Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Xanadu

Xanadu

Cinema Monolith: 2/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!Film Reel
IMDb: 4.6/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *½  out of 4

Released on August 8, 1980
Rated PG
93 minutes

Directed by Robert Greenwald

Written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel

Cast: Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, James Sloyan, Dimitra Arliss, Katie Hanley, Sandahl Bergman, Jo Ann Harris, Lynn Latham, Matt Lattanzi, Ira Newborn, Wilfrid Hyde-White (voice)

So there I was, a high-schooler at the dawn of the ’80s, visiting my grandparents in Ohio during summer vacation and spending an afternoon at a record store in Sandusky, when a blue and burgundy record album caught my eye; upon closer inspection I discovered that it was the soundtrack for an upcoming movie, featuring the music of my favorite band, the Electric Light Orchestra, and one of my favorite female vocalists, Olivia Newton-John. I had no idea what the film was about, but I was eager to check it out when I returned home.

And check it out I did, subjecting myself not once but twice in one sitting to the cosmic misalignment known as Xanadu, a whimsical collision of roller skating, pop songs, dancing, neon-lit special effects, leg warmers, and perhaps the most debilitating screenplay and dialogue ever loosed on an unsuspecting public. And yet, knowing all that, one week later I actually went to see it again.

Yes, this cinematic furball held some sort of morbid fascination for my friend Reid and I thirty years ago, when we happily suffered through it three times at our neighborhood cinema, and our 17-year-old libidos fell in love with the idea of a beautiful blonde muse falling for an ordinary schmuck. But now that I can see through the Olivia-induced haze and ELO soundtrack, I can honestly tell you that Xanadu is nothing but a happy-go-lucky, glitzy piece of ill-conceived crud.

It was sincere, I guess, in trying to forge some sort of modern-day fantasy romance out of an age-old story, and at times there were some moments on display that actually were not worthy of a cringe or a roll of the eye (Don Bluth’s animated sequence was by far the high point for me), but everything else was trapped under deep layers of cheese and extreme…well, gaiety.

As far as the three eclectic leads were concerned, Olivia had at least a smidgen of charisma (and at times was indeed totally hot), and hoofer Gene Kelly was corny in an old-fashioned kind of way, but Michael Beck…his perpetually stone-faced expression may have worked for his gang leader character in The Warriors, but here it just made him seem disinterested and lost. Seriously, what good can you say about a film that was not only nominated for six Razzie awards (and took one home, for worst director), but was the very reason the awards were created in the first place?

Not much. I guess you could acknowledge that the filmmakers made decent use of the abandoned Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, with its art deco look and four trademark spires, and that the soundtrack album was a pretty good listen, charting high in the US and UK and still a part of my record collection, and that the film itself was as harmless as a dizzy spell, offering ninety minutes of cheery, exuberant emptiness.

But lord, was the rest of it a mess. If anything, the movie succeeded in taking me back to the summer of 1980, and reminding me that short shorts and roller skates are not—nor were they ever—an agreeable fashion combo for guys. And to steal a phrase from my friends over at the B-Movie Chicks site, what this film needed more than anything were some boobies and explosions.  (2/10)

xanadu-photo-2

20 comments on “Xanadu

  1. jennifer
    5/27/16

    I had the pleasure of viewing this gem with you. I KNOW we had a good time watching it. There should be some room in reviews for the pleasure bad movies give us. For me, Xanadu has the best bad movie, cheesy theme song ever. So there.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/27/16

      Are you kidding? My ONLY pleasure comes from watching bad movies! And I’m kind of partial to the Xanadu theme song; it takes me right back to that summer of 1980 every time I hear it. In fact, Jeff Lynne has an alternate solo version that isn’t half bad, if you want to check it out on YouTube. But I still think Xanadu the movie is bad…but in a good way. So double-dog there.

  2. “glitzy piece of ill-conceived crud” now that should of been on the poster! Luckily I don’t think I’ve actually seen it all the way through. Just caught random bits over the years.

    Hehe I loved reading your nostalgic look back to your summer of 1980. Shame on watching it now it became a 2/10 lol. Olivia seduced you with her hip shaking dance moves and mesmerised a young Todd B.

    • Todd B
      3/20/19

      I wonder if it would have sold more or less tickets with that tag line added to the one-sheet! And though I can honestly say that Olivia can still seduce me with that late-70s, early-80s look, she still can’t overcome the lame exuberance of the script, direction, and acting.

      Though I will say, I do really like that animated sequence…the Olivia animation always takes me back to playing the arcade game Dragon’s Lair.

      • Dragon’s Lair! No way I remember that. I never got to play it, my money always went on space shoot em ups like Galaxian, Galaga, Phoenix or Gorf. But loved watching people play it. That game was well head of the time.

      • Todd B
        3/23/19

        My favorite games were Asteroids, Armor Attack, and Star Castle…and like you, I just watched people play Dragon’s Lair; it seemed far too involved for my tastes. And last night I went on-line and watched a complete run-through of DL on YouTube, start to finish; it took 11 minutes, and would’ve been FAR too $$$-consuming for me to afford back then (or now). And the payoff: not worth it, I’m afraid…I would’ve expected more than a peck on the cheek from the princess for saving her life!

      • Haha yeah a peck on the cheek and at least a hand……….doing the dishes! :-/

        Asteroids is still a brilliant concept game now I think. Quite often I will play it even now…remember Armor Attack well but I’ve seen Star Castle before. Oh no we are both geeks, I’ve too on occasion sat watching someone play the game on youtube. HAHA. Very nostalgic.

      • Todd B
        3/24/19

        I checked the play-through for Dragon’s Lair II, and it seems Daphne did reward Dirk with more than a peck: the opening of the game has them living in a cottage with what looks like at least a dozen kids!

        I know this sounds weird, but back in the ’80s I’d go to my local arcade and play Star Castle before my weekly softball games…I found that twisting those dials back and forth really loosened up and energized my hands and fingers for the game!

      • Haha with a dozen kids. Now he’s secretly hoping the dragon will come back so he can get some peace and quiet.

        Not too weird, well maybe a bit. What the hell is that kid doing over there? lol. Sounds like you found a novel way to warm up for the game whilst having fun at the same time. The home game that destroyed my finger joints was Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. Sure I can feel the arthritis setting in! lol https://youtu.be/OPcdDovVHtk

      • Todd B
        3/26/19

        I’d never even heard of Daley Thompson’s Decathlon! But I checked out the link, and the graphics totally reminded me of playing Atari and Activision games in the early-80s. It’s funny, the comments for that Decathlon game also talk about fingers getting destroyed, as well as the joysticks used to play it!

      • He’s a national treasure here after winning the Gold two years running in the decathlon at the Olympic games. But he hasn’t followed in the footsteps of Caitlyn Jenner, yet! Hehe…. Yeah you would come up with different ways to push the buttons as fast you possibly could. I’m sure there’s a legit libel case to be had there somewhere for damages LOL.

      • Todd B
        3/27/19

        The game that used to kill my hands (and the hands of everyone who played) was that Atari tabletop football game with the trac-ball roller that you spun with your palm, to make the ‘players’ run. Good lord, if you weren’t careful you’d pinch the skin of your palm in the space between the ball and table…augh, that would sting!

        Here’s a look at the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ZOtqMWHoU. Jump forward to 1:45 to see the trac-ball in action. In fact, jump forward again to 3:40…this one looks similar to your decathlon game!

      • Oh no way I remember those trac-ball rollers. Missile Command and I’m sure something like the one in the video. Though it would of had some other game in it. Oh yes “Track and Field” that was the best. Yeah the Decathlon game ripped that off and as a bonus gave it crapper graphics hehe. I did get Track and Field for my Spectrum 48K. The hours of fun I had on that console.

        I’ve fallen upon that arcade guys video channel before myself. They are so awesome. Could watch his videos for hours seeing what arcade cabinet he reveals next. Brilliant.

      • Todd B
        3/29/19

        Yeah, I played a few quarters’ worth of Missile Command…and Battlezone…and Pole Position (“Prepare to qualify!”). But I don’t think I ever tried Track and Field…sorry about that! And those arcade guys had some cool game consoles for sale, and I’m guessing not a bad price at $2000 or so; they had an Asteroids game for sale that looked pretty sweet.

      • If I ever come into money and had some space for my dream home cinema I want to build. I loved to have a couple of arcade consoles in the room. Good to have a dream, one day it might come true.

      • Todd B
        3/30/19

        I’ve considered the same thing…IF I had the money to do it. And don’t forget the popcorn cart!

      • And at least four ushers in my own designed outfits to show me where I will sit. Of course that would be a gold throne with four seats surrounding it.

      • Todd B
        3/30/19

        Correction: at least four usherettes.

      • Phew thanks for the correction! Saved me from 4 guys turning up for the job and having to explain the uniform!

      • Todd B
        3/31/19

        If it had been four guys…include me out!

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