Guide to Cult Musicals

Musicals are completely fucked up and awesome. We’ve all witnessed it firsthand. You’re at a party, someone puts on the “Grease Mega Mix” and people (mainly girls) start singing along. No other genre of film is capable of elevating the spirit like a musical.

Musicals have always existed in an interesting place. The American Film Institute’s top 10 of all time consists of two musicals, Singin’ in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz. When a bunch of money and some big name actors are involved in a musical, they’re all touted as Oscar contenders—Chicago, Dreamgirls, Ray, Walk the Line—or the movies are praised as a family classic—every animated Disney film ever made. On the other side of the rainbow, there are people who think musicals are hokey, ridiculous and, for lack of a better word, kind of gay. Musicals are all three so hating musicals is understandable. Can you think of a genre of film more detached from reality? I posit that a Godzilla film is more plausible than a film where people spontaneously break into song and well-choreographed dance numbers.

The show must go on, even when there’s no money to make a musical. Welcome to the world of cult musicals and get ready for a truly insane experience. The mother of all cult musicals is, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But in the 32 years since it bombed miserably at the box office and then became the biggest cult musical, arguably the biggest cult film, of all time, people have kept making them. While some of the most memorable cult musicals have been made by people you’ve never heard of, an interesting crop of vanguard directors have all tackled the genre. People like Tim Burton, Todd Haynes, Peter Jackson, Takashi Miike, Brian De Palma, Trey Parker, Lars Von Trier and John Waters. What is it that motivates them to attempt such a ludicrous thing as making a musical? Whether it’s a masochistic urge to sabotage their successful careers or an equally masochistic urge to challenge themselves, the end result is always entertaining.

You won’t find any of these films on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list. None of these would likely make their top 10,000. But really, how much fun did you have watching their number one film, Citizen Kane, anyways? Not as much fun as that time you had friends over to watch R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet in it’s entirety, no doubt. And if a movie isn’t fun, then why are you watching it?

All That Jazz (1979)
Fox Video | Dir: Bob Fosse

Roy Scheider sings! You gots to looooooves the Roy Scheider. He’s a damned great actor. Welcome to pure self-indulgence as director Bob Fosse creates a warts-and-all, thinly veiled self-portrait. Opening with “On Broadway” we get lots of meat hook leotards and top hats, Fosse Fosse Fosse, work it work it workaholism, the show must go on, and make it racy! Booze, pills, ladies, show biz excess in a rather endearing navel gaze. There’s messy experimentalism of pure entertainment, production numbers hazing into gritty character-driven depth, and an Angel of Death guiding us through flashbacks. This movie unwinds and spirals out of control into musical montage land as the autobiography gets real loose when Fosse’s stand in character—SPOILER ALERT—does a joyous death scene with Ben Vereen set to a lengthy Vegas funk Beatles medley that builds and builds and bursts.
-Robert Dayton

The Apple (1980)
MGM | Dir: Menahem Golan

Made in 1980, this movie’s dystopian future of 1994 sure looks a lot better than the real dystopia of 1994 that we lived through. For one, there’s lotsa lamé and glitter-a-plenty! The Apple looks like some cockeyed cross between Phantom Of the Paradise and Can’t Stop the Music. It is positively gauche excess. On its premiere this movie did not fare well; audience members apparently tossed their complimentary soundtrack LPs at the screen in outrage. Hey, they rioted at Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring, didn’t they? Let’s get back to the great damage that was caused with a quick synopsis of The Apple. A young, wide-eyed couple from Moose Jaw (yes, THAT Moose Jaw still exists in the future) make earnest folk music that goes up against very produced Corporate fare at a World Music competition. They lose, of course, but that does not stop them from being taken through a music industry Hell. All forms of complete and utter debauchery are explicitly shown and sung about with unabashed glee, yet the movie also doubles as some form of religious allegory. They give us a glossy, tantalizing show of hedonism, then say that it is bad. And that is only one of the fascinatingly muddled aspects of this head-scratcher. The Mylar sets and costumes are so elaborate, yet there is no way they could actually function in reality. Like the rest of the movie, they are topheavy, ready to topple and none of the numerous musical numbers that parade past will break the fall. SOILER [sic] ALERT: all the good people in the end get their hands held as they are taken up on a stairway to Heaven by a burly, yet gentle bearded God figure in a flowing robe that they met one day in a park. With The Apple, don’t just take a bite, eat the whole damned pie, trust me.
-Robert Dayton

Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“Once More, With Feeling!” episode (2001)
Fox Video | Dir: Joss Whedon

No review of modern musicals would be complete without a mention of this episode from the Joss Whedon-created television program. Having grown up with musicals, facing the show’s sixth season and on a new network, Whedon decided it was time to bring a lifelong ambition to realization: writing a musical. With an outline of the entire season in mind, Whedon used the music to propel the storyline much further ahead than any regular episode could. In keeping with the tone of the series, the show had all the elements its fans had come to expect: fantasy, horror and humour, but tempered with some of the most heart-wrenching moments the show had produced to date. The songs followed the true spirit of traditional musicals, from classic showstoppers to modern rock opera bombast, with the lyrics both telling the story and revealing all the anxiety, love, and pain of the characters. Six years later, the ongoing cultural impact of the episode is still being felt. Thousands of fans across North America continue to get together to view the musical on the big screen and sing along with the characters.
-Robert Jamieson

Can’t Stop the Music (1980)
Anchor Bay | Dir: Nancy Walker

This is a shot in the dark, but I think the Village People might have been gay. Can’t Stop the Music was producer Allan Carr’s career-destroying attempt to capitalize on the freak success of “YMCA,” without giving the game away too much to an America that still hadn’t figured out why all those guys with mustaches were getting so excited about an all-male gym. As such, Can’t Stop the Music is careful to never speak the name of the love that dare not speak its name, relying instead on such covert symbols as Bruce Jenner in cut-off denims and a halter top, fag-hag icon Valerie Perrine busting up an all male soap-and-shower party with her exposed breasts, a song called “Liberation,” at least one very conspicuous neon rainbow, a climax set in San Francisco’s Galleria, and, most shockingly, a bizarre sequence concerning a TV commercial for milk that features a bunch of beaming tots dressed like the band—including the Leather Guy!!! Incredible. Sample dialogue: “Anybody who can swallow two snowballs and a dingdong shouldn’t have any trouble with pride.” The film also stars Steve Guttenberg, whose subsequent role in Police Academy might be considered an enormous step up. Weirdest of all, Can’t Stop the Music was directed by Nancy Walker, who was famous at the time for playing Rhoda Morgenstern’s mom in the TV series Rhoda. A wise-cracking New York Jew who looked like Eddie Munster and was only about four-feet tall, Walker proved herself to be a giant in the field of bad taste taken to an extreme, and we can only imagine how much cocaine it took to put her in charge. Seriously, why?
-Adrian Mack

Cannibal: The Musical (1996)
Troma | Dir: Trey Parker

This started out as a short film project for South Park’s Trey Parker while he was at the University of Colorado. Originally titled Alfred Packer: The Musical, the film is loosely based on the real events of Alfred Packer who was charged with cannibalism while lost in the wilderness in the 1870s. Expanded into feature form the movie was then picked up by Troma studios in 1996, who released the renamed film a year before South Park debuted on television. There, enough back-story. The film is what you would expect from the makers of Orgazmo and Baseketball. Featuring very silly, overly happy musical numbers all written by Parker himself, actual song titles include “Let’s build a snowman and Hang the Bastard.” Parker plays the role of Alfred Packer, legendary experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage makes an appearance, as does Matt Stone. This film, like most Troma releases, is a bit of an acquired taste and not because of the subject matter. The budget is tiny ($70,000) but its strength lies in Parker’s unrelenting ability to never take anything seriously. Indians are played by Japanese exchange students, beards are badly glued on and men dress in drag. Regardless the film has developed a strong cult following and the DVD features drunken director commentary, and is a must see if you want to know why there are so many damn songs in the South Park guys’ movies.
-Adam O. Thomas

Cry-Baby (1990)
Universal l Dir: John Waters

Despite the fact that Johnny Depp was in Nightmare on Elm Street, this was the movie that really launched his career. Playing against his 21 Jump Street teen idol image, here he’s a misunderstood greaser with a penchant for Rockabilly and eyes for the square chick from the good side of the tracks. While Hairspray is often mistaken as John Waters’ musical, Waters points out Hairspray was his dance movie and Cry-Baby was his musical. It was also the first movie where John Waters and the fine people of Baltimore had a significant budget to work with, beyond the Pink Flamingos days where Trannies ate dog pooh. Here the cast includes Iggy Pop (clean and sober), Ricki Lake (pre talk show host), Traci Lords (post teen porn), Patricia Hearst (post Symbionese Liberation Army), Joe Dallesandro (post Warhol factory) and Willem Dafoe (post Platoon), all of whom play it up, over the top and to perfection. A parody of ‘50s teenage delinquent films, at its heart Cry-Baby is about class and the ability to see beyond labels, something Waters has been on about since he started making movies with weirdoes and outcasts—that led to William S. Burroughs calling him “The Pope of Trash.”
-Adam O. Thomas

Forbidden Zone (1980)
Fantoma | Dir: Richard Elfman

I dunno why I put off seeing this for so long, maybe because it is forbidden? Isn’t something forbidden meant to be enticing? Well, if it has cooties, its cooties are googly-eyed that’s fer shure! Upon my first viewing, I had to see it again to be really sure I had just watched what I watched. Was what I watched, what I watched? Was it really in black and white? It sure seemed full colour in every other way. Forbidden Zone is a mountain of frantically paced absurdity, madcap musical numbers that borrow from Cab Calloway and the Three Stooges with an array of expressionistic sets. All taboos are squashed in a frenzy! Through a door in the Hercules family basement live action actors glide down through Fleischer Brothers inspired, animated intestine tubing straight to the Forbidden Zone, which is ruled by a midget king played by Herve Villechaize, a queen, and a topless princess. There’s a bow-tied frogman as well. Written by Matthew Bright (Freeway) and Richard Elfman, it was meant to capture what the musical act The Mystic Knights Of Oingo Boingo—Danny Elfman’s unbridled musical group that later became the much more sedate and simply named Oingo Boingo—was all about. Rub your eyes until you can’t rub no more but don’t rub too much cuz you just might miss something. It will change your life this week and the next and the next and the next and.…
-Robert Dayton

Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
Chimera | Dir: Takashi Miike

The opening scene: a winged statue in a bowl of soup comes to claymation life, tears the uvula from a screaming woman’s throat, eats it, gets eaten by a crow, the crow gets eaten by a creepy brown bag, a bunch of things eat each other, a crow shits on grandpa’s head…clearly, what we’re in for is a two hour family musical. Takashi Miike is the wild motherfucker who brought us Ichi the Killer, Audition and Gozu—in other words, the most insane, violent, brain-damagingly offensive and simply greatest creative cinema in the universe. Happiness is a Korean film, The Quiet Family, remade by Miike as a manic song-and-dance extravaganza. The story: Dad, canned from his job, decides to open a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere. The family business fails miserably, the multi-generational Katakuris fight each other and the few customers who finally do arrive drop dead under horrible circumstances. It takes a volcano, corpse stashing in the yard and murdering Captain Mullet of Britain’s Royal Navy to renew the family bonds. Of course, every event is cause for a gloriously choreographed sing-along to shit-kick Lloyd Webber. From J-Pop karaoke and pastoral Anne of Green Gables maritime fiddle, to feisty samba and The Sound of Music, the whole fiasco is fucking insane. Further proof that Japan does everything better.
-David Bertrand

Meet the Feebles (1989)
DVD Video | Dir: Peter Jackson

WOO! Peter Jackson at his despicable early peak! Meet the Feebles is The Muppet Show on crystal meth, Viagra, antifreeze and LSD. Harry the rabbit contracts an STD (“The Big One”); fatbreasted fading starlet Heidi the Hippo snoops her lover Bletch—a coke-dealing walrus—getting gummers from a pussycat; S&M queen Madame Bovine, a masked cockroach, and a panty-sniffing anteater make snuff and “nasal” porn films; a smack-addicted frog flashes back to ‘Nam (Vietcong are buck-toothed rodents!) and fatally craps the bed as the Feeble’s knifethrower, a Gandhi look-alike, shoves his head in his own ass. It’s all sandwiched by doo-wop musical skits like “Garden of Love,” “One Leg Missing (How do I get around?),” and teenage Heidi’s jazzy “Hot Potato.” The finale is a kill-crazy, squib-poppin’ machine gun gore bath, cut with the ultimate show-destroying song-and-dance routine, “Sodomy,” where giant cock props spew glitter as Sebastien the Fox coos, “Open up your ring/and try it front to bum/bum bum/bum bum bum bum…!” There are no humans in this movie; it’s all puppets and dudes in suits. And somehow, this makes Feebles so much more filthy and wrong.
-David Bertrand

