Grease (1978)

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Released 14-Sep-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Booklet
Featurette-Interviews With Cast & Filmmakers
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 105:55
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (46:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Randal Kleiser
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Travolta
Olivia Newton-John
Stockard Channing
Jeff Conaway
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $31.95 Music Warren Casey
Jim Jacobs


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Greek
English
Spanish
French
Hebrew
Croatian
Portuguese
Slovak
French Titling
Smoking Yes, frequently
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes, a montage of photos throughout the credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A few things come to mind when describing how the film Grease is relevant to me. I grew up in a family that was not only quite probably the first on the block to get a CD player, but possibly the first to get a Video Cassette Recorder (which is why the advent of recordable DVD seems so much like a flashback to me). The first films I saw in my lifetime, thanks to this shiny new medium of the early 1980s were Star Wars, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, a slightly purified version of The Blues Brothers, and Grease. It seems ironic to me now, because whilst I saw Grease as depicting the ideal version of a later period in my life, I could not imagine it being more different when I look back on it now. While Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing might bring back memories of high school for others, mine are more coincidental with songs that have titles like Look Back In Anger and Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead.

    Now that you have some idea of the hesitation with which I went into viewing Grease for the first time in at least fifteen years. I'm sure you're asking if I believe it holds up today. The answer is a big yes, because in spite of being somewhat dated, it also holds up as a good memoir of what music was like in the days when the mainstream had a right to call itself musical. I can only think of two musicals that came after Grease that have the same vibrancy and energy - The Blues Brothers and O' Brother, Where Art Thou?. In spite of potentially being the key to memories I don't want to unlock for the sake of my own health, I cannot help but be caught up in the energy of the music and the dance sequences.

    The story begins on a beach with a young man named Danny Zuko (John Travolta) cavorting on a beach with a young woman named Sandy Olsen (Olivia Newton-John). Thinking that they will never see each other again because the latter is going back to Australia, they do all the mushy stuff that the former would rather exaggerate into something more lurid, as we see in a later musical number. Of course, fate has other things in store when Zuko goes back to Rydell High School and meets up with his buddies Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci), and Putzie (Kelly Ward). Collectively, this group of five are known as the T-Birds.

    Unbeknownst to him, Sandy has befriended another senior at Rydell High, a squeaky-sounding young woman who calls herself Frenchie (Didi Conn). Frenchie just happens to be one of the Pink Ladies, a clique made up of several young women who don't particularly stand out except for one Elizabeth Rizzo (Stockard Channing). Naturally, when word spreads about how Zuko spent his holiday, the Pink Ladies are all too keen to reintroduce the Zuko they know to the Sandy who saw a very different side to him. Zuko then spends much of his senior year conflicted about his mateship with the T-Birds and his feelings for Sandy, with a string of well-connected musical numbers depicting how he resolves this conflict.

    In between episodes in this drama, there are woven conflicts about Frenchie's decision to drop out of high school in order to become a beautician, and the T-Birds' aggressive rivalry with a gang known as the Scorpions, led by a very nice lad by the name of Leo (Dennis Stewart). Leo is never referred to by name during the running length of this film - he is still known only as Crater Face to a lot of the people who have seen it multiple times. The last question left here, of course, is how good the film looks after nearly twenty-five years. Look out for the uncredited cameo by Michael Biehn as one of the basketball players, too.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Unfortunately, Grease has not been given a full restoration, and it shows quite a bit at some points.

    The transfer is presented in the only aspect ratio Grease should be seen in - the good old Panavision ratio of 2.35:1, and as a wide film with as many rich shots as this demands, it is 16x9 enhanced. There are two shots where the clear advantage of this presentation is easily visible. One is when Jeff Conaway flicks what appears to be a rubber band into Michael Tucci's face at 16:22. The final shot of the musical number in which John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are singing about how they spent their summer, at 16:47, was actually vertically stretched on the VHS version, and it looked like crap, to put it nicely. If ever there was an example of how much better wider can be, this is definitely it. Don't even get me started on how much more sense the dance-off or the car race make when seen in their proper aspect ratio.

    This is a razor-sharp transfer, with so much detail that it could well have been filmed yesterday, if not for the obvious limitations in shadow detail. The shadow detail is fairly typical of a 1978 film, in that the detail is adequate for the night sequences to make sense, but anything that is not directly lit tends to disappear in a patch of black. Perhaps the biggest area where this transfer grinds the old VHS version I saw all those years ago is that there is absolutely no low-level noise at any point in the transfer.

    The colour palette in this film is very extravagant, but also very 1978, in that the colours tend to take on a slightly overly rich, blooming, almost pastel-like appearance when greens and reds are dominant. The costumes range from almost monochromatic, especially on the T-Birds, to being bright and luscious, such as the Pink Ladies' attire. There were no composite artefacts to spoil this arrangement, and no smearing either.

    MPEG artefacts were not found in this transfer, which is probably the best thing it has going for it other than the widescreen presentation. Film-to-video artefacts, however, were a fairly constant nuisance, with aliasing occurring pretty much every time a car or patterned piece of clothing was on the screen. Some really hideous examples of aliasing in this transfer were on the lockers at 9:36 and on the bleachers at 12:36. Film artefacts were less of a problem, although the grain and hair-like marks at the right of the frame at 1:58 during the animated credits had me worried for a second. One instance at 26:10 where the top and bottom of the frame seemed to shrink towards each other, suggesting a warping or extreme damage to the negative, was more of a cause for alarm.

