DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

Randal Kleiser
John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conway, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly
Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey

Grease is the word.

John Travolta solidified his position as the most versatile and magnetic screen presence of the decade in this film version of the smash hit play Grease. Recording star Olivia Newton-John made her American film debut as Sandy, Travolta's naive love interest. The impressive supporting cast reads like a "who's who" in this quintessential Fifties musical. Grease is not just a nostalgic look at a simpler decade - it's an energetic and exciting musical homage to the age of rock 'n' roll! The "Rockin' Rydell Edition" comes in deluxe leather jacket packaging and includes all-new special bonus features!

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.941 million on 862 screens.
Domestic Gross
$181.280 million (including 1998 re-release).

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/5/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Randal Kleiser and Choreographer Patricia Birch
• Introduction from Director Randal Kleiser
• “Rydell Sing-Along”
• “The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease” Featurette
• 11 Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes
• “Grease On DVD” Launch Party
• “Grease Memories from John and Olivia” Featurette
• “The Moves Behind the Music” Featurette
• ”Thunder Roadsters” Featurette
• “John Travolta and Allan Carr ‘Grease Day’ Interview”
• “Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood ‘Grease Day’ Interview”
• Trailer
• Photo Gallery


Search Products:

Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Grease: Rockin' Rydell Edition (1978) [Blu-Ray]

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 30, 2009)

With the exception of 2002’s Chicago, 1978’s Grease represented the last gasp of the Hollywood musical as popular entertainment. And what a gasp it offered! At least at the box office, Grease kicked some serious tail. The movie earned $181 million in 1978, a figure that earns it the spot as the highest-grossing musical of all-time. Of course, if we adjust the figures for inflation, 1965’s The Sound of Music easily grabs the top position for the genre, and 1964’s Mary Poppins also beats it. But Grease remains number one based on actual figures, and anyway, it’s still the biggest hit musical that doesn’t star Julie Andrews!

(Quick secondary trivia note: once we pass Grease at #25 on the adjusted revenue chart I viewed, we must fall more than 25 places before we get to the next musical, 1964’s My Fair Lady. How bizarre that three of the four top-grossing musicals enjoyed a connection to Julie Andrews, as she originated the Eliza Doolittle role in the stage production of Lady. Heck, had she been the right age for it, I could actually see Andrews as Sandy in Grease!)

For an 11-year-old in 1978, Grease really was the word. My friends and I simply adored the flick, and I think I saw it something like six or seven times over the period of a few months. Longtime readers may know of my aversion to musicals and wonder how this could be, but I simply had very different tastes back then. I liked then-modern pop/rock, but my formative experience occurred when I developed a huge interest in the Beatles in 1979. Not coincidentally, my enjoyment of showtunes quickly dissipated. Heck, I once thought that Grease’s “Greased Lightning” totally rocked – what was wrong with me?

Of course, it wasn’t just me, as all of the kids worshiped Grease. In retrospect, I can’t quite figure out why we went so nuts about it. I still love some movies that I adored in that era; flicks like Jaws, Star Wars, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind remain among my favorites. However, Grease doesn’t merit attention among that crowd.

Set in the early rock era of the Fifties, Grease primarily focuses on Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsen (Olivia Newton-John), a pair of summer lovers. Once the academic term starts, the high school kids (ha! Newton-John was almost 30 at the time) assume they’ll never see each other again, but it so happens that new student Sandy arrives at Danny’s native Rydell High. After a period in which we get to know the whole crew – which includes Danny’s T-Birds gang and the girls’ Pink Ladies – the two encounter each other. Unfortunately, Danny tries to act cool in front of his buddies, which cheeses off Sandy.

While it covers the course of the school year, Grease concentrates on the on-again, off-again relationship between Danny and Sandy. When she starts to date a jock named Tom (Lorenzo Lamas), he goes out for sports. The pair dance together at a big competition, but a bimbo named Cha-cha (Annette Charles) ruins the night. Essentially, the story consists of a slew of different contrivances created solely to keep Danny and Sandy apart until the finale.

Of course, it tosses in some subplots as well. We see the rivalry between the T-Birds and the Scorpions, a gang led by scungy Leo (Dennis C. Stewart, the greasiest greaser in Grease). We also watch the romantic connection between T-Bird Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) and head Lady Rizzo (Stockard Channing); like Danny and Sandy, they go through their own fluctuations before they decide what to do with each other.

Mixed in with these light plot points, we get scads of songs. One complaint I often level at musicals stems from the amount of time the production numbers fill. For flicks like Oliver! or West Side Story many of the songs last forever. No wonder many movie musicals fill two and a half to three hours of screen time; the production numbers go to interminable lengths.

One positive in Grease’s corner comes from the fact that this doesn’t happen here. The film uses a pop/rock score, and those tunes generally don’t last more than two or three minutes. Heck, during the era in question, pop tunes rarely were more than a couple of minutes long; it wasn’t until the Sixties that songs started to stretch those boundaries more fully. Grease doesn’t totally stick to the two-minutes-and-out tradition of the Fifties, but it comes surprisingly close. Even the longest tune – “Hand Jive” – barely breaks the five-minute mark, and the vast majority go between two and four minutes.