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
20th Century Fox | Dir: Brian De Palma

Though it may be the dark horse, Phantom Of the Paradise delivers the goods oodles more than The Rocky Horror Picture Show ever did. This is THE quintessential glam rock movie! Simultaneously sinister and hilariously campy, it makes for one of director Brian De Palma’s finest hours. Every frame is an ingeniously conceived masterwork, including his trademark split screen used in one elaborate faux Beach Boys production number. Although Paul Williams wrote a lot of classic songs that are in the pop music lexicon, he really out does himself with this elaborate song cycle. Themes are repeated in a myriad of mirror fragments, a multitude of styles, ballsy and gentle, the diabolical and the fantastic. To think, the Rolling Stones were originally tapped in to do the soundtrack. I mean, when was the last time you put Goats Head Soup on your turntable? Paul Williams is the perfect tunesmith for the job, mixing honest Tin Pan Alley style craftsmanship with structural tricks whilst self-knowingly putting on and shrugging off musical styles with great ease. And he can really deliver the kick ass rock ‘n’ roll goods. Williams also plays the Phil Spector-like Swan, a satanic music business figure, with devious smirking glee. The movie naturally touches on The Phantom Of the Opera and goes for the throat with archetypal themes of Faust. This is a perfect musical; plot and production numbers meld seamlessly and flow like a wild roller coaster.
-Robert Dayton

Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
Synapse | Dir: John Fasano

From the potent mind and pectorals of Vancouver’s legendary Rock Warrior, Jon Mikl Thor (“Thunder on the Tundra”), comes this Canadian-made Genie & Juno-sweeping tearjerker. Thor, stretching his acting prowess, plays Jon Triton, leader of hair metal quintet The Tritonz. They drive—for four and a half astounding minutes of impossibly pointless screen time—to an abandoned rural shack “in Toronto” where they have “a month to come up with ten minutes of good new material!” We get awesome full-costume rehearsals of Thor-penned power glam, like “Energy” and “We Live to Rock,” with Thor sportin’ a silver magician’s tuxedo, a token gal on keyboard (like Neve Campbell in Catwalk!), and Stig, the comedy relief drummer, with the shittiest fake Aussie accent ever. But watch out Tritonz! In this house are roast chicken monsters, dollar-store masks and rubber-penis demons from Hell! Luckily, Jon Triton is revealed in the jaw-dropping finale to be The Intercessor, Warrior of God! Cue Satan himself (a poorly animated puppet) and Thor redressed in codpiece, cape, frizzled hair and Barbie glitter. Muscles are flexed in slow motion! Malicious Play-Doh starfish are annihilated! “Old Scratch” is heroically grappled into submission! The Lord of Darkness—defeated with a chokehold! With booze and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare quickly leaps to religious proportions. It’s bad cinema at its baddest; the ‘80s at their most majestically atrocious. You owe yourself the treat. Rent it.
-David Bertrand

Sextette (1978)
Rhino | Dir: Ken Hughes

Along with Nixon, the Jonestown massacre, and the appearance of Mork from Ork in the last season of Happy Days, Sextette comes from the very darkest underside of the ‘70s. And while America at large might have forgotten this alleged “musical,” it remains our responsibility to make sure something like Sextette never happens again, in spite of the temptation to howl with sick amusement. In reality, the onscreen humiliation of one of the great stars of Golden Era Hollywood, Mae West, is a little too much to bear. Especially since the premise here, that the raunchy 80 year-old Vaudevillian is sexually irresistible to everyone, including, among others, the US Olympic Team, isn’t really played for laughs. Even if it was, Sextette would still be irreversibly damaged and wrong for a bunch of other reasons, but the film’s ambiguous tone leaves it up to the nauseated viewer to decide if West—who supplied the film’s premise—is sincere about generating heat with her co-star, Timothy Dalton (who looks like he might vomit). As such, the befuddled and barrel-shaped octogenarian is mostly required to lean against solid objects, delivering double entendres that, seriously, don’t even make sense, while she bobs up and down like a silent-era cartoon. It’s the weirdest thing you’ll ever see, even without West and Dalton’s duet on “Love will Keep us Together.” Keith Moon’s cameo as a gay dressmaker is actually more tragic than his death the same year. It’s horrifying. Director Ken Hughes arrived at this demented ode to gerontophilia after covering the other end of the pervo-spectrum with the creepy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Highly recommended!
-Adrian Mack

