GREASE (ROCKIN’ RYDELL EDITION) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 30, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“The classic 1978 musical, ‘GREASE’ goes High Def and I am absolutely stunned of how magnificent this film looks on Blu-ray! The audio quality makes the musical come alive and special features galore. This Blu-ray release of ‘GREASE’ is absolutely the definitive version to own!”
TITLE: GREASE (ROCKIN’ RYDELL EDITION)
DURATION: 110 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Languages: English SDH Subtitled , English Subtitled , French Dubbed & Subtitled , Portuguese Subtitled , Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled. Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Mono
COMPANY: Paramount Pictures/Paramount Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2009
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Based on a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Adaptation by Allan Carr
Screenplay by Bronte Woodard
Produced by Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood
Associate Producer: Neil A. Machlis
Director of Photography: Bill Butler
Edited by John F. Burnett
Casting by Joel Thurm
Production Design by Philip M. Jefferies
Set Decoration by James L. Berkey
Costume Design by Albert Wolsky
John Travolta as Danny Zuko
Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson
Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo
Jeff Conaway as Kenickie
Barry Pearl as Doody
Michael Tucci as Sonny
Kelly Ward as Putzie
Didi Conn as Frenchy
Jamie Donnelly as Jan
Dinah Manoff as Marty Maraschino
Eve Arden as Principal McGee
Frankie Avalon as the Teen Angel
Joan Blondell as Vi
Edd Byrnes as Vince Fontaine
Sid Caesar as Coach Calhoun
Dody Goodman as Blanche
Lorenzo Lamas as Tom Chisum
Eddie Deezen as Eugene Felnic
Annette Charles as Cha Cha DiGregorio
Dennis Stewart as Leo
“GREASE” is the most successful movie musical ever created. The 1978 film was based on a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and eventually caught the attention in the early 70’s of producer Allan Carr who purchase the rights to adapt the play into a film.
With the popularity of “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” in 1977 which help boost the career of John Travolta, producer Robert Stigwood joined Allan Carr to create a film based on this play. Tapping director Randal Kleiser who worked with Travolta in the popular 1976 TV film “The Boy and his Bubble”, recruiting “GREASE” musical choreographer Patricia Birch and hiring Director of Photography Bill Butler (“Jaws”, “Stripes” and “Rocky II & III”, etc.), this team would create a film that would become a musical ingrained into American pop culture.
Despite no respect in supporting the film by the major film studios, “GREASE” would become the second highest grossing film in 1978 behind “Superman” bringing in $96 million in the box office, the “GREASE” soundtrack would achieve #1 status around the world during its release and the film received many award nominations.
The film takes place in 1958 and starts off with Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsen (Olivia Newton-John) sharing an incredible Summer vacation together but their relationship seems to be short as Sandy is returning to Australia.
It is now a new school year at Rydell High School and Sandy’s family has had a change of plans, thus Sandy will be attending the Rydell High along with Danny, but he doesn’t know this.
Sandy becomes the foreign exchange student and becomes a friend of Frenchy (Didi Conn) who is a member of the clique “The Pink Ladies”. She introduces Sandy to her friends Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing), who used to be an ex-girlfriend of Danny, the flirtatious Marty (Dinah Manoff) and the toothy Jan (Jamie Donnelly).
As for Danny, he is the leader of a gang known as “The T-Birds” who tend to be the mischievous ones of Rydell High. Members of the T-Birds include mechanic and the other big boss of the gang Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) who is now dating Rizzo, Sonny (Michael Tucci), Putzie (Kelly Ward) and Doody (Barry Pearl).
Sandy tells the Pink Ladies about her fantastic summer vacation with a boy she fell in love with. Meanwhile, Danny tells the guys about the story of the girl he was with during the summer through a song titled “Summer Nights”. Sandy’s version is more emotional and sweet while Danny’s version of his story is a bit more exaggerated of for the guys.
Afterwards, Rizzo asks Sandy who the guy that she was with during the Summer and she tells them Danny Zuko. Rizzo’s face turns to shock but then reassures her that she may see him again, while the Pink Ladies are just shocked.
