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Cult Favorite ‘Xanadu’ Gets a Well-Deserved Upgrade

July 4, 2008

By The Miami Herald

Jul. 4–Critics panned Xanadu when it hit theaters in the summer of 1980. “Where else can you see Olivia Newton-John skate around in rags with lightbulbs on her knees?” sniffed one scribe at the time.

Then a strange thing happened. Xanadu, which featured Gene Kelly in his final movie role and Michael Beck, who went on to read John Grisham audio books, developed a cult following. A new Broadway version even scored Tony nominations.

Xanadu has been on DVD in a bare-bones version, but it was just upgraded in Xanadu: Magical Musical Edition (Universal; $19.98; PG) with restored visuals and 5.1 audio. As on Universal’s recent re-release of the 1978 failure, The Wiz, the set comes packaged with a CD soundtrack. Unlike the abridged Wiz CD addition, however, Xanadu’s is the complete original MCA album. To make this really a collectible, however, it’s a pity that Universal couldn’t add to the disc songs like Fool Country and Drum Dreams or the incidental You Made Me Love You that are heard in the movie. If you don’t have Xanadu’s soundtrack on CD, though, this is a nice bonus.

Perhaps what seemed strange at the time — a movie about a roller disco featured no disco music on its soundtrack — has made the film weather better; its score owes no allegiance to a trend. The new print sharpens the focus a bit and the surround sound has more presence — although the ELO songs still are overly compressed (even on the CD soundtrack).

Buyer beware: The new Going Back to Xanadu documentary boasts that the cast and crew discuss the making of the film. That’s true, but the actors you want to see — Newton-John, Kelly and Beck — don’t appear. Kelly died in 1996 so he’s off the hook, but we miss the lead couple’s viewpoints on this otherwise informative and good-natured supplement.

Quibbles aside, Xanadu’s Magical Music Edition is one of those rare DVD reissues that is worth the upgrade if you’re a fan — and, admit it, many of you are out there.

— HOWARD COHEN

THE X-FILES

They’re calling it an “Essential Guide” to the upcoming X-Files movie, but what The X-Files: Revelations (20th Century Fox, $22.97) really appears to be is a collection of eight excellent stand-alone episodes to introduce newbies to the Mulder/Scully dynamic before I Want to Believe hits theaters on July 25. Fans will already be well-acquainted with the episodes, which are introduced by series creator Chris Carter and executive producer Frank Spotnitz.

Disc One includes the pilot (notable for laughably bad hair and pre-Armani suits); Beyond the Sea (a creepy serial killer channels Scully’s dead father); The Host (better known as “the Flukeman” episode) and Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose (which features Peter Boyle’s Emmy-winning performance as a guy who knows how you’re going to die). Disc 2 kicks off with the sobering Memento Mori (more about Scully’s ova than you wanted to know); the brilliant Post-Modern Prometheus (a black-and-white Frankenstein riff with nods to Jerry Springer, comic books and Cher); the hilarious he said/she said vampire fable Bad Blood; and Milagro (a creepy writer obsesses about Scully, but then, who doesn’t?)

The DVD set also contains a theatrical trailer for I Want to Believe and the WonderCon panel with stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, Carter and Spotnitz.

— CONNIE OGLE

cogle@MiamiHerald.com

MORE TV ON DVD

X-Files fans who want to see more of David Duchovny — considerably more, actually — might want to check out the current Showtime series Californication — The First Season (CBS DVD; $39.99) in which the star plays a sex-obsessed writer in Los Angeles juggling paternal duties. Duchovny offers a commentary track.

Emmy-nominated, plus-size actor William Conrad gets a double dipping on DVD Tuesday when CBS DVD releases the first episodes of his ’70s crime drama Cannon and ’80s crime drama Jake and the Fatman as half-season sets. ($36.98 apiece). The studio should have gone all the way and issued the complete first seasons for the same price. Seventies crime dramas seem sluggish on high-def TVs now but Cannon retains its charm with some decent storytelling and, especially, Conrad’s performance as the compassionate private eye.

Curious to see what Miami City Ballet’s artistic director Edward Villella looked like 35 years ago? The dancer guest stars as himself on an episode in The Odd Couple — The Fourth Season (CBS DVD; $39.98). Fans are complaining that many episodes of this hilarious sitcom are butchered because of music changes stemming from licensing fee problems.

— HOWARD COHEN

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Miami Herald

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