Director Randal Kleiser keeps the action light and peppy enough to avoid the usual pitfalls. Even Singin’ in the Rain - my favorite musical – sags at times, notably during the ponderous 13-minute “Broadway Melody” sequence. Grease skips any of those huge segments and tends to move through the tracks pretty quickly, all of which helps make the project tighter and more efficient.

As a rock fan, I don’t consider the music of Grease to merit consideration within that genre. Grease features light, nostalgic pop that lacks the bite necessary to qualify as real rock; it shows too much of a Broadway influence to actually feel like rock. Still, lots of the songs seem quite catchy and memorable. Some appear excessively kitschy – even at age 11, I never could stand the campy “Beauty School Dropout” – but tracks like “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One That I Want” sport a nice pop sheen that allows them to work.

Kleiser uses fairly standard musical staging for the numbers, but he manages to integrate them into the story pretty well. Unlike some numbers in other films, the tunes virtually always further the plot. “Summer Nights” acts both as exposition and as character development, since it communicates what happened with Danny and Sandy and offers clues as to the personalities of the pair and their friends.

Grease also succeeds due to its generally solid cast. Newton-John doesn’t seem like much of an actress, but she brings the necessary warmth and likeability to Sandy. Plus, she’s the only good singer in the bunch, which helps. Travolta barely carries a tune, but his personality makes his turn as Danny a good one. He offers a funny lunkheaded charm that endears him to the audience even when he acts like a jerk. When you watch Grease, you get an idea why Travolta briefly was one of the world’s biggest movie stars.

As for the supporting players, all seem competent, but only Channing stands out from the crowd. Apparently the oldest of the group – at 34, she played a character roughly half her actual age! – Channing appears absolutely unconvincing as a high school student, but she brings so much pep and funny cynicism to Rizzo that you totally understand why they cast her anyway. Channing provides a lively and engaging performance that probably remains Grease’s best work.

All this and personal cult fave Eddie Deezen too! On the negative side, Grease seems awfully campy, and it rarely comes across as something genuinely inspired. It lacks the authentic feel of a period piece like American Graffiti and instead substitutes a totally mythical version of the Fifties. Not that any of this matters, for Grease perseveres along with its legions of fans. I can’t call myself one of them, but I did enjoy the movie more than I expected.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Grease appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though a few problems arose, the vast majority of the transfer looked just amazing.

Sharpness was the only area of any concern. Some shots – usually production numbers like “Greased Lightning” or “Beauty School Dropout” – could be a bit soft at times. These instances were enough of a distraction that they caused me to lower my grade to a “B+”. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and edge enhancement was absent. Print flaws were completely non-existent as well; I noticed no signs of source defects here.

Colors looked excellent. The image showed consistently vivid and vibrant colors that really excelled. Black levels consistently looked deep and rich, and shadow detail also was clear and appropriately rendered. Nighttime shots like those during and after the pep rally appeared quite clean and neat. If only the smattering of slightly blurry scenes could be corrected – and they may stem from problems with the source, not the transfer – this would be a consistently dazzling presentation. As it stood, I thought it was good enough for a “B+”.

As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Grease, it seemed quite good for its age. Except for the music, the soundfield remained fairly focused on the center channel. Usually the track offered little more than general ambience on the sides, though it also included a little directional dialogue.

The surrounds lacked much information, as they mostly provided vague reinforcement of the forward audio. A few scenes came to life well, such as during the pep rally. The stereo presentation of the songs showed nice separation and delineation and offered the best aspects of the mix. The opening to the “Teen Angel” sequence also added nice use of the rear speakers, and the entire “Hand Jive” segment spread the music vividly to the surrounds. The car race bit at the end even tossed in some split-surround material. However, those examples popped up pretty infrequently.

Audio quality was good. Dialogue was the weakest area. The lines remained intelligible, but they could seem a bit thin and edgy. Many were obviously looped, and they didn’t always integrate terribly well. Nonetheless, speech was perfectly adequate, especially given the film’s age.

Effects came across as fairly accurate and well defined. They could sound a little thin, but they usually displayed good clarity and depth. Music was smooth. The songs offered good clarity and dynamics, though I might’ve liked a little more low-end oomph. At no point did this soundtrack impress as much as the visuals, but it seemed worth a “B” when I adjusted for its age.

How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray Disc compare to those of the 2006 DVD? Both versions offered virtually identical audio, but the Blu-ray improved the visuals. The pair seemed to boast the same transfer; I didn’t sense that Paramount remastered the film specifically for Blu-ray. Nonetheless, we got a boost in tightness and clarity from the high-def format. I thought the DVD looked good, but the Blu-ray was more satisfying.

The Blu-ray replicates the extras from the 2006 “Rockin’ Rydell Edition” of Grease. We begin with an audio commentary from director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They chat about cast and performances, sets and locations, music and production numbers, changes between the stage version and the movie, and general trivia.

