Xanadu: 30 Years Of Magic
Over at “The Projector Has Been Drinking,” Marc Edward Heuck has posted a heartfelt paen to one of his 1980 perennials and XANADU remains one of mine albeit for different reasons. I was a fan of the hit singles before the film’s disastrous release, already an admirer of Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John and I loved the epic synth disco soundtrack tunes that would become dated by the birth of the New Wave MTV 80’s. XANADU attempted to merge 1940’s “let’s put on a show” musicals with late 70’s ELO’s spacerock and The Tubes pop trash, a volatile combination of styles if ever. Musically, the film pulls this off — cinematically, the film pulls itself apart. I can enjoy XANADU on a few levels, not just for its “so bad it’s good” camp quotient — though that is a component. The movie so desperately wants to be a cross-over hit that it throws everything into the “This is the 80’s!” mix, and manages to prophecize very little except for the bright pastel neon lighting of the era.
My favorite awful-wonderful scene is the “All Over The World” montage with Gene Kelly trying gamely to find a “glitzy outfit” and his place in the new pop decade by tap dancing through a fashion emporium culminating in Kelly turning into an optical green silhouette, flipping through the air unto he lands in a pinball game. Then there’s Michael Beck, fresh from THE WARRIORS (1979) roller-skating in the tightest shorts this side of Steve Guttenberg in the title scene of CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC. And of course, Olivia Newton John as his Muse, who doesn’t have much to do besides sing, dance and inspire the creation of a modern day Kubla Khan, a stately niteclub pleasure-dome decreed with a skate rink and apparently no cover charge. Do you know how powerful the cocaine was in 1980? So powerful that executives greenlit XANADU. But I’m not cynical about the film, I coveted the record from my sister and listened to the songs repeatedly, and I’ve always thought of “Magic” as a siren call to dreamers, so much so that 30 years later after XANADU premiered, I find myself living down the street from Pan Pacific Park, where the original Xanadu itself resided before two fires until a glorious refurbishing to its art-deco roots. So you have to believe in magic. And XANADU.