Shock Treatment (1981)
20th Century Fox | Dir: Jim Sharman

“You’re not looking at a king. You’re looking at an ace.” It’s the follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show that no one has seen. Brad and Janet are back. Except this time round Brad is played by Cliff De Young and Janet is played by Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Suspiria). It’s six years after the RHPS and the two are married. Unfortunately, their marriage is on the rocks. Fortunately, they live in Denton, a town that’s been turned into a television station where all its citizens are either members of the cast or the live studio audience. The leader of this bizarre Truman show is fast food mogul, Farley Flavors (also played by Cliff De Young). Flavors thinks Janet has potential to be Denton’s next big star. Under the guise of fixing their marriage, Brad is institutionalized on a show called Dentonvale while Janet is groomed to become Denton’s next big thing. Magenta and Riff Raff return but this time they’re doctors. Columbia’s back as well but she’s a sexy nurse. The music is written by Richard O’Brien so it all sounds like the music from Rocky Horror with new lyrics. Musical highlights include “Bitchin in the Kitchen,” a song about relationships using kitchen appliance metaphors, “Farley’s Song,” a song about how great Farley Flavors is and “Little Black Dress,” a song about a slutty black dress. Bizarre and ahead of it’s time, the only reason this isn’t more popular than Rocky Horror is because it doesn’t give straight men an excuse to go to a dark theatre in drag.
-Michael Mann

Starstruck (1982)
Blue Underground | Dir: Gillian Armstrong

Musicals are great because no matter how bad life gets, there’s always a song for that moment and a group of people ready to synchronize movement in busy outfits all around you. Jackie Mullins (Jo Kennedy) is a somewhat promiscuous 18-year-old singer who works in her family-owned pub. She’s a firecracker who dreams of singing on her own terms—even if it means crashing a singing contest at the Sydney Opera House. Jackie’s brother Angus, 14, is her out-there manager. He is also obsessed with sex and playing clacker balls, and spies on his sister while she changes. Pervy, yes; but without his dedication to making her a star, Jackie would never have made it into the newspaper for tightrope walking in a fake, massive-breasted shirt. Starstruck is like a new-wave musical, with Kennedy looking and singing like a poppier Siouxsie Sioux-meets-Cyndi Lauper, complete with a struggling singer storyline and nonsensical scenes (see: old lady who throws cats into kitchen sink, gay cabana pool party). It’s easy to understand how ABBA became so huge down under. And if you have them, try watching the musical numbers wearing a glitter headband and holding an old NES gun controller. It will totally make sense.
-Patricia Matos

Trapped In The Closet (2005)
Jive | Dir: R. Kelly

Though not a conventional musical in the sense that people don’t get up and spontaneously dance in sync or know the words to songs that summarize their emotional state of mind, R. Kelly’s personal opus is possibly one of the weirdest and most hilarious deviations of the form ever released. More a hip-hop opera than a musical, Trapped In The Closet is a 90-minute narrative told through 12 chapters that feature R. Kelly as the central character and musical narrator who sings one long monotonous R&B song about a series of increasingly ridiculous situations concerning a love triangle, gay lovers, cheating women and a midget. What makes this so amazing is that while R. Kelly sings the whole time, the story is acted out by people lipsyncing to R. Kelly’s conversational style lyrics. So when he sings: “She looked at him and said, “Why you frontin’ ?” the actress in the scene looks at the other character and lip-synchs, “Why you frontin?’” If this seems convoluted it’s not. It’s very simple, and truthfully, it is totally spellbinding and laugh-out-loud funny, especially when R. Kelly rhymes things like “dresser” and “berretta.”
-Adam O Thomas

Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)
Out of print | Dir: James Fargo

