Grease appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a terrific little transfer.
Sharpness worked well. Iffy aspects of the source demonstrated occasional instances of softness, but those became unavoidable, and the image usually displayed excellent clarity.
Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and edge enhancement was absent. Print flaws were completely non-existent as well, so I noticed no signs of source defects here.
Colors looked excellent. The image showed consistently vivid and vibrant hues that really stood out as dynamic.
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 clean and neat. This became a strong representation of the source.
As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Grease, it seemed very appealing 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 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, though dialogue was the weakest area. The lines remained intelligible and fairly natural, but they could seem a bit thin and edgy.
Many bits of dialogue 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, as the songs offered fine clarity and dynamics. Low-end worked well, as bass response added nice warmth. The audio often defied its age and worked nicely.
How did the 2018 “40th Anniversary” release compare to the original Blu-ray from 2009? Though both delivered Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, the 2018 version restored the movie’s original six-track audio, so expect some changes there. I had no real complaints about the remix, but I felt the 1978 track felt a bit more natural and it showed stronger reproduction of the music.
As for the visuals, the 2018 disc also boasted improvements. I liked the 2009 Blu-ray but I thought the 2018 release appeared a bit smoother and more natural. While I was happy with the old disc, the new one fared better.
One other difference stems from a contentious bit of “censorship”. In all prior video versions of Grease, Coca-Cola signs got blurred in the Frosty Palace scene.
This occurred for reasons that appear to remain up for debate. The most common explanation seems to be that the movie’s producers worked out a deal with Pepsi after they’d already shot the sequences with the Coke signs so they needed to clumsily “block” them – though one remained, and they just hoped the folks at Pepsi wouldn't care.
An alternate explanation claims that the producers didn’t think to clear the signs with Coke, and the soft drink giant’s executives refused to give them permission to display the ads. Rather than reshoot this material, the producers just altered the offending material.
Various thoughts relate to whether or not the Coke signs ever appeared in their unaltered glory. Some believe the movie originally ran with the Coke ads intact, while others opine the art always got blurred.
Whatever the case may be, one will not find the Coke signs unaltered in the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray – but for the most part, one also won’t see blurred Coke art. One exception occurs, as we can still see a single fuzzy Coke painting in the background of the malt shop scene.
The other examples have used digital effects to either entirely remove the Coke imagery – in the case of one element – or to turn the Coke art into Pepsi signage. This will probably offend the purists, but I can’t claim it bothers me.
In a perfect world, the studio would’ve finally gotten permission from Coke to show the signs. Did they ask and still get rebuffed? Did they maintain a grudge and choose to favor Pepsi? Does the 40-year-old Pepsi contract still hold sway?
I have no idea, but the digitally-constructed Pepsi art integrates well – and sure looks better than the awkwardly blurred Coke signs. Maybe the movie’s 80th anniversary will bring restored Coke signs, but until/unless that happens, the Pepsi art seems like a decent compromise and an improvement over the clunky blurred Coke signs.
The 2018 Blu-ray duplicates the 2009 release and adds a few new components. We begin with an audio commentary from director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch, both of whom 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. 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, and we find a featuretteThe Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease. It runs 22 minutes, 26 seconds and features 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, songs written specifically 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, 17 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, 13-second 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, 23 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, 14-second The Moves Behind the Music. It includes Birch, Kleiser, Butler, Conaway, Newton-John, Wolsky and Conn.
We find 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 (2:06).
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.
The 2018 “40th Anniversary” Blu-ray brings a few new extras, and fans will feel most curious to see am Alternate Ending. It goes for 45 seconds – half of which shows text from Kleiser.
So the actual footage lasts a mere 23 seconds and it simply extends the existing scene. Here we see Danny and Sandy lift into the clouds and fly away, complete with an animated transition. It’s cute but not especially memorable.
The 2018 Blu-ray also brings Alternate Animated Main Titles. This reel fills three minutes, 44 seconds – including 26 seconds from Kleiser – and shows the same opening credits we’ve seen for 40 years but accompanied by a different theme song.
On one hand, this tune fits the movie’s 50s setting much better than the disco-tinged tune from Frankie Valli. On the other hand, it’s not a memorable song and it opens the film with less of a bang – though to be fair, it’s really tough to watch the film with a different number given 40 years of familiarity with the Valli track.
The final new addition to the package, Grease: A Chicago Story fills 24 minutes, 30 seconds and delivers notes from co-creator Jim Jacobs, and stage actors Steve Munro, Marilu Henner, and Bruce Hickey. “Story” looks at the inspirations for the original stage production as well as songwriting, casting, the early performances, and related developments. “Chicago” offers a tight little overview of the history behind the stage show and offers a fun program.
40 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 and sound with a fairly engaging roster of extras. I can’t claim I love Grease, but it maintains some charms, and this 40th Anniversary release serves it well.
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