Grease: 40th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)1978 (April 24, 2018)
Studio(s)RSO/Allan Carr Productions (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Based on the Broadway musical (and the original Chicago production), Randal Kleiser’s Grease stars Olivia-Newton John and John Travolta as Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko, a pair of star-crossed teens who meet over summer vacation and fall in love, only to find that romance is a little more complicated when they get back to school at Rydell High. Sandy is a good girl, who doesn’t quite fit in with Danny’s rough-and-tumble reputation as the leader of the T-Birds gang. So though he still loves her, Danny initially pretends he’s unimpressed with Sandy when he meets her again with his friends. But while Sandy is initially hurt, she soon finds allies in Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and her Pink Ladies clique, who help her shed her “Sandra Dee” sweetheart image and win back Danny’s affection.
Grease is a fun, funny, and obviously uniquely American musical, one that’s a regular staple of high school and community theater productions to this day. But the film is also very much a product of its time, so modern audiences may find it a little dated – especially younger audiences (there is definitely “Me Too” inappropriate content here). Still, the musical’s appeal for older generations can’t be underestimated, not only for its cast and campy performances, but for its wildly popular and best-selling soundtrack, which features two Billboard number-one hit singles. First released in 1978, the album includes tracks by not only Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, but also Sha Na Na and Frankie Valli (singing a song written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees no less) and went Platinum eight times over.
Grease was originally shot on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras with anamorphic lenses. Paramount’s new 40th Anniversary Edition Ultra HD release features a new 4K scan of the original negative, followed by an extensive digital clean-up and restoration process supervised by Kleiser himself. It’s also been given new color grades for both Dolby Vision and HDR10, and is presented here on UHD in the original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The result is very good looking indeed, about as good as one could expect given the film’s age. The image is often optically soft, particularly around the edges of the frame, and a few scenes were shot with filters to give it additional romantic quality. But on the whole the transfer features lovely detail and nicely refined texturing, particularly in skin tones and facial details. There’s a steady wash of light-to-moderate film grain that looks organic and cinematic. Contrast is excellent, with dark shadows and bright highlights (seen in gleaming chrome, car headlights, and the like). But it’s the color that really shines here, with incredible accuracy and vibrance. The High Dynamic Range helps all of this to pop off the screen with an electric but still natural appearance that really enhances the the image.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is included in a new lossless English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix that’s “enhanced from a six-track mix created for an original 70 mm release, giving the music more clarity.” It still features a strongly front-biased soundstage with only very light surround immersion, appropriate to the original stereo theatrical presentation, but the songs do indeed now feature somewhat greater clarity and fidelity. The surrounds tend to kick in a little bit more during the songs too. That said, the volume now increases during musical numbers and there are still a few moments when the dialogue and sound effects are a bit muddy or harsh, revealing the age of the elements. But while this is certainly not an ideal lossless surround mix, it’s hard to imagine that the film has ever sounded better. The mix does exactly what it needs to. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, German, Spanish, French, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, with 2.0 Dolby Digital in Latin Spanish mono and Japanese stereo. There are also a huge variety of subtitles options, including English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Cantonese, Danish, German, Greek, Spanish, Latin Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Brazilian Portuguese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.
The only extra on the actual 4K Ultra HD disc is:
- Commentary by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch
The package also includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray (it appears to be mastered from the new 4K scan), a disc that features the same commentary and adds the following all-new extras produced just for this 40th Anniversary Edition release:
- Grease: A Chicago Story (HD – 24:30)
- Alternate Animated Main Titles (HD – 3:44)
- Alternate Ending (HD – :45)
Also included here, carried over from the previous Rockin’ Rydell Edition Blu-ray, are the following:
- Introduction by Randal Kleiser (SD – :24)
- Rydell Sing-Along (12 song selections plus a “play with movie” option)
- The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease (SD – 22:26)
- Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes (intro plus 11 scenes - SD – 10:17 in all)
- Grease Reunion 2002: DVD Launch Party (SD – 15:13)
- Grease Memories from John and Olivia (SD – 3:23)
- The Moves Behind the Music (SD – 8:14)
- Thunder Roadsters (SD – 5:22)
- John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” Interview (SD – 1:48)
- Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” interview (SD – 2:06)
- Photo Galleries (4 galleries)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:09)
Still missing from the original DVD release is the VH1 Grease: 20th Anniversary Special, but it’s not a big loss. Obviously, you also no longer get the cool “T-Birds” leather jacket for the Blu-ray case. All in all, though, this is a nice batch of material and the new content is quite good. As usual, there’s a Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
Grease was, is, and always will be a total hoot… a campy and dated one, sure, but still a hoot. If you love the film, the important thing to know is that you’ve certainly never seen it looking better than it does here on Paramount’s new 4K release. The disc carries over everything from the previous Blu-ray edition and even adds a few new features too. It’s definitely recommended for fans.
- Bill Hunt
(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)