Upon revisiting the film for its 40th anniversary, Grease does manage to hold up to an extent. Watching the film through a contemporary lens does lead to seeing some some problematic flaws.
The worldwide phenomenon was released in theaters in 1978, a few years before I was born. To date, I’ve only seen the musical a few times and decided to watch the classic in honor of the the 40th anniversary. I’m glad that I did, don’t get me wrong, but the musical numbers are the best things that the film has going for it. The sports scenes had been largely forgotten on this end until watching the film again.
Among the actions that are problematic in nature include Putzie (Kelly Ward) looking up a girl’s skirt on the bleachers just before Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) start up on the classic duo song, “Summer Nights” as they start their senior year in 1958. It wasn’t a good idea forty years ago and it’s not a good idea today. If someone pulled that stunt today, they’d be suspended from school or placed in detention!
During the school dance, it’s very problematic to watch Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes) flirting with Marty Maraschino (Dinah Manoff). This is a man who is 23 years older than her and is old enough to know better. If this were to have happened today, he’d certainly be reported for sexual harassment.
There’s no disputing the chemistry between Danny and Sandy. Their chemistry is what helps to drive the film but for the love of everything holy, why does she feel the need to change in order to be considered more attractive. Sandy was already a beautiful woman who could have had her pick of men. She should not have to change in order to land a guy. On the other hand, Danny shouldn’t have acted the way he did while in front of the T-Birds. This happens when Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and the Pink Ladies (Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff) re-introduce him to Sandy. Why isn’t Sandy allowed to just be herself?!? The two previous scenes notwithstanding, this is my biggest problem with Grease. Sandy doesn’t need to change because of the 1950s landscape.
Despite some of the problems in the film, there’s certainly things to be celebrated. The soundtrack for one. The songs originating in the Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey written musical are so memorable with their set pieces and choreography. “Greased Lightnin'” among my favorites of those pieces! The Barry Gibb-written theme overlays an awesome animated sequence following cold open before we’re introduced to Rydell High.
I completely understand that this is a movie that was filmed some 40 years ago. Even though Grease is considered to be a classic and rightfully so, it doesn’t mean that the musical is free from having problems.
4K/Blu-ray Bonus Features:
- Commentary by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch
- Introduction by Randal Kleiser
- Rydell Sing-Along
- The Time, The Place, The Motion: Remembering Grease
- Grease: A Chicago Story—NEW!
- Alternate Animated Main Titles—NEW!
- Alternate Ending—NEW!
- Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes with Introduction by Randal Kleiser
- Grease Reunion 2002 – DVD Launch Party
- Grease Memories from John & Olivia
- The Moves Behind the Music
- Thunder Roadsters
- John Travolta and Allan Carr “Grease Day” interview
- Olivia Newton-John and Robert Stigwood “Grease Day” interview
- Photo Galleries
- Theatrical Trailer
DIRECTOR: Randal Kleiser
SCREENPLAY: Bronte Woodard (Musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey)
CAST: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Barry Pearl, Michael Tucci, Kelly Ward, Didi Conn, Jamie Donnelly, Dinah Manoff
Paramount Pictures opened Grease in theaters on June 16, 1978. A 40th anniversary yearbook edition is now available on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital.