XANADU (1980)

TAGLINE:  The Music, The Film, A Place Where Dreams Come True.

IMDB Rating:  4.5 / 10

When one talks of Bad Movies, it cannot be long before conversation turns to one of the greatest examples of the genre. A masterpiece of mishap. A film that doesn’t just fall off a cliff, but tumbles head first down the north face of the Eiger…

Yes,Xanadu‘ is to music what Harold Shipman is to retirement communities.

The synopsis of this musical reads like the mumblings of a child that has overdosed on Dad’s asthma medication. A struggling young artist falls in love with a blonde roller skater who happens to be the Greek Muse of dance who has escaped from a nearby mural. She inspires him to open a nightclub (called Xanadu) with an old man he meets on the beach. She then ascends to heaven leaving him to chat up her doppelganger who happens to be a waitress. It then ends.

It’s hard not to argue that this is the worst story in the history of the moving picture. It reads like a lazy google translation of a Romanian tour brochure.

Compounding the nonsensical plot are the songs which breach the Geneva convention. ELO have fashioned a score so excruciating, you find yourself  searching for the nearest Trappist monastery where an extended stay and only complete silence will purify your soul.

And then there is the roller skating. Perhaps in 1980, it was believed that this revolutionary wheeled invention would change the way humanity ambulated forever. In Xanadu however, the roller skates only succeed in making Gene Kelly, one of the greatest screen dancers in cinematic history, appear about as graceful as a panda in wellies.


Xanadu: No aspect of the film left un-bad

Olivia Newton-John was never offered the lead in a film again. Love interest Michael Beck claimed, ‘[previous film] ‘The Warriorsopened a lot of doors for me which Xanadu then closed’. He now narrates audiobooks. The mighty Gene Kelly never appeared in another movie. And is now dead. No-one escaped unscathed.

And then there is the title. Producers pondered what they should call a romantic roller skating musical fantasy. In a moment of inspiration, they named it after a reference in Coleridge’s poem about Kubla Khan. Because the hip young roller skaters at whom this movie was aimed were all bound to be huge fans of early 19th century English Romantic poetry. Genius.

            It is not far off the perfect bad film- tedious, confusing, earnest and risible, with a bonkers story and horrible effects. It’s a camp monstrosity so awful, it was the film that compelled John J. B. Wilson to found The Razzies. At least Michael Beck’s career didn’t die in vain. We make no apology when we reproduce one of the great Movie Reviews of all time from Esquire in 1980:

“Xanadu? Xanadon’t”

                   “Open your eyes and hear the magic….” Er…

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