Xanadu (1980)

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Released 4-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (0:51)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 91:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Greenwald

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Olivia Newton-John
ene Kelly
Michael Beck
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Barry De Vorzon

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-R-LS-RS (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, partly during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†† Come on, admit it. You have got one - we all have. You know what I am talking about. Just admit it. No, not the hidden porno DVDs, but something even more unmentionable. Come on, you do know what I am talking about - that guilty pleasure DVD sitting waayyyyyyy back in the cabinet where you hope that no one will find it, but where you know for sure it is so that you can grab it when needed. You know, that DVD that if your mates found would result in endless jokes at your barbeques. Well, if you are not enough of a woman or man to admit it, I am. I don't have one of them but three of them: Weird Science, Mannequin and Xanadu. Guilty pleasure DVDs one and all and I am happy to admit it. So what exactly is a guilty pleasure DVD? Usually some critically lambasted film that is about as far from Oscar winning as the Earth is from the Moon. A film that usually has more holes than Swiss Cheese, acting far cheesier than Kraft Cheese Spread and all the production values of a kindergarten play. Yet for all its known and recognised faults, even by the owner, a film that for some reason just strikes a chord with us and we are happy to indulge in despite its relative crappiness. Which is precisely the category that Xanadu falls into.

†††Do we really care whether it is a guilty pleasure film or not? Not really, for we just like to watch and enjoy despite everything that is inherently wrong with the film, which to be blunt would take a fairly long list to itemise, but all of which is completely forgotten for some reason, which in my case is Olivia Newton-John. Ah, those heady days of the 1970s where I had a serious infatuation with this gorgeous woman. Of course, we never met so I could never convince her that I was the right bloke for her, but what the heck. A guy can always dream. In some ways I am probably still dreaming, but that is part of what makes Xanadu a guilty pleasure DVD.

†††So for those that do not know the charms of this great film, the story, such as it is, is quite simple. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl unobtainable, girl eventually won over and tosses away everything that makes her unobtainable to be obtainable. Oh, and some has-been clarinettist gets grandiose ideas about one last fling with a nightclub. The boy happens to be struggling artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck). The girl happens to be Kira (Olivia Newton-John), one of the nine muses. Has-been clarinettist is Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly). The nightclub is Xanadu. Which is all pretty much the very loose thread of a story around which are hung a bunch of good songs featuring Olivia Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, The Tubes and Cliff Richard. As you might have gathered, you would not be indulging this film for its great story, strong characters and genuine acting.

†††You would be indulging in this film for ninety minutes of guilty but pleasurable escapism, though. Yes, the story sucks somewhat but what the heck. Yes, the acting sucks somewhat, but what the heck. Yes, the direction sucks somewhat, but what the heck. Yes, the cinematography sucks somewhat, but what the heck. All this stuff is completely irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. What this is all about is some good music, some nice costuming and plenty of Olivia playing Olivia. Enough said in my book.

†††Frankly, I would be hard-pressed to give an unbiased opinion of this movie. I know it is no Gone With The Wind, but that is completely so not the point. It's all about those ninety minutes of escapism and in my book, this is a winner in that regard. If you are looking for another guilty pleasure DVD to add to the collection, then ordinarily this would be atop the list. For reasons that soon will become obvious, recommending this DVD for anything is an horrendously difficult task.

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Transfer Quality


††† I suppose it is only fair to say straight out that this 21st Anniversary edition release, on which no special attention has been lavished, looks pretty much like it is 21 years old - and more. Indeed, it pretty much looks like the way I feel the morning after the night before.

††† The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

††† I knew from the Region 1 transfer that I was not going to be getting much more than average in the video transfer department and that was precisely what I got. Adequate sharpness, adequate detail and definition, rather below average shadow detail, a fair dollop of grain in general, with some specific sections being horrendously afflicted with grain (such as the section around the 31:00 minute mark). Clarity as a result is not the best and is decidedly ...... average. The sharpness appears to have been aided a tad by some edge enhancement such as at 45:20.

††† Had this been a recent film from say the last five years, this would have been a colour extravaganza like we rarely see. Had this been a carefully restored film from the early 1960s, this would have been a colour extravaganza like we rarely see. As it is, it is an unrestored film from the very early 1980s and it looks it. The colours have lost a lot of their neon-ish qualities and whilst quite bright and perfectly adequate in every way, they simply lack the gorgeous vibrancy that they were intended to have. Tonal depth is an issue and the blacks are certainly in need of some Kiwi boot polish. There was some hint of oversaturation in the red/orange colours during The Tubes performance around the 43:00 mark onwards.

