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Starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly

Even Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, and the Electric Light Orchestra could not make this film a critical success, but over the years it has become a roller disco cult classic.

Xanadu on DVD
DVD Movie

Xanadu Soundtrack
Music CD

Xanadu on VHS
VHS Movie
Video DVD/VHS and audio CD links go to Amazon.com

Writing about this movie is going to be PAINFUL, because even though Xanadu was not the greatest movie ever made, I own it, and I enjoy watching it from time, especially when roller skating friends are visiting. So first... all of the good things I can think of about this movie:

  1. The actors do a lot of roller skating in this film.

  2. This was Gene Kelly's last movie role and I enjoy watching him dancing and roller skating for the last time on screen. SIDE NOTE: Gene Kelly roller skated in at least one other film. He did a tap dance on roller skates in the 1955 movie, It's Always Fair Weather, to the tune of "I like Myself".

  3. Olivia Newton-John is pretty and she has a cute Australian accent (I guess if you are Australian, you cannot appreciate that last part)

  4. If you are a fan of Olivia's singing, and a fan of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), you will enjoy the soundtrack.
Those are about the only good things I can say about this movie. Almost everything else - the script, the plot (what plot?), and the dialog - is embarrassingly bad. The dialog is so bad, it actually made me cringe several times during the movie. It also made me uncomfortable to watch talented performers like Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John struggling to make this movie work.

The grand finale is a relentless exercise in sensory overload - a rollerdiscorama that bombards you with one scene after another of flashing lights, rapid scene changes, and things popping out at you. And unfortunately, most of the roller skating was not that much fun to watch (see Skating Sequences below).

The Plot
Greek muse Olivia Newton-John helps Gene Kelly and Michael Beck fulfill their dream of opening a roller skating palace and nightclub in Venice Beach, California.

The Actors
Olivia Newton John, Gene Kelly, and Michael Beck

Skating Sequences:

  • This movie has plenty of roller skating, and it is all done on conventional "quad" roller skates. There are two different types of skating: recreational skating at the beach and show skating at the grand opening of the Xanadu Roller Palace.

  • Recreational Skating Scenes: Michael Beck and Olivia Newton-John spend a lot of time on roller skates, and this is somewhat interesting to see, but most of their skating is your average, advanced-beginner, bike path skating. This movie was filmed in the 80's, so I wouldn't expect many people to be wearing helmets, but Michael Beck does one of the most dangerous things you can do on roller skates: He skitches on the back of a friend's truck (skitching is the practice of holding onto a moving vehicle in order to move very fast). During much of the movie, Olivia was wearing a strange pair of quad roller skates that were modified to look like knee high white leather boots. Or maybe she was wearing white leg warmers with her skates (I spent way too much time during the movie trying to figure this out).

  • Venice Beach Skate Scenes: The events are suppose to take place in Venice Beach, California, so you would expect the skating and the outdoor scenes to be very interesting. But most of the skating is done in a grassy area that looks like Palisades Park, which is up on a cliff, high above Santa Monica Beach. Nobody skates up there, except on Friday nights, when Los Angeles area skaters gather for the Santa Monica Friday Night Skate. A few of the scenes are filmed down on the beach bike path, but you never really get a good look at the area around the path. And where are the famous Venice Beach Skate Dancers?

  • Xanadu Roller Palace Skating Scenes: Some of the show skating is fun to watch, but most of it is pretty ordinary and roller-dancing is not the main focus in most of the musical numbers. There are, however, a few interesting scenes with roller dancing and skaters jumping over obstacles in the grand finale.
Interesting Fact
Olivia Newton-John met future husband Matt Lattanzi during the filming of Xanadu. He played the young Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly's character) and one of the Xanadu Dancers. Olivia and Matt were married from 1984 to 1995, and they have a daughter, Chloe.

More About the Movie, the Music, and the Actors:

The Movie
  • The Xanadu Preservation Society (GeoCities.com)
  • Olivia Fan Site Xanadu Information (OnlyOlivia.com)
    Olivia Newton-John
  • The International "Only Olivia" Fan Club (OnlyOlivia.com)
  • IMDB Olivia Newton John Filmography (IMDB.com)
    Gene Kelly
  • Gene Kelly - An American Life (PBS.org)
  • Le Site Francais de Gene Kelly (GeneKelly.org)
  • The Gene Scene (AOL.com)
  • IMDB Gene Kelly Filmography (IMDB.com)
    Matt Lattanzi
  • IMDB Matt Lattanzi Filmography (IMDB.com)
  • Matt's Life After Olivia (OnlyOlivia.com)
    Electric Light Orchestra
  • History of the Electric Light Orchestra (Fact-Index.com)
  • Visiting Jeff Lynn in 2001 (Rockaria.com)
  • About the ELO (AllMusic.com)
  • Face the Music: Elo Information Site (FtMusic.com)
  • Official Sony ELO Music Web Site (EloMusic.com)

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