Jamie completes a perfect jetski backflip, narrowly avoiding the torpedoes shot by the toy-sized submarine. Suddenly the engine of the jetski begins to sputter and Jamie knows that drastic times calls for drastic measures. He takes a tiny hammer and breaks the emergency glass on the jetski’s Mello Yello store. Breaking out the well known catchphrase, “Time to say hello to Mello Yello, fellow,” Jamie pours the contents into the gas tank. What Jamie loves about speed is controlling it, you know? But while the Dew is doable, Mello Yello is an uncontrollable beast and soon he’s swerving wildly about the unexpectedly large pool housed within the toy factory. He careens off the submarine’s sail, puncturing and ultimately sinking the drone, but that doesn’t solve all of Jamie’s problems. He’s still on a Mello Yello powered death machine and it’s heading right for the wall of the tank. Gulp. He throws up his hands to shield his face from irreparably sexy scars and bursts through the wall into a stuffy board meeting of the toy company’s executives. The head of the company shifts nervously as sweat beads on his forehead. No one was meant to know about his submarine antics and yet here it is on full display. Thinking fast, Jamie puts an arm around the CEOs shoulder and loudly exclaims, “and that’s what this noble man thinks of war toys! Instead he’s going to be teaming up with the latest Rich & Poe release to show how this company is all about justice and friendship, just like Rich & Poe, who will continue to be very much alive.” The room breaks out in applause as the executive wipes sweat from his brow and whispers, “Welcome to the Super Dope Toys family…. Or as we call it: Xanadu.” That’s right! We are going full 80’s magic for real with the Olivia Newton-John masterpiece Xanadu. And by masterpiece I mean that it was partially responsible for the creation of the Razzies and also legit had one of the biggest soundtracks of that year. Let’s go!
The mastermind of the deaths of Rich and Poe stares daggers at the Bad Movie Twins cyborgs from the shadows. “You pumpkinheads, they are getting too close. The buzz around this FMV music video game is growing. Something must be done…” And with that he lets out a terrifying cackle. That’s right! We’re teaming up Xanadu with Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings. Why? Because we can and also it’s one of the few direct-to-video films we found that had a video game release, which seems insane. That being said, the original Pumpkinhead is great. Let’s go!
Xanadu (1980) – BMeTric: 44.2; Notability: 66
StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 6.5%; Notability: top 2.3%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 17.2% Higher BMeT: Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again; Lower RT: Can’t Stop the Music, The Blue Lagoon, Hardly Working, Roadie, Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again, The Hollywood Knights, Wholly Moses!, Galaxina, The Boogey Man, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, The Nude Bomb, Where the Buffalo Roam, Heart Beat, The Apple, He Knows You’re Alone; Notes: 1980 as a BMT film year is pretty sparse, almost non-existent. It is the last year that one could argue there isn’t particularly good box office data, and so on occasion we have to “cheat” to get the actual bad 1980 films into BMT. A notability of 66 though? That ain’t cheating brotha! That legitimately might be the biggest film of the year. How?!
RogerEbert.com – 2.0 stars – “Xanadu” is a mushy and limp musical fantasy, so insubstantial it keeps evaporating before our eyes. It’s one of those rare movies in which every scene seems to be the final scene; it’s all ends and no beginnings, right up to its actual end, which is a cheat.
(I don’t even really know what that means. I guess I should be prepared for it to end, like, seven times like Return of the King or something? And how does that review snippet equal two stars? Ebert in the 80s was a complex critical animal.)
(What is the deal with roller skating in musicals in 1980 specifically. Steve Guttenberg was also roller skating all over the place in Can’t Stop the Music. A very matter of fact trailer. You like Olivia Newton-John right? Awesome, you’ll like this film with roller skating. She sings in it.)
Directors – Robert Greenwald – (Known For: Breaking Up; Steal This Movie; Sweet Hearts Dance; Future BMT: Hear No Evil; BMT: Xanadu; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Director for Xanadu in 1981; Notes: Nominated for three Emmys most recently for the mini-series A Woman of Independent Means. Was a huge television movie director in the 80s and 90s and then founded Brave New Films in 2001 and has been a huge documentarian since.)
