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Slick hair, leather jackets and plenty of singing are just a few of the elements that you would associate with hit musical Grease. The movie is one of the most successful musicals ever made, so how come the DVD has taken so long to be released? Rumoured legal issues are probably one of the main reasons behind this, with the disc said to have been produced originally in 1998. So finally fans have got a DVD release, but has it been worth the wait? Read on to find out.

Grease starts off by introducing us to two love-birds, Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsen (Olivia Newton-John). The pair spend the perfect summer together, but unfortunately have to part company due to Sandy’s move back to her home land. Well that’s what they both think, however in a stroke of luck the pair are reunited when Sandy joins Rydell High, which also happens to be Danny’s school. As we find out more about the pair, it becomes apparent that Danny’s personality is somewhat different to how Sandy remembered it. Danny belongs to a gang called the T-Birds, who are considered by many (including themselves) to be the coolest gang in the school.  Surprised by her sudden appearance, Danny finds himself in a difficult dilemma, does he ruin his macho image and start dating Sandy, or does he ignore her and save his face with his buddies.  

Sandy feels like she doesn’t fit into the school, but gets persuaded by Frenchie (Didi Conn) to join her gang, the Pink Ladies. The Pink Ladies are led by Rizzo (Stockard Channing), who instantly takes a dislike to Sandy’s innocent and risk-free charisma. Rizzo can be cold hearted at times and in a moment of spitefulness she makes up a song about Sandy’s ‘square’ ways, unfortunately Sandy hears her and cannot understand Rizzo’s behaviour. The gang obviously isn’t for Sandy and she sets about making a life for herself at the school.  She still cares for Danny, and it becomes clear that he still has feelings for her. Will the pair get together? Well I’m sure you know the answer to that! The rest of the movie features car chases between rival gangs, a national TV dance competition and lots of singing.

Grease is the sort of film that you will either love or loathe. If the film was released today for the first time, I am not sure it would be a success, however the 70s ambience is quite a novelty and creates an innocent feel to the movie which is missing in cinemas nowadays. The film isn’t innocent however, and tackles many teenage issue, mainly sex! I’m sure that the number of cigarettes on show would also be cut if the film ever gets remade. The idea behind Grease has inspired many other productions including a musical show, which I managed to see a few years ago. The reason the film has been successful is largely down to the varied characters and the catchy songs. Even if you have never seen the film, I am sure you will have heard of some of the songs featured in it. Grease typifies the 70’s lifestyle of teenagers in a fun and enjoyable way which should appeal to a big audience. Grease is definitely a movie which should be in everyone’s DVD collection.

This transfer is produced from the same master used in the 1998 laser disc release. That release was to mark the 20th Anniversary and was presented in 2.35:1. Unfortunately this transfer is showing all the hallmarks of a four year old DVD transfer. If you put it up against recent DVD releases from the same era like E.T. or even further back like The Italian Job and there is no comparison. The level of grain throughout this transfer varies from unbearable to unnoticeable, however it unfortunately tends to fall on the unbearable side. Colour levels were surprisingly good, with nice blues for outside scenery, but the flesh tones seemed drained. Black levels appeared solid and withstood most of the night scenes. Due to the disappointing clarity of the transfer, the icing on the cake could have been expected in the form of compression artefacts. Thankfully Paramount have done a reasonable job of making these unnoticeable for the majority of the movie, however this may largely be due to the lack of extras contained with this release. Sadly this is a poor attempt by Paramount and shows no improvement over the 1998 laser disc release. Even taking into account the age of the movie I expected so much more, and this just strengthens the rumour that a special edition must be on the way.  

Paramount have supplied us with two soundtracks on this disc. They are both Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts which come in English or German. I was looking forward to this aspect of the disc and hoped for a ‘complete’ surround sound experience. However the tracks on offer with this disc are largely front speaker driven. The number of times the rears came into action could have been counted on one hand. Dialogue is clear throughout and the musical moments are also precise. Maybe I was asking for too much, but a little more rear action would have been nice and could have improved what is generally an average soundtrack. Subtitles are also provided in sixteen different languages.

The extras contained with this release are disappointing. In fact there are only two extras to be found. The first is called Interviews with Cast & Filmmakers. These are the same interviews that are included on the laser disc release and were created for the twentieth anniversary. It lasts for just over sixteen minutes and features interviews with all the main cast and crew members. Each person speaks of their special love for the movie, and the majority seen to be of the opinion that they wouldn’t trade the success or experiences gained from the movie for anything. Highlights of this extra include Olivia Newton-John talking about the final track where she got to choose the outfit for the finale. There are also some interesting snippets about the cast and how they were originally chosen. Also included on the disc is the original theatrical trailer. This trailer is very nostalgic, but is also quite slow paced. It is amusing to watch, but I am not sure whether the trailer would promote the film well if shown in cinemas these days. The trailer runs for just under two minutes.

Grease has been one of the most sought after DVD releases over the past couple of years. Many people hoped that Paramount would pull out all the stops to create an ultimate edition, but unfortunately this release is an exact replica of the 20th Anniversary laser disc release. The transfer is disappointing by today’s standards and the soundtrack is nothing more than adequate. Extras are also below par and leave me in no doubt that there will be a special edition release in the near future. If you cannot wait for that imminent release then purchase this disc, but only as a stop gap. Hopefully this isn’t the last word from Grease!