happens to end up at Rydell High.  What a coincidence.  Rydell is where T-Bird leader, Danny also goes to high school.

Frenchy (Didi Conn) takes Sandy under her wing as the Pink Ladies decide whether or not to let her in the group.  While Sandy tells the girls about her summer love, Danny turns his summer love story into a raunchy one for the boys.  When Sandy and Danny meet up once again, Danny blows her off so his boys don't think he has gone soft.  Sandy is disgusted, but of course is hopelessly devoted to Danny.

Danny still longs to be with Sandy, just so long as it is not in front of anyone that he knows.  The film goes back and forth between Danny and Sandy being hot and cold.  Somewhere in there the T-Birds race their Grease Lightning car against the Scorpions' car.

Once graduation time arrives, the school celebrates with a carnival.  Danny has tried to become the jock that Sandy wants and Sandy shows up in the infamous skin-tight leather outfit.  Wowsers!  Of course it is at this point that the film's greatest musical number comes in, and of course it also happens to be the shortest.

Truth be told, I like the opening and I like the ending.  The middle section however is just a bit drawn out.  The musical numbers in the middle of the film are also just barely adequate.  I know I will get a lot of flack for this but, "Grease 2" actually contained better musical numbers and a more engaging story.  Plus Michelle Pfeiffer is just too hot for words.

I wasn't expecting much from this video transfer after seeing the standard DVD.  However, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised.  The film is still plagued by a lot of problems that are somewhat amplified by the increased resolution.  Being a 1978 film I expected a lot more film grain in the image.  It looks like the studio has wiped it clean though.  As a side effect however, the entire image looks washed.  While the original material was already soft, the washed image is even worse.  Details are only moderately successful for this film on the Blu-ray format.  The black levels fluctuate a little bit in certain sequences, but overall they are good.  The contrast is not completely blown out, but it is a touch too high.  Skintones appear accurate.  The colors are vibrant and accurately represent the colors of the 1970s film stock.  Shadow delineation is alright but is not the best in the darkest sequences, such as the bonfire.  The video is a big upgrade from the standard DVD, but it is definitely still full of issues, including some minor edge enhancement to compensate for the film grain removal.  Still, there are no compression or motion artifacts, which is good.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  It appears to be the same transfer that is on the standard DVD, upgraded to a lossless codec.  Without a complete remix, I can't fault the 5.1 soundtrack, as the original soundtrack is in stereo.  However, I do have some issues that really bother me.  My biggest issue with the track is the difference in timhre quality between the musical numbers and the dialogue.  The musical numbers are clean and dynamic studio recordings.  The dialogue sounds however are true 1970s production sound recordings.  The dialogue suffers from a low-mid to mid range frequency response.  The high frequencies seem to be completely absent from the dialogue.  Still, the dialogue is clean and clear.  The difference between the two sections just makes it sound like two different movies.  The LFE channel is surprisingly present from the get go.  But then it peters out at the very end when it comes time for the "You're the One That I Want" musical number, which is really disappointing.  The surround channels are only used to open up the air of the mix.  The only feed into the rear channels is a reverb-soaked musical mix.  There may have been one or two discreet sounds that appeared in the surround channels over the course of the film.  The audio track is largely front heavy.  There isn't much in the way of dynamic range either.  Musical numbers never reach the full spectrum.

The Blu-ray contains all the special features that were present on the Rockin' Rydell Standard DVD edition of the film.  The bonus materials have all been left in standard definition, expect for the photos and trailer.  First, there is an audio commentary with Director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch.  The track is heavy with production details and whatnot and will be enjoyed by fans of the film.  There is a "Rydell Sing-Along" function that takes you through the 11 songs in the film.  This is a typical karaoke feature.  There are 11 deleted/extended/alternate scenes.  There is coverage of the "DVD Launch Party" in 2002 for the 25th anniversary of the film.  "'Grease' Memories from John and Olivia" contains interviews with the couple form the 2002 launch party.  "The Moves Behind the Music" is a choreography featurette.  "Thunder Roadsters" looks at the cars in the film.  "Grease Premiere Interview" is a brief 4-minute segment that has a couple quick interviews from the premiere of the film.  The last featurette on the disc is "The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering 'Grease.'"  The disc is also equipped with a photo gallery and a theatrical trailer.

"Grease" is not a horrible film, and it does have its impact on the musical adaptations for the screen.  Still, the film only has a few shining moments.  The video and audio quality are improved from the standard DVD, but still have issues.  Nonetheless, this is pivotal film that should be added to your collection.
Studio Paramount Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG
Starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Frankie Avalon, Sid Caesar
Director Randal Kleiser
Film Release Year 1978
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 1 hr. 50 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 1.0 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • English • French • Portuguese • Spanish
Special Features Director/Choreographer Audio Commentary; Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes; Rydell Sing-Along; "'Grease' Memories from John and Olivia"; "The Moves Behind the Music"; "Thunder Roadsters"; "The Time, The Place, the Motion: Remembering 'Grease'"; "'Grease' Premiere Interviews"; Photo Gallery; Theatrical Trailer; "'Grease' DVD Launch Party"
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Reviewer Noah Fleming

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