In Voyage of the Rock Aliens, a craptacular musical extravaganza that was decades ahead of its time, Pia Zadora plays a sassy teenage gang leader facing extraterrestrials who are searching for the source of rock ‘n’ roll. The Aliens (who look an awful lot like a vacant, ‘80s German synthpop group) land their ship (a giant guitar??) in “Speelburg” (a.k.a. Atlanta) where they run into a gang of rockabilly buttwipes called “The Pack” (Jimmy & the Mustangs), a loopy sheriff (Ruth Gordon), a robot disguised as a fire hydrant and two escapees from a mental asylum who kill random high school students. In an unrelated plotline, a sea monster from Lake Eerie exudes soap bubbles. Yes, this is retarded. But the real reason to get excited is the music. This is a perfect example of that goofy, affected ‘80s pop that metalheads are still desperately trying to forget. I’m excitedly talking about the astonishing yet entirely-unrelated-to-the-plot, six-minute, postapocalyptic duet called “When the Rain Begins to Fall” with Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora. Listen, go search the song title on YouTube right now, it’ll blow your fucking mind. Oh, and then there’s renegade gang leader (complete with chains wrapped around his upper thigh) Craig Sheffer lip-synching a sappy ditty called “Nature of the Beast” where he broods about his own “dark, elusive eyes.” BARRRF! You need to visually ingest this forgotten cult-film oddity, but it won’t be easy. The long-outta-print VHS is only found for rent in the ‘Couve at Videomatica on West 4th Avenue. There is no DVD version, save for a Region 2 disc that you’ll have to order from the UK if you’re that desperate.
-Robin Bougie

Wild Zero (2000)
Synapse | Dir: Tetsuro Takeuchi

Let’s say the dead rise from their graves and start feasting on the flesh of the living. If you could only pick one band to save the world, who would it be? Well I’m sorry, but if you picked any band except Japanese garage noise punks Guitar Wolf, you’d be dead. This over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll zombie flick is Japan’s answer to Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. We’re in the midst of an alien/zombie invasion and Ace, a young Guitar Wolf fan, is in trouble. Fortunately, the band gave him a magic whistle that only Guitar Wolf can hear and they’re off to the rescue. Get ready for a lot of feedback and a lot of exploding heads as Guitar uses handguns, laser guitar picks, a bazooka and the power of rock to save the day. Why not up the ante by playing the drinking game that goes along with the DVD? You have to take a drink every time someone combs their hair, says “Rock ‘n’ Roll” or a head explodes. Good luck not dying of alcohol poisoning by the halfway point. But Wild Zero isn’t all zombie mayhem. There’s a valuable message that rock ‘n’ roll has no gender boundaries as Guitar Wolf encourage Ace to pursue a homosexual relationship. As if Gene Simmons would ever do that.
-Michael Mann

Xanadu (1980)
Universal | Dir: Robert Greenwald

Nominated for five Razzie awards (Worst Actress, Worst Film, Worst original song, Worst screenplay and a special “lifetime achievement” award for “Worst musical made in 25 years”) Xanadu has built a solid reputation as unwatchable cinematic garbage, but we’re here to inform you that like so many things that are oddly labeled as bad, this unapologetically bubbly movie is incredibly entertaining. Released in 1980, Xanadu was the Altamont for the ‘70s—in that it signaled the end of that beloved brown and yellow era while opening the neon plastic Pandora’s Box we know as the ‘80s. It gathered up elements of the late ‘70s (disco, roller skating, wacked-out laser FX, feathered hair, ELO), and farted all over them in magnificent, vapid, me-generation fashion. Watching this theatrical mixture is like downing a shopping bag of Skittles, pooping them into your hand and gobbling ‘em back down again. And guess what? It tasted like Skittles the second time around too! Starring saccharine-sweet Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck (“Swan” in The Warriors), and a very out of place Gene Kelly, Xanadu is, through its fashion, sets, music, and performances, fearless in what it’ll stoop to doing in order to bring a broad smile to your face. This shit even sports a weird and wonderful animated musical number by Don Bluth (the guy behind The Secret of Nihm and the Dragon’s Lair video game), as well as the hallucinatory concept of musically combining 40s Zoot Suit-ers and 80s Devo-esque jumpsuit-ers. Braving all levels of camp without being self-aware in the slightest, Xanadu deserves some street cred. I watch this crazy-ass movie at least twice a year, and it somehow gets more entertaining every goddamn time.
-Robin Bougie


Introduction: Michael Mann

Illustration: Mike Shantz

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