4K UHD Review: Grease (40th Anniversary Edition)

One of the most celebrated movie musicals ever, Grease has managed to find an audience across all gender, race and age boundaries and maintain its tremendous popularity nearly forty years after the film premiered in the United States on June 16, 1978. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Grease, Paramount will release it on 4K UHD. The included Blu-ray discs contains some new extras.

The enduring popularity of Grease is easy to understand. The story is straightforward and simple, the music is catchy and easy to sing along with, and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John have an undeniable chemistry that makes their romance believable. Credit also must be given to producer Robert Stigwood, who brought Saturday Night Fever to the screen the year before. He had signed John Travolta to a three-picture deal, and had the foresight to cast Travolta as Danny Zuko, and bring along Bee Gees front man Barry Gibb to compose the title song.

Directed by Randal Kleiser (The Blue Lagoon, Summer Lovers), Grease was based on Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s musical of the same name. In the summer of 1958, Danny Zuko (Travolta, Pulp Fiction) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) meet at a beach. Sandy is to return to Australia with her family. She is upset, thinking that this is the end of their romance and that they will never see each other again. Danny tries to comfort her by telling her that “it’s not the end, it’s just the beginning.”

Predictably, Sandy ends up staying and attending Rydell High, the same school Danny goes to. To Sandy’s disappointment, Danny has embraced his high school persona–greaser and leader of the T-Birds; Which of course means he has no time for the white bread, squeaky clean Sandy. But alas, even Danny Zuko can’t hide his real feelings for too long and the two eventually find a way to get together; once again proving the theory: opposites attract.

While the Danny/Sandy romance is the main plot of Grease, the story also has several interesting subplots. While a group of boys make up the T-Birds, there’s a group of girls that make up their female counterparts, The Pink Ladies, led by Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing) who deals with a pregnancy scare because of her relationship with T-Bird Kenickie (Jeff Conaway). Pink Lady Frenchie (Didi Conn) has to deal with the consequences of leaving high school for beauty school and flunking out. While none of these subplots offer the excitement of the Danny/Sandy affair, they help the audience get a real feel for 1958 America–Frenchie’s problems even allow for a singing cameo from 1950’s star, Frankie Avalon which fits in nicely with the story.

It’s the undeniably catchy songs that score the musical numbers that have made the film an American classic. Numbers like “You’re the One that I Want,” “Beauty School Dropout,” “Greased Lightnin’” and “There are Worse Things I Could Do” jump all over the music-genre map and manage to tell the film’s tale with more energy and more ’50s feel than any scene of dialogue ever could. It is certainly no mistake that Grease: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack has long been one of the bestselling soundtracks of all time. The music was simply addictive and easy to sing along to.

I have watched Grease countless times over the years and it never seems to get old. That can probably be attributed to several things: it’s a simple story that doesn’t require a lot of pondering, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John have great chemistry and the songs are first rate. Really what it comes down to is, Grease is a feel-good movie you can put on anytime, anyplace and it’s bound to bring a smile to your face.

To prepare Grease For its 4K UHD debut, the original negative was scanned, and underwent an extensive cleanup, and color correction. While the Blu-ray release offers an impressive image, I’m pleased to report that the 4K release shows a noticeable uptick in quality. Textures are more readily visible, as is an appropriate level of grain. Blacks are a inky, and colors are even more vibrant. Depth has improved, with a nice space between background and foreground. Movements appear very natural; the high school dance scenes look better in 4K than ever before. Skin tones look natural from start to finish. Colors pop throughout, and there are no artifacts to mar the proceedings.

Grease has not been remixed for Dolby Atmos of DTS:X. However, this is not the same 5.1 TrueHD track from the previous Blu-ray release. This new mix is enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70mm release. While the mix handles individual effects and instruments with notable detail, there are some balancing issues. Music is very loud, but the dialogue in between songs is noticeably lower. You may find yourself needing to turn the volume up and down. The track has a nice level of bass, and the surrounds come alive during the musical numbers. The dialogue is clean, and clear, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit low compared to the music.

English, English SDH, Cantonese, Mandarin Simplified, Mandarin Traditional, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish subtitles are included.

Grease: The 40th Anniversary Edition comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy. With exception of the commentary track, all extras are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

4K UHD Disc

  • Audio Commentary with Director Randal Kleiser and Choreographer Patricia Birch: In this feature length commentary, Kleiser gives a lot of information about how the film came together–how scenes were shot, some actors selected etc., while Birch talks about the dance sequences. While I wouldn’t call this one of the best commentaries I’ve heard, if you’re a Grease fan, you’ll pick up some interesting tidbits.

Blu-ray Disc:

  • Introduction By Randal Kleiser (SD, :24) The director gives a brief summary of what the film is about.
  • Rydell Sing-Along: Lets you play 11 songs from the movie with a karaoke-style display that walks you through the pace of the lyrics. These can be viewed individually or all together, or you can watch the film with the feature activated, so it appears when the songs begin.
  • The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease (SD, 22:26) Mixing in some old interview material (and noting it as such) with newer (2008) sit-downs. The big names, like Travolta, Newton-John and Channing are heard from in older clips.
  • NEW! Grease: A Chicago Story (HD, 24:30) The writer of the original stage musical, and cast discusses the origins production and script, as well as the changes as the musical made its way to Broadway.
  • NEW! Alternate Animated Main Titles (HD, 3:44) The credits sequence was originally animated to a different song. This is the sequence with that song restored and Sing-Along lyrics on the screen. This is interesting, but the one we know so well was the right choice.
  • NEW! Alternate Ending (HD, :45) Sources from a black & white 35mm workprint that was artificially colorized 20 years ago.
  • Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes with Introduction by Randal Kleiser (SD, 10:17) 11 in total.
  • GreaseReunion 2002: DVD Launch Party (SD, 15:13) The launch party is an entertaining compilation of footage from the shin-dig, including songs the cast sang live on stage at the party.
  • Grease Memories from John & Olivia (SD, 3:23) A brief interview with the pair.
  • The Moves Behind the Music (SD, 8:14) A segment about the dancing in the film.
  • Thunder Roadsters (SD, 5:22) A look at the car enthusiasts who specialize in the kind of cars featured in the film.
  • John Travolta & Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview (SD, 1:48) A brief interview with the actor and film producer from a TV special at the time of the films premiere.
  • Olivia Newton John & Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” Interview (SD, 2:06) See above.
  • Photo Galleries:
    • Rydell High Year Book
    • Production
    • Premiere
    • Grease Day
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:09)

Movie title: Grease (1978)

Director(s): Randal Kleiser

Actor(s): John Travolta , Olivia Newton-John Stockard Channing , Jeff Conaway , Barry Pearl , Michael Tucci

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Musical, Teen

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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