“ Genre: Musicals & Classical / Theatrical Release: 1980 / Parental Guidance / Director: Robert Greenwald / Actors: Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, James Sloyan, Dimitra Arliss ... / DVD released 2004-06-28 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, PAL „
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Bought in a bargain bin, I was not really expecting a lot from this film but was very pleasantly surprised - full of great songs, lots of dancing and some excellent roller skating, it was a really enjoyable film and I have watched it several times. Gene Kelly is the real star for me, he is just so effortless in all that he does, but you have to hand it to Olivia Newton-John, she sings well and her acting skills are better than you might expect.
I loved the storyline, always a sucker for fantasy, and the scene with the 1940's band merging with the 80's rock band was really clever and well constructed - even my husband had to agree.
If you have never seen this film do give it a go, it is fun and the music is just as good today as it was when first made. If you like fantasy and music I am sure you will enjoy it just as much as me.
(film only review)
On my last trip to Broadway, I was lucky enough (you may think I'm strange) to get tickets to see the stage version of 'Xanadu', lovingly ripped off from the 1980's film, starring Olivia Newton John. I hadn't seen the film before, so didn't really know what to expect, except that I knew how the main 'Xanadu' tune went. Well, I absolutely loved it, it was so bad that it was fabulous! The girl playing the ONJ character was simply wonderful as she hacked through her mock aussie accent with 80s retro gusto...anyway, that's another review altogether, what was my point? Oh yes, well, having loved that, we hopped off to Virgin megastore (they're not Zavvi stateside yet, phew) and bought the DVD...and last night we watched it...but, um, it kinda sucked!
So, on with the story...Struggling Artist, Sonny (Michael Beck) from the West Coast bumps into a roller-skating girlie, Kira (Olivia Newton John), but then she vanishes. Oh no! He can't find her, then on his latest job to enlarge an album cover, he spots the girl of his dreams on the front of the photographic image, but she is surrounded by a strange glow, how strange I hear you cry. No-one knows who she is, not even the photographer who took the picture. He goes to the location where the photo was taken, and he meets an older gent, Danny (Gene Kelly, yes, THE Gene Kelly), they eventually become friends and decide to renovate the building that 'the girl' is in front of, and turn it into a club...obviously! So, here he bumps into the roller-skating girl again and they start a romance. Weirdly however, we learn that Danny had a relationship with a very similar looking girl in the 1940s...to cut a strange story short, it turns out that Kira isn't called Kira at all, but the daughter of Zeus, yes, she is a Greek Muse (hence the strange glow), sent to earth with the mission of opening a club and calling it Xanadu! She was there only to inspire...ahhh! But she is not allowed with the mortals...so what will Her and Sonny do? Is she in love with Sonny? Does Sonny love her? Will she return and get to dance at the roller disco Xanadu? What the blinky blonky was the scene in the 40s about? Any more questions...well, you'll have to watch the film...
The acting was OK, Olivia Newton John was adorable as the strange and often ditsy in demeanor, girl. The biggest surprise for me was that Gene Kelly was in it...this film was hailed as a giant flop, so what was he doing in it? I don't understand. This film was set up to be the next Grease. How could they go wrong? They got The Newtron Bomb (ONJ) and the mighty Gene Kelly...but alas, the way the story is told, it is pretty dire and the music is only to a certain taste. To be honest, I like the music, but I also think I probably like it more because when I saw it on stage, they were 'jazzed' up a bit. I was surprised to find out that Cliff Richard sings in one of the songs, and the Electric Light Orchestra collaborated on 5 of the songs too. There is a really interesting number where they combine genres of 1940s big band, with 1980s rock and roll. Very nice.
There was something lacking in the cinematography, I can't help thinking that scenes could have been filmed more imaginatively to aid the story telling perhaps? Look out for the trippy animated sequence, half way through! On paper, this film is a hit...shame.
I loved the camp roller skaty quirkiness of it. Incase you haven't worked out by now, the camp in this film is huge (...wait until we hear from Zeus, who it turns out resides in a rather fetching land of Disco, it would appear.) In retrospect, this film seems like a giant prequel to a fabulous pop video for the title song, 'Xanadu'. It's fun. Pure, cheap, cheesey fun...and that's about it. For a film made in 1980, it could have been a lot worse. If you want to buy this, you should be able to get it cheaply online (it's old enough), I got mine for $10 from Virgin, but I've seen it in HMV's sale often enough.
I recommend this DVD, but then again I recommend most things Musical Theatre related in general, so tread with caution.
For a clip (go on, you know you want to) go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1UWSD-FaA
Thanks for reading :)
© MarcoG 2008
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