    There are English subtitles available on this DVD, but they are not much help for Hearing Impaired viewers, given that they vary considerably from the dialogue and contain a fair amount of omissions.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place after Sid Caesar says "he's a hitter", at 46:04. Obvious this layer change may be, but it is quick enough that it doesn't matter too much, and it sure beats the hell out of being placed in the middle of a musical number.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I was disappointed a little by the video transfer in light of the potential it had, but this was soon negated by how disappointed in the audio transfer I was. This is one film that could have made a great 5.1 remix, even if the original Dolby Stereo and 70 millimeter six-track audio mixes weren't available. Instead, it is barely a 3.1 mix.

    There are three soundtracks on this DVD, all of which are encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with 448 kilobits per second. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue, with dubs provided in Spanish and French. I listened exclusively to the English soundtrack - I doubt that the film would have quite the same character in any other language.

    The dialogue is pretty clear and easy to understand at all times, especially when you know what the actors are going to say in advance. There is one notable exception, when Jeff Conaway says "I love it when you talk dirty" through a mouthful of hamburger at 50:26, but this is pretty intentional and all the remixing in the world cannot help this line. This moment aside, the clarity of this soundtrack beats the hell out of the monaural transfer that I've heard more times than I can count on VHS. The audio sync is as spot-on as can be expected, with the musical numbers a little bit out at times, but with no problems during the dialogue.

    The music in this film consists of the original musical numbers from the play by Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs, with numerous contemporary songs from the 1950s included. There are also some additional songs by John Farrar and Barry Gibb. While I have never been a fan of this genre (aww really, I hear you cry), the playing and technical skill of the musicians is undoubtable, and especially apparent during such numbers as the Grease theme song.

    The cover of this DVD says that it is a 5.1 soundtrack, but the surround channels barely make a peep throughout most of the film. When they do get into the act, such as during the rapid-fire clapping of Greased Lightning at 39:07, or during a reprise of Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing at 103:20, they are just distracting. These instances stick out like a sore thumb and draw attention to the rears, simply because these channels are so inactive during the rest of the film. To make matters worse, a pop was heard from the rears at 31:27, after Michael Tucci says "when a guy picks a chick over his buddies, somethin' gotta be wrong!", which was again quite distracting.

    Another problem was that aside from the dialogue being placed in the centre channel, there was precious little separation between the channels that were active in this soundtrack. Fundamentally, this is a monaural mix with the occasional wrap-around stereo moment.

    The subwoofer was used in small amounts during the car chase, or when a particular car is revved up at 36:40. Again, it drew attention to itself because it was thrown into the mix at random points rather than integrated with the front channels.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are a disappointment too.

Menu

    The menu is static, easy to navigate, and 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Interviews With The Cast And Filmmakers

    This sixteen minute and forty-six second featurette is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and approximately 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is not 16x9 enhanced. Appallingly, the 1.78:1 film footage appears to have been vertically stretched into this shape, much like the aforementioned shot on the VHS cassette. The featurette itself is very interesting, however, and it provides a look at how much some of the principal cast members have changed during the twenty or so years between the making of the film and this featurette.

Theatrical Trailer

    This one minute and fifty-two second trailer is presented in an approximate 1.66:1 ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Considering how this trailer looks and sounds, I am inclined to let the feature off on the basis that it could have looked and sounded a lot worse.

Booklet

    Now this is a much meatier extra. This sixteen page booklet contains a listing of the songs, including copyright information, lyrics, and a chapter listing. The pink cosmetic design is a little bit much for me, but this is a great extra for those who want to have a sing-along. A slip of paper advertising that Saturday Night Fever is due on DVD this October 11 (heaven help us!) was also included, but I am not sure that this counts as an extra.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It appears that this DVD has not yet been released in Region 1. The scheduled release date is September 24. It appears that the Widescreen edition of the title will include the same extras as we get here. Interestingly, two versions will be available - one called a Widescreen Edition, and one called a Full Screen Edition. This reeks of blatant false advertising to me - the latter should be called The Crappy Edition That Doesn't Make Much Sense A Lot Of The Time Because Half The Picture Is Missing.

    Suffice to say that it looks like the Region 4 and Region 1 Widescreen Editions are pretty much equal.

Summary

    Grease is, in spite of the fact that I have a weird psychological aversion to it, a fun ride that keeps the viewer entertained for a hundred minutes. It is not a bad film for the children to watch, even if a lot of the humour will go right over their heads. While it is not the last great musical as is claimed during one of the extras, it does reinforce what a great big shame it is that only two real musicals that I can think of have been made since. Although I do recall a film version of Chicago starring Catherine Zeta-Jones being mentioned as "in the works" in one magazine (heaven help us!).

    The video transfer is good, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.

    The audio transfer is good, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.

    The extras are limited

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Blues Brothers and O Brother Where Art Thou are not musicals. - Cardiff Giant (Must have the word 'bio' or 'biography' in it)
"A slip of paper advertising that Saturday Night Fever is due on DVD" - Andrew (Read my Bio.)
grease is the word! - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
What, no isolated songtrack -
got it! - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
Lack of full screen choice in Australia is UNFORGIVABLE - Barry Winter
The WHOLE picture?!? Are you kidding me?!?! - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
Furthermore......... - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
P&S - Paul B
Also - Paul B
i actually think barry is pulling our legs... - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
Full screen is better - Barry Winter
Where's my shotgun? - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
You Idiots - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
I agree with Barry - Laddy
Phhhtttt!!! Almost snorted up my coffee - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
I AM SERIOUS!!! - Laddy
RE: I AM SERIOUS!!! - Cock Spanker
WS vs FS - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
Don't get into this arguement -
Don't get into this arguement -
24 - Way to give away a plot twist in your press release, Fox! - Cardiff Giant (Must have the word 'bio' or 'biography' in it)
Full screen is probably more popular than widescreen -
Even if you dont have a widescreen TV, you should opt for Widescreen DVD movies EVERYTIME -
BEWARE the Australian ROCKIN' EDITION (BLURAY)... -