Writers – Richard Christian Danus (written by) – (BMT: Xanadu; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for Xanadu in 1981; Notes: Wrote a bit for television including two episode of Crime Story which was produced by Michael Mann.)
Marc Reid Rubel (written by) – (Known For: Big Business; Almost Summer; BMT: Xanadu; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Screenplay for Xanadu in 1981; Notes: Also wrote Prince of Bel Air starring Mark Harmon. Not much about him, not even in the trades.)
Actors – Olivia Newton-John – (Known For: Grease; The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee; She’s Having a Baby; A Few Best Men; Sordid Lives; It’s My Party; Score: A Hockey Musical; Toomorrow; Funny Things Happen Down Under; Future BMT: Two of a Kind; BMT: Xanadu; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress in 1981 for Xanadu; and in 1984 for Two of a Kind; Notes: Had five songs go to #1 on the US Billboard charts. Her father was a medical doctor who invented a portable iron lung.)
Gene Kelly – (Known For: Singin’ in the Rain; An American in Paris; Anchors Aweigh; Inherit the Wind; Cover Girl; Brigadoon; On the Town; Take Me Out to the Ball Game; What a Way to Go!; The Pirate; Les Demoiselles de Rochefort; A Guide for the Married Man; The Three Musketeers; Let’s Make Love; 40 Carats; Ziegfeld Follies; Du Barry Was a Lady; Marjorie Morningstar; Summer Stock; BMT: Xanadu; Notes: His last on screen film role. He was nominated for one Academy Award (for Anchors Aweigh) and received an honorary Oscar in 1952.)
Michael Beck – (Known For: The Warriors; Blackout; The Hard Ride; Warlords of the 21st Century; Forest Warrior; Triumphs of a Man Called Horse; The Golden Seal; Future BMT: Megaforce; BMT: Xanadu; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actor for Xanadu in 1981; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for Megaforce in 1983; Notes: Grew up in Arkansas and went to school in Mississippi. The funniest note on his IMDb I think is that he was the voice for the book-on-tape version of Runaway Jury by John Grisham.)
Budget/Gross – $20 million / Domestic: $22,762,571 (Worldwide: $22,762,571)
(Yeah, a financial disaster. In its defense, according to the notes, it was supposed to cost $5 million, but then they overran. If they had come in on budget it would have probably been fine.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 29% (12/42): Not even spandex and over-the-top musical numbers can save Xanadu from questionable acting, unimpressive effects, and a story unencumbered by logic.
(I’m just here for the music, man. I’m not looking for nonsense like “logic” and “acting”. Reviewer Highlight: An experience so vacuous it’s almost frightening. – Ian Birch, Time Out.)
Poster – Xana-Don’t!!
(Uh… I don’t really know what to think about this. I guess I like that it’s kind of like a painting and the font is obviously one of the best of all time. But it’s not eye catching other than in a ‘WTF is that?’ kind of way and the white background is a mistake. Seems more like a joke than a real poster, but it’s not all that bad. C+.)
Tagline(s) – A Fantasy, A Musical, A Place Where Dreams Come True. (C-)
(While the poster is a bit mysterious and odd, this is just a bad tagline. They try to go for the rule of 3, but I don’t think they go together and then they end up with something far too long.)
