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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.
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:
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 actors do a lot of roller skating in this film.
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".
Olivia Newton-John is pretty and she
has a cute Australian accent
(I guess if you are Australian, you cannot
appreciate that last part)
If you are a fan of Olivia's singing, and a fan of the
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), you will enjoy
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).
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.
Olivia Newton John, Gene Kelly, and Michael Beck
This movie has plenty of roller skating, and it is all
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.
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 Xanadu Preservation Society
Olivia Fan Site Xanadu Information
The International "Only Olivia" Fan Club
IMDB Olivia Newton John Filmography
Gene Kelly - An American Life
Le Site Francais de Gene Kelly
The Gene Scene
IMDB Gene Kelly Filmography
IMDB Matt Lattanzi Filmography
Matt's Life After Olivia
Electric Light Orchestra
History of the Electric Light Orchestra
Visiting Jeff Lynn in 2001
About the ELO
Face the Music: Elo Information Site
Official Sony ELO Music Web Site
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