Throwback Thursday: Xanadu

Seeing a movie in a theater has always been a special treat. Watching oversized images on a huge screen with the sound cranked way up, eating M&Ms mixed in with popcorn and drinking soda through a Red Vine…well, what could be better for a kid looking to escape homework and chores. Some classic movies came out during my teen years, too: Jaws, Star Wars, Grease, American Graffiti.

Of course, not every movie is a classic and I’ve seen my share of duds. Not every bad movie is truly bad though. Sometimes they can be quite entertaining. Logan’s Run comes to mind, a sci-fi film that I don’t seek out on a regular basis, but one that I’ll watch if it happens to be on TV. The special effects, set design, and costuming are very evocative of the time period in which the movie was made and they don’t stand up well to the passage of time. Plus, the idea of being well past the age when I would have been sent to ‘carousel’ is very disturbing to me these days, whereas I thought a thirty-year-old was ancient when the movie first came out.

This post isn’t about Logan’s Run, but another good bad movie came out several years later. A musical starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, and Michael Beck. Another movie that really evokes the time in which it was made. One that combines the classic elegance of Gene Kelly (on roller skates) with the rock music of Fee Waybill and The Tubes.


The story is about Greek muse Kira, played by Olivia Newton-John and the man she is sent to inspire: frustrated artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), who has given up on his dreams to work a day job painting oversized album covers at a music studio. Kira brings about a meeting between Malone and Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), who she’d once tried to inspire only to have him give up on his dreams after falling for her. She then creates a series of events that convince the two men to open a nightclub together. A club to be called Xanadu – in reference to a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Xanadu didn’t do well in the American box office when it first came out. The roller skating fad was fading and a massive backlash had broken out against disco. Since I’m always a little behind the times, I still enjoyed both skating and disco, preferably at the same time. Seeing this warmed my heart in so many ways. Memories of the feelings the movie evoked in me at the time are the reason I’ll continue to rewatch it whenever I can. Plus, I grew up watching classic movies starring the likes of Gene Kelly on TV, so seeing him both dance and roller skate on the big screen was a real treat for me. The hopeless romance between the muse and the mortal really stirred the heart of a teen who hadn’t yet dated. Would the gods allow them to be together in the end?

To tie this back to one of the movies I mentioned earlier in this post, the IMDB trivia page says that the star-shaped stage at the end of Xanadu was the same set piece used for the carousel in Logan’s Run.

I can’t really say whether that’s true or not. Maybe I should watch both movies again!

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