Take all the trends from the year 1980, the emergence of punk rock, the non-stop roller skating, the kicky leg warmers, and the popularity of the world’s favourite Australian, and mix it together with a Big Band sound and a dancing actor whose hey day was the 1950s. Then add extras that came in on the cattle call from what must have been most every drag club in L.A., and add a dash of a few Solid Gold dancers. You get Xanadu, and you wonder why this movie was so popular, considering it was so mediocre. Now, it does have a great soundtrack, and it is not usual for an average movie to have the capability to rock. (See Detroit Rock City) It might have been this advantage that gave it a good advertising boost. The fact that the country was still enjoying Olivia Newton-John’s popularity from her performance in “Grease” a couple of years before could have something to do with it. Maybe some the grandparents enjoyed seeing one of their favourite dance stars, Gene Kelly, on the big screen again, amazed that he hadn’t lost any of his moves. Micheal Beck seems more like a prop for Olivia’s character of Kira, who is really an immortal muse in disguise. It could have been many different things, but what I thought looked so cool when I was fifteen looks a bit too bright and flashy at forty-six.
So, there’s this artist, Sonny Malone (Micheal Beck), and he works for Air Flow records. He’s works in the promotions department, where they reproduce album covers on a huge scale to hang them outside of chain record stores to promote their product. This was commonly seen at the Peaches Records & Tapes stores back in the day. Anyway, one sunny morning, as Sonny was dabbling in the world of freelance art, and not making any money at it, he rips up his latest attempt, and tosses it to the wind. This is the wind of change, and it awakens nine lovely women on a mural that is on a building down near Santa Monica Beach. This is our first colourful dance number, in which the nine muses are emerging to go into the city and help people find their inspiration. The ladies represent all the human races, and even Sandahl Bergman is here as a muse. She doesn’t talk, she just sings and dances. The focus is not on her, but another muse, the blonde, be-ribboned Terpsichore, the muse of dance, but here in the mortal realm, she is known only as “Kira” (Olivia Newton-John).
So, off all the muses go, and Kira has found her mark. It is Sonny, and is he ever in for some surprises. Kira skates up tp him on the boardwalk, kisses him, then takes off. He sees Kira again later, but only her image this time. He’s no longer freelancing, and has come back to Air Flow to work as a blow-up artist. His first assignment is a cover from a band called “Nine Sisters”. On it is what looks to be an art deco style concert hall that has seen better days, and Kira, in a glowing orange aura. After some doing work, he goes down to the beach, and hears a slow song on a clarinet. There is an old man sitting on the rocks above him, belting out a tune. Sonny asks him why he’s playing a dirge, then the old man plays something a little more upbeat. The old man is a former Big Band member, and club owner, Danny MCGuire (Gene Kelly). Sonny tells Danny about the girl he has been seeing around here, and is hoping to find her soon again. She shows up, and Sonny borrows a moped to chase after her, as she is on skates. As with magical creatures, now you see them, then you don’t, and Kira is no exception to the rule. Danny loses sight of her on the pier, and drives the moped off the end and falls into the sea. He then decides it’s time to do some research, and uses the connexions at Air Flow to find out who she is and how she got in the album cover. He follows the payroll, the photographers, and still finds nothing. He skates down to the building on the cover, and finds Kira skating around inside the old building, and wants some answers.
She is still being a mystery to him, and promises to see him again later, once the pieces fall into place.
When Sonny is sent out to hang some of his artwork up at a local record store, he runs into Danny again, whom has just picked up a collector’s edition of some Glen Miller tracks. They go back to Danny’s home to listen to them, and Danny shows Sonny some of the memorabilia from his Big Band days and the club he owned in New York. Sonny leaves, and Danny continues to reflect on his music, and then breaks to another dance number where Gene Kelly and Olivia sing a duet, and dance about the ballroom in Danny’s old house. Danny wants to open up another Big Band club out here in L.A., but bigger and better than the one he owned before. Seems like he was ahead of his time, since the Big Band/Swing trend came back briefly in the late 1990s.
Later, Kira runs into Sonny at work, and they have a skate date. He tells her about Danny’s club idea, and she knows he’s tired of working for Air Flow. She leads him to the old concert hall, and says that he should show it to Danny, since it is up for sale. Later on, Danny and Sonny check the place out further, which brings us to one of the better music sets, where Punk Metal and Big Band meet and blend very well, and this launches the idea for Xanadu. Kira shows up, and quotes from the Rubaiyat of Omar Kayamm “In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree…” and there you go….
It was fun to see this movie again, and enjoy the tracks from Olivia and the Electric Light Orchestra, but I’m not going to be popping this in again right away. After learning things about Bollywood movies, it seems that this might have been Universal Studios attempt at making one. It didn’t work out so well, although my husband did enjoy all the tights and short hemlines. Hopefully, the current trend to remaking movies from the 1980s does not involve this one.
I give this film a Musing review of