Over the years we've had several video and DVD releases of 'Grease' - all with one thing in common. They've all been total insults to the work of the cast and crew of this highly entertaining musical thanks to poor quality, muddy, grainy transfers.
Now, at last, we have a transfer that does it justice in a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 effort framed handsomely in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Although an American disc, it's region free.
The movie is at last imbued with vibrant colours and lovely warm skin tones to remind you that this is a Hollywood movie. Thankfully, Paramount have seen fit to spend the time and money on this Blu-ray release.
There's great depth and clarity to the image with a sharpness you'd expect from the High Def format - and thankfully there's no ringing effect due to oversharpening that we'd grown so used to on DVD. There is some grain to be seen, but it's nice grain - the kind that simply reminds you that it was all shot on 35mm film stock.
The dirt, dust and scratches have all gone too - the movie looks like new.
There's a reassuringly solid density to the blacks and the contrast is spot on. A stand out scene is where Travolta sings 'Sandy' at the drive-in movie park, bathed in the light from the projection beam. Even the main titles, which are reformatted at about 2.20:1, look good with their strong use of primary colours. Well done Paramount for getting it right this time.
I hoped that someone would have made the most of modern day digital audio technology and I wasn't disappointed. The sound on 'Grease' is supplied in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix that does wonders for the musical numbers. They have a punchiness that I have never heard from them before and overall the movie has a greater dynamic range than I was expecting from something of its vintage. The dialogue is crisp and clean, enjoying nice separation from the ambience fed through the surround speakers.
The dubbing mixer takes every opportunity to immerse the audience in sound in a way that heightens the enjoyment of this fun movie - and remember that we never had this back in 1978.
At the dance contest, you're placed right in the middle of the action and it re-creates just the right atmosphere to make you feel you're at a High School Prom. A real sound treat.
- Audio Commentary
Director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch provide a somewhat disappointing commentary that struggles to hold your interest as it lacks the anecdotes 'Grease' fans really want. They also struggle to remember what actually happened on several occasions as it was 30 years ago, so they spend most of the time comparing the movie and stage versions, mentioning several differences, and hardly touch upon casting of the actors. Ah well, you can't have it all.
- Introduction by Randal Kleiser (SD, 25 seconds)
Exactly what it says on the tin. A chance to see the director claiming that 'Grease' is the highest grossing movie musical in history.
- Rydell Sing-Along
You have no excuse for not joining in with the songs of 'Grease' as you can learn the lyrics here from colour coded Karaoke style subtitles, allowing you to sing-along with the stars.
- The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering 'Grease' (SD, 22 mins)
A fairly chunky, entertaining featurette, which I remember from the DVD release, pays tribute to the film and its timeless appeal. Mr Travolta, Ms Newton-John, Ms Channing, Mr Conaway, and Ms Conn all offer fascinating reminiscences about casting, friendships, and their participation in a classic. The director and choreographer as well as others chip in with facts about the production.
- Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes (SD, 10 mins)
Director Randal Kleiser introduces 11 additional scenes exhumed from the Paramount vaults in black-and-white form. A few nice bits were cut out, but none of the deletions really add anything substantial to the movie.
- DVD Launch Party (SD, 15 mins)
This item focuses on the festivities surrounding the 2002 release of the movie on DVD with interviews from Travolta, Newton-John (still lovely), Conaway, and other cast members on the Paramount lot. Olivia performs 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' (Ahhhh!), joins Mr Travolta for a duet of 'You're the One That I Want', then drags the whole cast on stage for a reprise of 'Summer Nights'. Fabulous to see, but it does prove that the movie versions of the songs are just so good.
- 'Grease' Memories from John and Olivia (SD, 3 mins)
More from Travolta and Newton-John at the DVD Launch Party. Both stars look fantastic and seem to be really enjoying the cast reunion and are glad to have taken part in the movie.
- The Moves Behind the Music (SD, 8 mins)
A look behind the scenes with Kleiser and Birch, along with assorted cast and crew members, focussing on the musical numbers and the choreography. It highlights how Birch improvised on the set, using the natural talents of the cast and dancers to construct routines.
- Thunder Roadsters (SD, 5 mins)
A look at the classic cars used in 'Grease,' as well as the USA's car culture, are examined in this short with comments and views from several car enthusiasts.
- John Travolta and Allan Carr "Grease Day" Interview (SD, 2 mins)
Travolta reflects upon on the beginnings of his acting career and long-standing association with 'Grease' in this short clip from the 1978 premiere.
- Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood "Grease Day" Interview (SD, 2 mins)
Co-producer Robert Stigwood asks Olivia about her likeness to the character of Sandy, her reaction to seeing herself on screen, and the kind of music that influenced her in her teens.
- Photo Galleries
There are four sections, "Rydell High Yearbook," "Production," "Premiere," and "Grease Day," which include 72 images - some in colour with others in black and white.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 mins)
Nice to see how the movie was originally marketed.
'Grease' hand jives its way on to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer that finally makes the movie look as good as it always should have, consigning the disappointing DVD and video releases that have gone before to the scrapheap.
Vibrant colours, deep blacks and nice sharp images make this release a very worthwhile purchase.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix also provides a very significant contribution to making it sound better than it has ever done before - with the musical numbers being given a happy lift thanks to the dynamic range and clarity of the track.
There's a warm hearted look back at a cast re-union from 2002 in the extras as well as interviews with the stars - and we hear John and Olivia reprise some of the best numbers from the movie on stage.
As for the movie itself - it's simply a joyous celebration of the 1950's era with songs that many now know off by heart. Go ahead, join in and smile.
'Grease' most definitely is the word on Blu-ray.
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- Audio Commentary