by Jim Ridley
Hell’s megaplex has a special chamber for the helium-headed 1980 musical fantasy Xanadu. It's what might result if some junior studio exec blurted out, “I’ve got it! It’s Clash of the Titans meets Roller Boogie!” It was directed by none other than Robert Greenwald, who resurfaced in the 2000s as a maker of activist documentaries such as Outfoxed.
He has plenty to atone for. Dismaying The Warriors fans with each flip of his feathered hair, Michael Beck plays the infernally perky album-cover artist — yes, children, that was once a profession, like fixing typewriters — who flips for Olivia Newton-John, a Greek muse come down from Olympus in order to … roller-skate. Between the animated interludes and rainbow graphics that split the difference between LSD vapor trails and public-access sci-fi, it’s a monumental eyesore except for Newton-John and trouper Gene Kelly (in his last film role) as a nightclub impresario.
But with Newton-John singing “Magic” and “Suddenly” and duetting with special guest Electric Light Orchestra on the title song, the soundtrack was a blockbuster; it may be the sole reason the movie hasn’t been melted down for shrink art. It shows midnight tonight and Saturday at The Belcourt as part of the theater's centenary salute to Kelly: Kelly fans may prefer to see this weekend's archibval screening of the Busby Berkeley musical Take Me Out to the Ball Game, starring the legendary hoofer and Frank Sinatra. See the clip below.