April 17, 2018


Starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff, Eve Arden, Dody Goodman, Sid Caesar, Eddie Deezen, Frankie Avalon, Lorenzo Lamas, Alice Ghostley, Sha-Na-Na. Directed by Randall Kleiser. (1978/110 min).

Funny thing about Grease and the passing of time...the damn thing seems impervious.

In my household, music from the film is held in high regard by my wife, Francie (who loves soundtrack albums from her youth), and oldest daughter, Natalie (who's recently been bitten by the Broadway musical bug). Natalie once found the Grease soundtrack on vinyl at a used record store. I remember when it was huge in the 70s...a double album with one record containing all the hits, the second filled old rock tunes no one ever listened to. The first record is the only one my girls throw on the turntable. I don't think they've even taken the other one out of the sleeve.

Popping in this 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray, it occurred to me that even though I haven't actually sat and watched the movie in its entirety in thirty years, much of it was still fresh in my mind, mainly because time hasn't allowed us put Grease in our rearview mirror. Speaking strictly from personal experience as a teacher and a father, Grease is one of the few films of the 1970s that later generations have embraced with the same enthusiasm as we first did in 1978. The Godfather is a timeless, undisputed classic and everyone appreciates it as such. But like Star Wars and Jaws, Grease seems to remain as relevant to our kids and grandkids as stuff being made today.

One could speculate why Grease continues to strike a chord with new audiences, but that would probably be pointless. What does matter is when I pressed play and Frankie Valli began crooning the title theme, my whole family (including 14-year-old Lucy) dropped what they were doing and filed into the family room. Not too many 40 year old movies have that kind of power.

The pelvic thrust of death.
I had one major revelation while revisiting the film, thanks in-part to Natalie. We were all talking about some of the musical numbers during the opening scenes and I mentioned my favorite was "Greased Lightnin'." Natalie shot me an incredulous scowl, implying my statement was slightly offensive. When we got to that scene in the film, where Travolta and his buddies do a rousing song-and-dance around a restored hot rod, I actually paid attention to the lyrics for the first time. I was shocked to discover "Greased Lightnin'" is a damn dirty song - almost misogynistic - and about as un-PC as movie music gets. Has these words been clearly-spoken rather than sung, there's a good chance Grease would have been slapped with an R rating. It's still a great song, though, and this disc includes a sing-along version so you can experience the number in all its filthy glory.

Speaking of which, this 40th Anniversary Edition is loaded with supplementary material (listed below). In addition to vintage extras that were previously released on the "Rockin' Rydell" version, this one includes some interesting new bonus features that fans may want to consider double-dipping for. The packaging is pretty cool, too, designed like a high school yearbook, including a booklet of photos and "signatures."

Elsewhere, the film is still a lot of fun (including questionable scenes, lyrics & dialogue you wouldn't get away with today), belying its age with catchy tunes, great choreography and the undeniable charisma of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at the height of their stardom. Grease is by-no-means one of the greatest movies of the 70s (or even among the top 50), but it's surely one of the most continually beloved. 

NEW: "GREASE: A CHICAGO STORY" - A very interesting doc about the original stage musical, featuring its creators. From a historical perspective, it's priceless for megafans and the best of the new features.
NEW: ALTERNATE MAIN TITLES - With a different song
OPTIONAL INTRO - By Director Randall Kleiser
AUDIO COMMENTARY - With Director Randall Kleiser & Choreographer Patricia Birch
FEATURETTES: "The Time, the Place, the Motion: Remembering Grease"; "Grease Memories from John and Olivia"; "The Move Behind the Music"; "Thunder Roadsters"; "Grease Reunion"
VINATAGE INTERVIEWS - From the Grease premiere, featuring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, producers Allan Carr & Robert Stigwood.

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