Rockin' Rydell Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Didi Conn
Director:  Randal Kleiser
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  110 Minutes
Release Date:  September 19, 2006

“Danny…is this the end?”

“Of course not.  It’s only the beginning.”

Film ***1/2

It’s almost thirty years later, and Grease is still the word.

When my contemporaries and I were kids, we had Jaws, we had Star Wars…but really, there was no event picture like Grease.  We knew nothing about the 50s, but we knew we liked the music.  We knew nothing about high school, but we knew we liked the people in it.  And we knew nothing about romance, but I’ll be damned if every girl I knew didn’t have as big a crush on John Travolta as the guys did on Olivia Newton-John.  I’m not ashamed to say, I was (and still am) one of the latter.

Saturday Night Fever may have been a little out of our league at that age, but Grease was right up our alley.  In those days, the radio pumped out song after song from the double-album soundtrack, and we spent our summer nights singing “Summer Nights”, “You’re the One That I Want”, and even “Greased Lightning”, though we didn’t realize what words we were singing and surprisingly, never got in trouble for singing them…

Looking back at Grease through grown up eyes, I could say that no, it’s not a perfect film.  What we didn’t realize as kids is painfully obvious now…everyone in the movie is too damn old to be a high school student!  The plot is thin and contrived, and the final message debatable…is it necessary for a good girl to turn bad to get her man?

But what I’d really rather say is that no matter how old I get, this is a movie that still enthralls me.  It has an energy and a vitality that leaps off the screen.  The cast, though a bit too old, is still perfection in the way they work together and elevate one another to better heights.  No moment that could be REALLY funny was left at “sort of” funny, and no moment that could explode was left to just sizzle.

With John Travolta’s resurgence in the 90s, it’s hard to imagine there was a lengthy lull between heydays for him.  Grease was always a reminder, even in his drier spells, of what a tremendous star he was.  He sings, he dances, he invests Danny Zuko with charisma and charm, making him an all-time standard for bad boys with good hearts.

But Olivia Newton-John was just as luminous in her first major role.  Every guy I knew wanted Sandy Olsen for his girlfriend, and her leather-clad finale just might have been our first indication that there were hormones raging in our bodies that we never knew about!  The Aussie pop star was the equal of her more experienced co-stars in every way…and man, oh, man…that voice…

Coming from one of the most successful shows ever to run on Broadway, producers Robert Stigwood and Allan Carr, along with director Randal Kleiser weren’t shy about taking stage material and making it cinematic.  Some new and unforgettable songs were even injected into the catalog, from Olivia’s heartbreaking “Hopelessly Devoted to You” to the dynamic duet of “You’re the One That I Want”.  Oh, and how could we forget the brand new theme song crooned by Frankie Valli and penned by Barry Gibb?

The music made it fun, but the cast made it energetic.  From the aforementioned stars to the smaller roles, like Jeff Conaway as Kenicke and Stockard Channing as Rizzo (who could ever forget her “Sandra Dee” number?), to the seasoned veterans like Sid Caesar and Eve Arden, they made Rydell come alive.  And it’s stayed alive for more than a quarter of a century.

It was the time, it was the place, it was the motion.  And Grease is still the way we are feeling.

Video ****


What a fantastic anamorphic transfer!  Fans can rejoice…Grease looks better than ever on DVD.  The colors are rich, pure and plentiful, images are sharp, crisp and clear, and the print itself is in top condition.  You’ll have to look hard in Danny and Sandy’s pullback shot after “Summer Nights” to see the only noticeable bit of age-related dinginess, but that’s about it.  Light scenes look great, dark scenes look great…the youth of the cast is really the only indication of how old the film really is.

Audio ***

“Rock and roll is here to stay!”

The foremost comment on this 5.1 mix?  The songs sound FANTASTIC.  Some dialogue oriented scenes may come across a trifle thin now and again, but when those musical numbers kick in, it’s sonic heaven.  The rear stage, though not getting much discreet use, fills out the tunes for an enveloping listening experience.  The .1 channel is limited…I think it only kicked on when the Scorpions’ car lit up and during Sha-Na-Na’s first song, but the open orchestration of the songs are the real treat…drums, bass, horns, piano and vocals will fill your home theatre.  High marks.

Features ****

“How low can you go?”

A lot of extras this time around, friends...some of them aren't even listed on the box!

I have to start with the packaging...can you believe the DVD is dressed in a black T-Birds jacket?  Too cool, and too funny.  But that's just the beginning.  You can watch the movie with a commentary track by director Randall Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch, or you can choose to sing-along: pick one of 11 songs to sing along to, or activate the feature and just sing along when your favorite tune comes up in the movie!

There are also 11 deleted/extended scenes with an optional introduction by Kleiser.  There are featurettes on the cars of the movie and the dancing.  There's a featurette on the 25th anniversary of the movie, and a new "The Time, The Place, The Feeling" retrospective, featuring interviews with Travolta, Newton-John and more, plus even cooler:  some then-current interviews with both of the young stars!

Rounding out is a trailer and photo gallery.


Grease and DVD go together like rama-lama-lama-ka-ding-a-da-ding-a-dong.  Though it's been out before, this edition gives you more, so head for the store...throw your mittens around your kittens, and away you go!

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