This proves to be a pretty engaging little discussion. The pair interact well and offer a balanced discussion. I thought Kleiser would dominate, but Birch more than holds her own. They may concentrate too much on differences between the movie and the stage production – Kleiser constantly asks Birch about that – but the piece nonetheless informs and keeps us interested.

We can watch the film with an optional Introduction from Kleiser. In this 23-second clip, he does little more than say hello and welcome us to the flick. It’s pretty much worthless.

For a Karaoke take on the flick, you can watch it with the Rydell Sing-Along activated. This presents on-screen lyrics for most of the songs. (The title tune and some of the tracks at the dance lack words.) These light up to let you follow the lyrics: blue for boys, pink for girls, and amber when both sexes croon. It’s a harmless and potentially fun feature.

A slew of video features follow. The main component comes from a new program called The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease. It runs 22 minutes, 25 seconds and features movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Kleiser, Birch, producers Allan Carr (in 1998) and Robert Stigwood, costume designer Albert Wolsky, director og photography Bill Butler, and actors John Travolta (1998), Didi Conn, Olivia Newton-John, Jeff Conaway, and Stockard Channing. We get notes on the show’s move to the big screen and adaptation issues, how Kleiser and the cast came onto the project, performances and rehearsals, Carr’s impact on the set and shooting the musical numbers, costumes and various shot specifics, new songs written for the movie, and the flick’s success and legacy.

I’d love to see a comprehensive documentary about the creation of Grease, but “Motion” isn’t that program. It acts as a decent overview of various elements but it doesn’t sum up the production in a terrific manner. The show touches on enough useful pieces to maintain our interest; it just doesn’t go beyond that, unfortunately.

11 Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes and 16 seconds. All of them are black and white; no color shots appear. Since they’re all pretty short, they don’t give us much new footage. Most prolong existing scenes via the inclusion of minor tidbits. An extended montage that covers the principal’s first day of school announcements is probably the longest addition, but it doesn’t bring out anything interesting. Though I’m glad these scenes show up here for curiosity’s sake, I don’t think any of them are more than mildly compelling.

During the 15-minute and 13-second Grease On DVD” Launch Party, we get a look at the 2002 event that commemorated the first DVD release of the flick. We find some remarks from Travolta, Conaway, Kleiser, Conn, Newton-John, and singer Frankie Avalon. They just offer the usual “it’s great to be here and the movie’s wonderful” notes typical of this sort of affair.

On a more interesting note, Olivia does a live version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, and she duets with Travolta on “You’re the One That I Want”. We also find a big group performance for “Summer Nights” that features all sorts of cast and crewmembers, though Newton-John and Travolta take their leads. Happily, we get full renditions of all these and not just snippets. Those pieces are the real gold here, as it’s hard not to smile as we see John and Olivia romp through “Want”. I admit I didn’t expect much from this feature, but the tunes make it a lot of fun.

Three minutes and 24 seconds of Grease Memories from John and Olivia come next. They throw out some comments from the 2002 event as they enter. Their statements stay in the generic mode; they tell us how they’re happy to be at the reunion and how much they still love the movie. It’s a snoozer of a featurette.

For a look at choreography, we get the eight-minute and 13-second The Moves Behind the Music. It includes Birch, Kleiser, Butler, Conaway, Newton-John, Wolsky and Conn. We get notes about adapting the musical numbers for the big screen and elements of various production pieces as well as info about the movie’s dance troupe. A few good factoids appear here, but “Moves” is too short and too general to be terribly effective.

Thunder Roadsters lasts five minutes, 22 seconds and presents notes from “King of the Kustomizers” George Barris, car builder/customizer Michael Astamendi, and customizers Bob Money, Mark Gerson, Tom McCourry, and Ray Petri. We learn a little about the creation of the fantasy Greased Lightnin’, but mostly we just hear about how much guys love to customize their cars. This never becomes very interesting.

Two sets of Grease Day Interviews appear next. We get one clip with John Travolta and Allan Carr (1:48) and another with Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood (2:07). These segments date from movie’s 1978 premiere. Travolta talks about how he got into acting and his history with Grease, while Newton-John talks about the show, her character, her musical influences, working with Travolta, and seeing herself on the big screen. Both are nice to have as archival pieces, but they don’t tell us much.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a collection of Photo Galleries. These break into four areas: “Rydell High Year Book” (36 stills), “Production” (12), “Premiere” (18), and “Grease Day” (6). These mix a smattering of fun shots – especially from the premiere – with some bland images. Don’t expect a lot of great stuff.

More than 30 years after the movie first dazzled me, Grease doesn’t rock my world anymore, but it remains a fairly entertaining little piece of work. Parts of it fall flat, but enough of it seems satisfying to make it a fun program. The Blu-ray provides very good picture, positive sound with a moderately engaging roster of extras.

If you don’t own a prior version of Grease, the Blu-ray is the way to go. It looks great and presents the film really well. However, if you already have the “Rockin’ Rydell” DVD and feel content with it, I’d question the need for an upgrade. The Blu-ray offers strong visuals, but the DVD remains very competent in that regard.

To rate this film visit the original review of GREASE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main