Sandy is eventually encouraged to join the spirit team by a classmate and after the rally, Betty and the Pink Ladies decide to introduce Sandy to Danny and immediately both Sandy and Danny are excited to see each other.
But because Danny is with his gang, he has to act cool and arrogant and behaves like a jerk in front of Sandy. Sandy storms off in tears! Danny regrets what he did but he knows that in front of the guys, he has to be cool and act a certain way. He gives a sad look towards Rizzo and Rizzo gives a smirk right back.
Because Sandy is depressed, Frenchy invites her to a sleepover at her home with the other members of the Pink Ladies. But her and Betty Rizzo don’t get along all that well because of their different personalities. As for French, she announces to her friends that she is dropping out of high school and will be going to beauty school. Meanwhile, the Pink Ladies start singing a sarcastic song towards Sandy (because she’s so innocent) titled “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”.
The T-Birds arrive and Kenickie picks up Rizzo, meanwhile Sandy goes toward the porch and you realize that despite all that has happened that night, she is very much in love with Danny and sings “Hopelessly Devoted to You”.
As Rizzo and Kenickie start making in the backseat of the car, she asks Kenickie if he has a condom, but when he takes it out, the condom breaks (he’s had the condom since he was in 7th grade). To make matters worse, Leo (Dennis Cleveland Stewart) who is the leader of the rival gang, The Scorpions, damages Kenickie’s car purposely and shows off his hot rod.
Kenickie and the guys take a look at his damaged cars but they see the potential of making it better and with new parts and a new paintjob, the guys start singing “Greased Lightning”.
After putting some work on the car, we see Sandy and jock Tom Chisum (Lorenzo Lamas) at the soda shop sharing a soda. When she goes to start a song on the jukebox, Danny who is with his gang leaves them quickly to try and talk with her and apologize for how he treated her and tells her that he acted the way he did because of his status with the guys. But when Danny sees that she is spending time with a jock, Danny gets a bit jealous.
So, Danny decides that if he’s going to get Sandy back, he has to be a jock. But because of his troublesome nature, sports are not exactly his thing. His coach decides that perhaps being in a track team is more of his thing. So, when Danny starts jogging around the track, he sees Sandy with Tom and then starts to show off by jumping several hurdles. Unfortunately, he messes up and takes a fall and immediately Sandy runs to his side. The two are able to reconcile their differences and are back together.
Danny tries his best to be with Sandy without his friends around but it proves to be difficult. Meanwhile, the relationship between Rizzo and Kenickie is not going too well either.
With the big dance coming up, the other T-Birds and the Pink Ladies decide to go with each other to the dance. For Frenchy, life is a bit difficult for her as well as she realizes that quitting school for beauty school may have not been a smart thing to do. While closing up the soda shop, she has a dream of Frankie Avalon singing “Beauty School Drop Out” and that she should return to high school.
The following day, as it may seem that Kenickie might want to make things right with Rizzo, Rizzo instead does the opposite and she and Marty end up ditching school to hang out with Kenickie’s rival Leo and getting into his car for a ride.
It’s now time for the big dance as Both Danny and Sandy go on their first major date together as a couple. The TV show National Bandstand is broadcasting live at their school and holding a competition.
Rizzo ends up attending the dance with Leo, Kenickie ends up taking Leo’s girlfriend Cha-Cha DiGregorio (Annette Charles), who happens to be Danny’s ex-girlfriend and the competition begins. Everything is going well at the dance but things get a bit chaotic when Kenickie and Leo try to show off in front of their ladies, somehow Sonny ends up dancing with Sandy, Danny ends up dancing with Cha-Cha and when Danny tries to regroup with Sandy, Cha-Cha grabs him and both start dancing. Sandy seeing her boyfriend dancing with another girl, makes her upset and she leaves the dance.
Danny and Sandy eventually reconcile and while parked at the drive-in, Danny wants to make things right with her and give her his ring which makes her happy.
As for Rizzo, she tells Marty that she has missed her period and she may be pregnant. Marty blabs to Sonny, who blabs to other people at the school and everyone finds out that Rizzo may be pregnant. Kenickie eventually hears the rumor and goes up to her and wonders why she never told him and Rizzo tells him that it’s because the child is not his. While this is going on, Danny tries to make out with Sandy but she’s doesn’t want to do it and storms off, throwing his ring back at him.