Keyword – disco
Top 10: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Ready Player One (2018), Fatal Attraction (1987), Scarface (1983), Boogie Nights (1997), EuroTrip (2004), American Hustle (2013), Dark Shadows (2012), Ted (2012), Carlito’s Way (1993)
Future BMT: 70.0 The Unborn (2009), 64.9 In the Mix (2005), 63.7 Boat Trip (2002), 59.8 Staying Alive (1983), 51.7 You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), 42.0 Virtuosity (1995), 41.3 The Kitchen (2019), 33.9 Shark Tale (2004), 33.6 Along Came Polly (2004), 33.3 54 (1998);
BMT: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009), Romeo Must Die (2000), Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989), Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
(The 90s really didn’t like disco very much huh? Well, we have probably the last true blue BMT disco film left after this in Staying Alive in 1983. So that’s something to look forward to.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 25) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Sandahl Bergman is No. 9 billed in Xanadu and No. 3 billed in Red Sonja, which also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (No. 1 billed) who is in Expendables 3 (No. 4 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 2 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 9 + 3 + 1 + 4 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 25. If we were to watch Two of a Kind, and Shout we can get the HoE Number down to 13.
Notes – After Kira tells Sonny she is one of the Greek muses, she starts to say, “My real name is Terp” but Sonny shushes her and she never reveals her real name. She is there to help him open a dance club, and she is obviously a dancer, so her name is most likely Terpsichore, after the Greek muse of dance–although in the stage adaption of the film she was Clio, muse of history.
According to Olivia Newton-John, the script was written during filming.
The soundtrack was an enormous success. The song “Magic” went to #1 on the US pop singles chart. In the UK the soundtrack album peaked at #2, and the single “Xanadu” was #1 for two weeks in July 1980.
The Pan Pacific Auditorium, on Beverly Boulevard in Hollywood near CBS’ Television City, was used for exterior shots of the Xanadu Club. It was built in 1935 and destroyed by a fire in 1989. A community center now sits on the site, featuring a single version of the Pan Pacific’s four curved art-deco spires.
Olympic skater Peggy Fleming helped plan the skating scenes.
The choreography in the Gene Kelly-choreographed “Whenever You’re Away From Me” is nearly identical to the choreography in the title number from For Me and My Girl (1942), in which starred Kelly with Judy Garland.
Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John’s dance number was shot after filming had finished. Kelly choreographed it. His conditions included a closed stage with only himself, Newton-John, a cameraman, a choreographer he had befriended and two others.
Gene Kelly took the part of Danny McGuire because filming was a short drive from his Beverly Hills home.
Olivia Newton-John met Matt Lattanzi, who had a minor role, during filming. Afterward Lattanzi accompanied her to Australia on a promotional visit for the film and met her parents. Lattanzi and John married in 1984, had one child, Chloe Lattanzi, and divorced in 1995.
Famously received the one sentence review: “In a word, Xana-don’t”. (I thought I had invented that!!!)
This film, playing as a 99-cent double-feature with Can’t Stop the Music (1980), inspired John Wilson to create the Golden Raspberry Awards (a.k.a. Razzies), honoring the worst achievements in film. Robert Greenwald later won the first Worst Director Razzie Award.
The film was adapted into a Broadway musical, which caused a lot of controversy due to the poor reception of the film. However, the musical was actually a satire of the film, and was therefore praised for its humor. It opened in 2007, starring Kerry Butler as Kira and Cheyenne Jackson as Sonny. The show ran for over 500 performances and was nominated for the Best Musical and Best Book Tony’s.
According to the two-page booklet included with the DVD, the film was originally conceived as a low-budget roller-disco movie. The imminent release of Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979) and Roller Boogie (1979) prompted many changes, like blending 1940s and 1980s styles.
The original budget was $4 million, but costs rose to $13 million. Universal head Ned Tanen fired Joel Silver, who immediately went to work for his friend and mentor Lawrence Gordon, who was also a producer on the film, and put Silver back on the project.
This film is one of three disco musicals released in 1980. The others were The Apple (1980) and Can’t Stop the Music (1980). (We’ll have watched two of three then!)
Despite the film’s poor reputation, the soundtrack peaked at #4 on the US Billboard Charts and it was awarded double platinum.
Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst ‘Musical’ of Our First 25 Years (2005)
Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst Director (Robert Greenwald, 1981)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture (Lawrence Gordon, 1981)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Michael Beck, 1981)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Olivia Newton-John, 1981)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Screenplay (Richard Christian Danus, Marc Reid Rubel, 1981)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Original Song (John Farrar, 1981)