Film and Documentary

Xanadu: 40 Years Later

Forty years after its release, I consider Xanadu to be not only a cult classic, but a true guilty pleasure. “Cheesy” doesn’t even begin to describe it, yet that’s at the heart of its delightfully perverse charm. Now, that’s entertainment!

Initially panned by critics, Xanadu cannot be watched with anything resembling a serious mindset, nor should it be. Enjoy it for its silliness. Enjoy it even more for the fantastic soundtrack (the product of John Farrar and ELO). But, most of all, enjoy it for Olivia Newton-John. She may not be the greatest actress of her time, but she’s stunningly gorgeous, with a truly amazing singing voice.

The movie’s storyline is basically this: Set in Los Angeles near and on Venice Beach, an enterprising young artist named Sonny meets Kira the muse, with a somewhat predictable outcome. Sonny is very unsatisfied with his current employment painting record covers, and longs to be his own artistic self. He also soon makes the acquaintance of Danny McGuire, a big band leader and singer from the 40s, who also has a bit of a past with the mystical Kira. They all eventually join forces to open a nightclub named Xanadu. As a muse, Kira is supposed to leave after the club opens, but does she really? There’s even a little animated sequence from Don Bluth. Yes, this movie is truly magical.

Michael Beck as the intrepid Sonny Malone is an interesting, yet oddly inspired casting choice. With only a handful of credits to his name when cast in this flick, he gets the job done. He had just starred in the movie The Warriors, and his Andy-Gibb-like good looks didn’t hurt either. As for Olivia Newton-John as Kira the muse, she could do no wrong after her smash acting debut in Grease. But the real scene stealer was the absolutely magnificent Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire. McGuire’s heart-of-gold 40s-loving persona gave this movie everything it needed and more. Kelly not only sang and danced, but roller skated too – at nearly 70 years old!

This musical holds more than enough magic moments, from roller skating in a recording studio Sonny “borrows” to the song Suddenly, to the big band inspired scenes with Kelly, to the end scenes, where Kira sings and dances to several different numbers. The soundtrack alone is utter perfection, and it was this movie that made me a true fan of ELO and John Farrar.

Personally, I absolutely love this movie. I love everything about it. Yes, it’s totally cheesy, and yes, even a bit campy in places. But it’s magical. I still got the same thrill watching it today as I did viewing it the first time 40 years ago. Newton-John brings warmth and appeal. Kelly brings a touch of class and a reason for lovers of the great MGM musicals to smile. And Beck brings great hair, great looks and a never-say-die pluckiness that just makes you grin. And I did grin, all through this delightful movie. It’s definitely one I can (and will) watch over and over again, with the same feelings I had forty years ago.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]