Each of the main characters now face challenges in their lives. Danny and Kenickie losing their ladies, they focus their energy on getting back against Leo and thus Kenickie challenges him to a race. Rizzo is worried about being pregnant, Sandy is worried about how she and Danny are from two different worlds and everyone just wants to get through the school year.
Of course, there is much more to the story of “GREASE” but without having to spoil the film, the idea about “GREASE” revolves around relationships. Two people who care about each other but are from different worlds. The film revolves around high school youth during the late 50’s and facing the typical high school challenges that people continue to face today. Teens trying to fit in and facing normal teenage problems that are just as relevant now as they were back then.
But of course, “GREASE” is also about a musical being adapted to a film and suffice to say, the crew and cast successfully pulled it off.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“GREASE” is featured in 1080p High Definition and I will tell you I was blown away by the picture quality.
I’ve watched this film dozens of times, owned the VHS and both DVD versions and when I started watching the High Definition Blu-ray transfer, I was speechless. The many colors featured in the film were quite vibrant. This film is over 30-years-old and Paramount really did a great service in the transfer and remaster of this film. Closeups, outdoor scenes, you name it, the film looks spectacular!
I compared my 25th Anniversary DVD to this Blu-ray and just the opening sequence alone with the two at the beach, the colors are just absolutely stunning on Blu-ray. I was literally in awe of how beautiful this film looked in High Definition. The DVD video quality just doesn’t compare to the Blu-ray disc and I was quite impressed!
As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and also in French 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish mono. Since music is a big part of the film, it was important for me to test this Blu-ray out on my system. Where the 1977 film “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” was just spectacular for its High Definition audio transfer, I was hoping to have an awesome lossless soundtrack for “GREASE”.
Somehow, in the beginning of the film, it seemed as if the audio coming from the center channel was a bit lower than my front speakers. So, dialogue seemed as if it was being overpowered by the music. I’ve run a variety of tests and I did have to increase my center channel dB a little bit to compensate for the music coming louder but this may be due to my audio setup for my receiver. But everything sounded well throughout the film after the adjustment.
The dialogue was quite clear but the music really came alive and I did notice certain sounds utilizing my subwoofer during the car and music scenes. But overall, the music does sound great and clear via Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
“GREASE” comes with a good number of special features. Included on this Blu-ray disc are:
• Commentary: Commentary by Director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch – This commentary is quite interesting as Kleiser talked more about the film side of “GREASE” while Patricia Birch talked about the choreography part of the film. Both give really good insight of bringing the musical to film, talking about the things they had to accomplish and how Kleiser, Birch and DoP Butler really had to work closely with each other and the talent to make this film successful. You learn about the challenge of filming the National Bandstand segment, the finale during 102 degree weather and how Olivia Newton-John had to have her tight clothing sewn on and more.
• Introduction by Randal Kleiser – A brief :24 second introduction to the special features. Kleiser does several introductions throughout various features.
• Rydell Sing-Along – This segment is for those who want to watch the musical parts from the film and on the bottom of the screen is a karaoke single along.
• Featurette: The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease – (22:27) This is the main featurette featuring interviews with the Director, producers, the cast sharing their memories of working on the film, working with John Travolta and more. How Allan Carr and Robert Sigwood made this musical a film and put money into it despite no studio wanting to back it, having to work with a good number of talents, John Travolta talking about why he wanted Olivia Newton-John to play the role, how Jeff Conaway actually played Danny in Broadway and was understudy for several other roles with the exception of Kinickie. And many more interesting tidbits on the making of the film.
• Additional Scenes: Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes with introduction by Randal Kleiser (intro :13 scenes 11:55 – TRT 12:08) – Randal Kleiser explains how footage was recently found in the Paramount vaults. The additional scenes found are in black and white.
