Grease is still the word as it celebrates its 40th anniversary with a new 4K release and a brand-new 4K transfer. There's a few new bonus features as well, but the real draw here is the updated image. Those who have 4K capability will want to decide if Paramount's new updated color palette for the movie is to their liking, but this one still falls firmly in Recommended territory.
Ah, Grease...the hit musical from 1978 that taught young women everywhere that if they just started to smoke and dress in slutty clothing, they'd have a shot at the cute guy. I'm, of course, poking a little fun at the plot here, but let's be honest: Grease's appeal has never been from its rather lackluster and simplistic story, it's always been about the music and those fantastic dance numbers led by John Travolta.
The movie marked Travolta's second of a three-picture deal he had made with Paramount Pictures (back in the day when movie stars made such long-term commitments to studios), the first of which was Saturday Night Fever and the last of which would be Urban Cowboy. Of these three films, Grease was by far the most successful and the first Travolta movie fully accessible to mainstream audiences – as the R-rated Saturday Night Fever kept many of the teens that would prove to become Travolta's biggest fans out of theaters for that release (back in the day when theater owners actually enforced the MPAA rules).
If Saturday Night Fever established Travolta as a star, there's little doubt that Grease propelled him into superstar territory. While his singing talent has always been average, at best, Travolta's on-screen charm and exceptional dance ability almost make one wish he was born 20 years earlier – he would have been perfect for the great movie musicals of the 50s and 60s, yet came of age when the genre was slowly dying – indeed, Grease was the last blockbuster hit live-action musical film until the genre had a semi-resurgence in the early 2000s, starting with titles such as Moulin Rogue! and Chicago.
Grease, of course, is based on a stage musical of the same name, which started production back in Chicago in 1971 (a new bonus feature on this release relays that story). What's interesting about the movie version, though – and what kind of separates Grease from other movies based on preexisting stage musicals – is that it's not the musical numbers from the stage version (such as "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights") that causes the film version to soar. It's the music written exclusively for the movie, most notably "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Your The One That I Want", that were (in this reviewer's opinion, at least) the major reason the movie took off and became 1978's domestic box office king. In fact, those added songs were so popular, audiences who loved the movie and went to see the musical version were often disappointed to find out their favorite songs were not part of the stage production. Finally, in a 1993 revival and again in a 2007 revival (as well as a live TV version of the stage musical that aired in 2016), the popular songs from the film version were incorporated into the stage version and are likely to stay there in future revivals.
As for this new 40th Anniversary release, you'll want to review our specs coverage below to decide if this one is worth adding to your collection. As noted, if you don't already own the movie, this release is certainly worth your consideration. As for the film itself, it's still a blast to watch and – after all these years - Grease is still very much the "word".
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Grease dances onto 4K in a standard black Elite keepcase, which houses both the Ultra HD disc and the 50GB Blu-ray, along with an insert containing a code for both an UltraViolet and iTunes digital copy of the movie (Note: I was able to redeem my code for a UHD copy on Vudu). A slipcover with artwork matching that of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. There are no front-loaded trailers on either the 4K or the Blu-ray; however, viewers of either will be asked to make a language selection before the disc goes to the main menu. The menu is a montage of footage from the movie (over the song "You're the One That I Want") and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free and, as always, Ultra HD discs are not region coded.
Grease was shot on 35mm film and is presented here in the 2:40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer on this release is the result of a brand-new 4K remastering. I actually received only the Blu-ray version of the movie the first time around from Paramount (as you'll note in that review), but the studio was nice enough to get out a 4K copy to me and there's a noticeable difference between the two, despite coming from the same remastering.
The biggest difference between this version of the movie and the old 2009 Blu-ray is the huge color boost given to the film. I'm sure if we asked Paramount or those who worked on this transfer, they'd tell us that the new colors represent how the original negative looked, but it does appear that they've tinkered with the image a bit more than that – providing an amp up in color that the original movie never intended or captured on camera. How does the movie look? Well, it does indeed pop with bright colors, particularly when compared to the rather subdued and slightly darker rendering of the 2009 Blu-ray release (comparisons can be seen in the screenshots I've provided with this review, and please note the 2018 screenshots are from the Blu-ray, not the 4K disc, but it will give you a rough idea of the visuals).
However, while the colors stand out more, I'm not sure details are any better in this new release and – in fact – they may be just a touch worse. There is some evidence that not only has Paramount smoothed over some of the grainier shots, but have slightly smoothed over some of the details in various shots as well. It's not enough to say this transfer is any better or worse than the old transfer, but depending on how much of a purist one is when it comes to movies, the old Blu-ray release may actually be preferable (no, this reviewer isn't buying Paramount's argument that the color representation here is accurate to the original negative). Still, this isn't a situation where those involved have given the image a huge DNR scrubbing, smoothed over all the grain, or gave the image a vastly different re-framing. The major difference here is in color, so pick the one you like more, and go with that version.