††† There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are virtually absent from the transfer, with only minor instances of aliasing to worry the sharp-eyed (an example around 39:58 being typical of the issue, as well as in the closing credits). The big noticeable problem in this transfer right from the opening credits is the film artefacts. They are present in abundance and they are very, very noticeable, no matter where you look.

††† There are no subtitle options on this DVD.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† Well, lets get this out in the open as early as possible, since there have been a number of complaints to the site about the quality of the audio on the DVD. Quite simply put, the single soundtrack on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack, is an absolute shocker. The fact that this even passed quality control, after only a cursory listen to the test sample DVD (which is what we have reviewed), casts serious doubts upon the whole process. Frankly, this is so obviously bad that there is only one conclusion to draw from the fact that the DVD has actually been passed for release: that someone thought this aberration sounded good. The soundtrack has a format of L-R-LS-RS, but this is grossly misleading in my view. It should be clearly noted as being L-R-LS-RS, to reflect the atrocious balance of the soundtrack.

††† In my normal viewing position, located just to the back edge of the sweet spot in the soundfield of my setup, you generally get a nice, balanced sound that is quite natural in relation to the on-screen action. Well, not in this film it isn't, not by a long way. Indeed, the sound is so unnaturally balanced, with such a heavy, heavy bias to the rear surrounds that you barely register any noticeable action out of the front surrounds. In fact, the whole soundtrack gave me a rotten headache. If you want a shockingly bad example of inept sound mastering, then this DVD provides it. Whoever was responsible for the mastering, which is so obviously flawed, should be taken out and given a severe flogging. I don't think this is even a simple case of switching the front and rear channels, either.

††† Why? Well, for the simple reason that the soundtrack has a positively anorexic feel to it. It starts out with a kind of hollow, echoy feel to it that is completely lacking in body whatsoever. Whilst this tends to be adjusted to after a while, it remains an issue throughout the film and really robs the music of a heck of a lot of its impact. Anyone with the Region 1 release will note the difference between the two soundtracks immediately. Even though the Region 1 has nominally the same 4.0 format (although configured differently - as L-C-R-S), it has a distinct body to the sound such that the music really comes out thumping, even though there is no bass track. Overall, this is a sad, sad effort of a soundtrack that should never have passed quality control. In my view the DVD should be recalled and consumers should boycott the DVD until such time as a re-release is forthcoming.

††† Apart from those serious complaints, the vocals were generally clear and easy to understand. Unfortunately, there did seem to be some issues with audio sync here and there, although I would put these problems down to rather sloppy ADR work as they are also present on the Region 1 release.

††† The musical score comes from some hack known as Barry De Vorzon, but thankfully it is way overshadowed by the music provided by Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra, as well as the songs provided by John Farrar. The musical numbers that give the film its entire raison d'Ítre are wonderful, and the soundtrack CD is a highly recommended purchase in my opinion (if you can find it). The botched soundtrack does its best to destroy the music, and to a large extent succeeds, but at least enough shines through to indicate that we are missing a bucketload here.

††† I think I have said all I need to say about the soundtrack really, but will finish off with stating that there are no obvious blemishes to further destroy the sound and that there is nothing in the way of bass channel work here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


††† Well, at least some effort was made, even if it is fairly pointless.


††† Some modest audio enhancement overlays the rather average menus.

Theatrical Trailer (0:51)

†††Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with what sounds like Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. That is the good news. The bad news is that it is of atrocious quality, suffering badly from both film artefacts and woefully washed-out colour. To add insult to injury, even with the generally woefully washed-out colour, the main title credit towards the end of the trailer is in horridly oversaturated and bleeding red.

Gallery - Photo

††† Ten publicity stills taken behind the scenes or stills from the film itself. Other than the fact that Olivia appears in most of them, not an awful lot to write home about.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† In comparison to the Region 1 release, the Region 4 release misses out on:

††† The Region 1 release misses out on:

††† A direct comparison between the two versions indicates a very similar video transfer, with very little to choose between them. Even the dreaded 3:2 pull-down effect does not make that much difference to the quality of the picture on my setup and with my eyes. So, visually we will call it even. Audio-wise though, the Region 1 release has it all over the Region 4 release. The Region 1 4.0 soundtrack is full of body, such that even the music really has a thumping feel to it - despite there being no bass channel. All in all, this is a no-brainer of a decision - Region 1 by such a long margin that the Region 4 does not even get off the starting line.


††† Just in case the words above are not adequate enough warning for a shocking audio transfer, then I make one another warning - this is going into the Hall Of Shame. There is simply no way that this shoddy an effort should have got past even the most cursory of quality control efforts and every DVD consumer should be warned to steer well clear of the DVD, which truly is a great shame as this is one of the all-time best guilty pleasure DVDs that I could own. Caveat emptor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, March 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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The DVD Bits - David E
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Kevin S
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - David Deviously

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