• Additional Scenes: 1. T-Birds Harass Eugene – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 2. Classroom Announcements – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 3. Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 4. She’s too Pure to be Pink – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 5. Intro to Summer Nights – DEL
• Additional Scenes: 6. Rydell Pep Rally – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 7. Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty’s – DEL
• Additional Scenes: 8. The Stroll – EXT
• Additional Scenes: 9. National Bandstand – ALT
• Additional Scenes: 10. At the Dance – ALT/EXT
• Additional Scenes: 11. Thunder Road – DEL
• Grease on DVD Launch Party – (15:13) The cast and crew reunited for this DVD Launch Party back in 2002. Both Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta performed live on stage singing a few of their classic songs that sung with each other.
• Grease Memories from John & Olivia – (3:23) Both talent at the DVD launch party and discussing how it was like working together and their memories of being on the film and their favorite scenes.
• The Moves Behind the Music – (8:14) Interviews with Patricia Birch and the talent as they discuss how they learned the dance moves and how it important it was for Patricia to work with Director of Photography Bill Butler in capturing the choreography for film.
• Thunder Roadsters – (5:21) Interviews with George Barris (King of the Kistomers) and Michael Astamendi (Car Builder/Fabricator) and others in regards to making the cars for “GREASE”. How they focused on customizing because parts for the old Chevy’s are hard to come by.
• John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview – (1:47) A quick interview with producer Allan Carr and John Travolta on “Grease Day” and Travolta talking about working with the producers and the talent for the film.
• Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview – (2:07) An interview about how Olivia Newton-John gotten involved and the popularity of the film and working with John Travolta and more.
• Photo Galleries: The photo gallery consists of the following still photos broken down into several categories such as:
• Rydell High Year Book
• Grease Day
• Theatrical Trailer HD – (2:09) The original theatrical trailer in its original untouched and aged format, grain and scratches included.
“GREASE” is just one of those timeless classics that never gets old with repetitive viewings. But I have to be truthful and say how much I was in awe to see the brilliant camerawork but to see how the choreography and just literally everything look quite smooth on film.
And surprisingly watching this again 30-years-later and as the Director and even producers have said in the featurette, they were able to pull things off today that probably wouldn’t happen now. Quite a bit of sexual lingo but overall, the lyrics of the songs to the mannerisms of the characters is what made things look genuine.
It’s interesting to read some of the critical reviews from people who did not grow up with the film but are more familiar with today’s musicals and drawing comparisons to “High School Musical” and making the comment of how HSM utilized real teenagers for high school life and that “GREASE” utilized 20 to 30-something year olds to play teenagers. I don’t think any of us who watched it back then ever thought about the age being an issue for the film. What we saw were popular talent at that time in a movie musical and the film became a success. Even today, I have no reservations of the talents playing their roles. They did a fantastic job!
For me, John Travolta was the hottest star coming off with “Welcome Back, Kotter” and then doing “SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER” in 1977 and Olivia Newton-John was just one of the most beautiful female solo singers at the time. Both had unique chemistry and the film was well-cast that I felt everything just went smoothly on the final cut.
You really have to give a big applause to Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood for taking the chance of bringing a musical to film but making sure its adapted well for the screen. Sure we see musicals now but during that time, there was no studio support. And because the film was enjoyed by audiences, the film is definitely ingrained into America’s pop culture.
Also, I was just amazed through the featurettes and learning how the choreography was done. Because there were so many people utilized in the dancing segments, Patricia Birchwood wanted to make things come alive but to alter a talent’s own personal dance to make it look right on film. And of course, Bill Butler, to capture what Birchwood wanted on film, the amount of cutting from scene to scene showing opposing points of view on a song like “Summer Nights” to the ending theme, it was indeed “electrifying”!
Overall, this Blu-ray release of “GREASE” is just the definitive version to own. To watch this classic film in High Definition and to see the magnificent picture quality really brings out the vibrant colors of the film, the energy and beauty of the beach sunset to showcasing the life of youth of the late 50’s. The DolbyTrueHD 5.1 audio makes the music come alive and last, there are many special features included that will help people remember and celebrate such a wonderful movie musical.
Again, this is the true definitive version of “GREASE” to own! I was just stunned by how magnificent this film looked and how much clearer and alive the music sounded in High Definition. I highly recommend this release!
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