Now, let's talk about the difference between the Blu-ray and the 4K disc – both taken from the same 4K remastering. While the Ultra HD Blu-ray shows the new color palette brightly, thanks to the 4K disc's HDR capabilities, those colors get deeper, darker, and richer – which is a good thing with this new transfer. While the image still has some issues (like the Blu-ray image) with the smoothing and suppression of grain I mentioned above, the HDR process subdues some of those brighter colors, returning Grease to a more film-like look, despite the new tinkering. It's still far from perfect, but given the choice (and assuming one is wired for 4K), I'd definitely spend the few extra dollars to get the 4K version over the Blu-ray.
The featured audio here is an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track, although – according to all reports I can find re: this track online – this is not the same TrueHD track that was on the prior release, but actually a new rendering created from the original six-track mix created for the original 70mm print. The best moments, obviously, are during the songs, when the audio really comes to life. There's a noticeable amping up of the track here and a quality dynamic range that includes some nice LFE thumping, when applicable. Dialogue is equally clear throughout, without a hint of muddiness. One wonders if they'll try and tinker with the audio one more time in some future release of the movie (like the inevitable 50th anniversary down the road). I hope not...this track is fine as-is (although, honestly, I think the prior TrueHD version was fine as well) and any sort of upgrade to 7.1 or even Atmos would seem like overkill.
In addition to the lossless English track, an English Audio Description track is also an option, as are 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in German, Spanish (Castilian), French, Portuguese, and Italian; a 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track, and a mono Dolby Digital Spanish (Latin) track. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, Cantonese, Danish, German, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Hungarian, Chinese Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Simplified Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.
Note: All the bonus materials listed below appear on the Blu-ray disc. There are no bonus materials on the Ultra HD disc.
Commentary by Director Randal Kleiser and Choreographer Patricia Birch – The majority of bonus materials on this release are archival and from the 2006 "Rockin' Rydell" DVD. This commentary track is one of them. It's an okay listen, although die hards won't find out a whole lot new about the movie.
Introduction by Randal Kleiser (SD 0:24) – A brief intro to the movie from its director.
Rydell Sing-Along – A karaoke version of the movie, with lyrics provided so you can channel your inner John Travolta and/or Olivia Newton-John. Also given here is the option to jump to any one of the film's 11 songs. Missing? The theme song, "Grease" – come on!
The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease (SD 22:26) – An entertaining featurette with members of the cast and crew (including Travolta and Newton-John) providing their memories of making the movie.
Grease: A Chicago Story (HD 24:30) –This brand-new featurette takes a look at the very first version of Grease to hit the stage.
Alternate Animated Main Titles (HD 3:44) – Another new bonus feature, this one showing how the original title sequence was designed to play to a different song – seen here for the first time. Bottom line? They made the right choice with the Gibb/Valli collaboration – this "Grease" song is awful. There's also a short introduction here from Director Randal Kleiser.
Alternate Ending (HD 0:45) – Shown here in color for the first time (and mostly animated), this "alternate ending" isn't much different from the one we're familiar with.
Deleted/Extended Alternate Scenes (SD 10:17) – A collection of 11 deleted and unused scenes, with the option to watch them back to back or individually. Starting with an introduction from the director (0:17), the scenes consist of: "T-Birds Harass Eugene – Extended" (0:38), "Classroom Announcements - Extended" (2:36), "Pink Ladies and Sandy at Lunch – Extended" (0:46), "She's Too Pure to be Pink – Extended" (0:46), "Intro to Summer Nights – Deleted" (0:21), "Rydell Pep Rally – Extended" (0:59), "Kenickie and Danny Outside Frosty's – Deleted" (0:36), "The Stroll – Extended" (0:24), "National Bandstand – Alternate" (1:15), "At the Dance – Alternate/Extended" (1:22), and "Thunder Road – Deleted (0:12). Note: All this footage is in black and white.
Grease Reunion 2002 – DVD Launch Party (SD 15:13) – Highlights of the big party thrown to celebrate the movie's DVD release, including footage of Travolta and Newton-John reuniting on stage for a live performance.
Grease Memories from John and Olivia (SD 3:23) – In this footage that was also taken from the 2002 Grease DVD Launch Party, the two leads reminisce about the movie.
The Moves Behind the Music (SD 8:14) – This featurette takes a look at the dance/production numbers in the movie.
Thunder Roadsters (SD 5:22) – This segment takes the "Greased Lighting" sequence of the movie and turns it into a larger (and largely unrelated to the film) look at classic cars in general and the people who love them.
John Travolta and Allan Carr "Grease Day" Interview (SD 1:48) – In an archival interview from 1978, the producer of Grease interviews its star.
Olivia Newtwon-John and Robert Stigwood "Grease Day" Interview (SD 2:06) – In another archival interview from 1978, Grease's other producer interviews its other star.
Photo Galleries – A selection of four different photo galleries, consisting of: "Rydell High Year Book", "Production", "Premiere", and "Grease Day". The images are navigated using one's remote control.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:09) – The original theatrical trailer for Grease.
Grease gets a new 4K transfer and a brand-new audio track in this 40th Anniversary release, although picking up this 4K version is going to depend largely on if one already owns the prior release and what one thinks of the "new look" that this version provides. Still, with a few new bonus materials on tap (and all the previously released ones included, both only on the Blu-ray), this title is Recommended.