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June 30, 1978 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-06-30

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, June 30, 1978-Page 5
'Grease': Hpe is the word


By OWEN GLEIBERMAN believe that the movie's skyrocket suc-
I was more than willing to overlook cess had less to do with what we were
e spectacular selljob accorded being told to like than with what we ac-
ease, including the by now obligatory tually wanted.

television special, the soundtrack
released months before opening, and
the faces of John Travolta and Olivia
Newton-John gracing the back cover of
every magazine in reach. Another
testament to the glory of the already
well-worn 50s was not an overly tem-
pting item, but I figured Grease was all
butbug-proof because of its star alone.
You see, Saturday Night Fever had
converted me instantly from Travolta-
hater to full-fledged fan.
I recall standing in line prepared to
purchase my very own copy of the
Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
(specifically for the four Bee Gees
songs, of course), and feeling an odd,
somehow delicious kinship with the
teenager behind me who also clutched
the album. Whereas before, I would
doubtless have lumped her into that
broad subset of adoring adolescents
prepared to devour the latest television
personality, it seemed that Saturday
Night Fever somehow transcended its
money-based beginnings. I wanted to

SO GREAT WAS my fanaticism that
when I had seen it three times, the con-
trived story elements that put such a
crimp in my enjoyment the first time
barely registered. The suicide scene,
the rumble - these seemed momentary
distractions in a movie bursting with
the cataclysmic energy of rock and roll.
I say rock, and not disco, because em-
bodied in Travolta's cocky swagger, in
his pent-up energy and blissful release
while dancing, was a flamboyant spirit
that seemed universal next to that of
the Donna Summer crowd. Travolta's
screen presence carried the out-
pourings of a generation's music con-
ceived around the need for release.
The big question, then, is how does all
this add up in Grease? Well, Travolta
certainly dominates the movie, but
that's a dubious achievement. Although
it concerns itself with the 50s, an era
that spawned rock's godfathers, Grease
has little to say about rock and roll,
rebellion, or even plain old fun com-


pared to its illustrious disco forebear. It
quite simply is such an inept piece of
movie-making that even Travolta's raw
vitality doesn't lend it a great deal of
energy. Were it not for its hype, Grease
would by all rights slip into the oblivion
of a thousand other soulless Hollywood
Lmichigan DAILY
THE MAKERS (Randal Kleiser,
director; Bronte Woodard, screenplay)
have taken everything the hit Broad-
way show had to offer and
systematically destroyed it through
their technical amateurishness and
comic-book sensibility. The movie's
Hollywood Hills High School aura
obliterates the show's grittier social
context; instead of a dynamic interplay
of opposing sub-cultures, the charac-
ters have been combined into a
disagreeable mish-mosh of types, most
of whom do not even maintain a strong
stereotypical identity, let alone a spark
of individuality. Grease looks like a
two-hour Dr. Pepper commercial, with
lackluster visuals and characters that
make the Three's Company crew look
The story ostensibly focuses on the
on-and-off romance of Danny
(Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-
John), a "good" girl who went with
him last summer but insists upon
throwing a fit whenever he acts cool
and arrogant around his greaser
cronies. The relationship doesn't
dominate, though, since Travolta might
as well be wooing one of Olivia Newton-
John's album covers; where he oozes
charisma from every pore, her presen-
ce is so uncompromisingly vapid that
she's a non-entity on the screen, a pret-
ty but unengaging blindspot. To give
the cast a meager semblance of well-
roundedness there is Rizzo (Stockard
Channing), a "bad" girl, but with guts,
soul, and (yes!) honest-to-goodness
human feelings under that slutty ex-
THE MOST glaring disappointments
are the musical numbers, which should
have been show-stoppers. Rarely have
large choruses of singer-dancers been
captured with less vitality, and with
such stodgy, photography and unin-
spired dance routines. The school dan-

ce, which should have been a sizzling
jitterbug tour de force, is positively
drab, and the final chorus at an outdoor
carnival furnishes the film with a fruity
anti-climax. Only "Greased
Lightening" and "You're The One That
I Want" work up any sweat, largely
through Travolta's commanding
Where Travolta makes dynamic ef-
forts to grapple with the watered-down
material and puts forth formidable star
quality, he can't take off like he did in
Saturday Night Fever. His gang of
greasy Italians has no discernable per-
sonality he can play off, their banter
being composed of horrifyingly bad
jokes and every 50s cliche high school
kids have been mouthing since the
whole revival got started. Unlike his
fellows, Travolta can adopt the essen-
tial moves of the era without sacrificing
his personality, and his big dance num-
ber (performed in an outfit Tony
Manero would have been proud to wear
to 2001 Odyssey) is the movie's best
The show Grease is a bona fide rock
musical, with a band in place of a pit or-
chestra. The film's musical
arrangements are saturated in syrupy
strings, and the title track sounds like
"Son of Stayin' Alive." But the score's
lack of energy and commercial 70s
flavor is typical of this whole venture.
Seeing Grease is like hearing the
Michigan Marching Band do "Rock
Around the Clock." The notes are all
there, but man, where's the soul?
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on pop. Ian Hunter is a veteran who
shoots straight up the middle, and his
latest LP, Overnight Angels, is a shot
in the arm for rock and roll. 1
IAN HUNTER was lead singer and com-.
poser for Mott the Hoople during that
group's five-year existence as one of
the finest rock and roll bands. When the
group split in 1974, Hunter took to his
own and recorded two fine LP's, Ian
Hunter and All-American Alien Boy.
The first was characterized by driving
rhythms which recalled Mott the
Hoople at their best. The second was
recorded with the infinite precision of
Mott the Hoople's final studio LP, The
The success of Overnight Angels lies
within the fact that Hunter has com-
bined the finest points of his first two
LP's. He works with a support group
which follows his musical direction
with unerring precision; Hunter's com-
positions range from subdued to
violent, and the band (dubbed "The
Overnight Angels") transcribes these
shifts with razor-like perfection.
THE TITLE CUT of the LP deserves
See HUNTER, Page 9

overnight Angels
Ian Hunter
cbs 81993

The death of rock and roll has been
highly touted, and to some degree it is
true. The basic tenents of rock and roll
are still visible in much of, contem-
porary music, but it's been glamorized,
synthesized and distorted, often beyond
The surviving rockers are few, and
surprisingly, often newcomers to the
music scene. Springsteen covers the
street side of rock, while groups like
Heart and Foreigner do their best to
uphold that shaky field which borders
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