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review added: 10/3/02



Grease
Widescreen - 1978 (2002) - Paramount

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Grease Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A-/C

Specs and Features
110 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.351), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at ??), custom "slim" gatefold packaging with slip-cover, cast and crew interviews, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned


"Stranded at the drive-in... Branded a fool... What will they say... Monday at school?"

In the seventh grade, I got the opportunity to play Danny Zucco in a school production of Grease. This was nearly twenty years after the film had been released, but everybody already knew the story and the songs by heart. Even if you hadn't seen the film, you could probably still hum the music considering that the soundtrack is still a bestseller. I knew the lyrics to Summer Nights even before we learned them for the play. So for a film that has had that large of a cultural impact, it's nice to finally see it debut on DVD.

Just in case you don't know the story, it goes like this. Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) are two teenagers who meet the summer before senior year. They fall madly in love, and are heartbroken when the summer ends and Sandy has to return to Australia. But when Danny goes back to school, he's surprised to find Sandy at his campus, having apparently moved to America permanently. But... something's changed, with his old friends around, Danny isn't sure how to act around her. His casualness is too cold for Sandy, who can't understand what "peer-pressure" means.

Danny tries to change for Sandy - he works to become a track jock, treats her out on the weekends and even dances with her when "National Bandstand" comes to town. But his past is too much for him to let go. So Sandy decides to take things into her own hands to get the love of her life back. And, yeah... there's some singing and dancing along the way.

For me, it was great to have all those memories of school rush back to me when watching this film. It might have only been the school play, but for me the experience was comparable to that of the generation who remember this film its initial run. Grease is more than "the word" or plain old-fashioned nostalgia... it's a type of perfection that we would have liked to have seen back then.

And after all of these years, it's wonderful to pick up on details that you might have forgotten between viewings. The songs always stay with you, as does Travolta and Newton-John's electric chemistry. But to see Didi Conn (Frenchy) "cute" her way through the beefiest storyline among the supporting characters, or to see the maturity in Stockard Channing's Rizzo, heart wrenching during The Worst Thing I Could Do, it's like watching a magic trick that you just can't believe you've forgotten how it was done.

Presented in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Grease is shot rather nicely, certainly looking a lot better in widescreen than the cropped version you've see on television all the time. But although it's a good looking film, with nice color representation and flesh tones, detailing is frankly quite bad, with obtrusive haloing throughout caused by some of the worst edge-enhancement of any DVD I've seen. Paramount's decision to put the film on a dual-layer disc has kept it from having any compression artifacts, but this just isn't that impressive of a picture. Many re-mastered films much older than this one look much better on disc.

On the other hand, the 5.1 audio remix provided is great. The soundstage itself is clear, and the low frequency channel gets great usage. Although the surrounds don't get a lot of use when it comes to crowd noise and ambiance, the songs and score use them to great effect. Sonically, my favorite sequence comes in chapter 15, the big race, which balances the score and engine sounds and uses both in the surrounds quite nicely. Although there are long patches where the sound is very static, when characters start singing, the track really comes to life.

The extras are pretty slim, surprising given the demand for Grease on DVD... but NOT surprising if you know anything about the legal history of this film. Frankly, we should probably consider ourselves lucky to have the film on DVD at all - the release was delayed for years and almost didn't happen. What we do get includes a collection of interviews with many of the key cast members, director Randall Kleiser and producer Allan Carr. These interviews are basically bland ("It was so great to be a part of this film!"), but it's nice to see all the participants looking surprisingly good after all these years. Stockard Channing is a terrific actress whom I admire, but even on The West Wing she doesn't look as good as she does here. Fans of the film will love the interview piece, but having seen a VH1: Behind the Music episode a few years ago on the making of the film, what you get here is not that comprehensive. Actually, it's rather odd that they couldn't include that episode, given that VH1 is a corporate partner (and another episode of the show is being included with the Saturday Night Fever DVD). Rounding out the extras is a non-anamorphic trailer for the film.

Although a less-than-stellar release, Grease, one of DVDs most requested films, is finally here. It's not a must have for the average DVD buyer, but it should make fans of the film happy.

Graham Greenlee
grahamgreenlee@thedigitalbits.com




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