The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu is Peter Sellers’ last film. Xanadu is Gene Kelly’s. When both were released on August 8, 1980, I recall being in a very new multiplex in a Salisbury, Maryland mall trying to pick which to watch. I saw Peter Sellers on one poster; I saw Olivia Newton-John on the other. (I knew nothing about Gene Kelly until An American in Paris entered my late teens.)
I decided to watch the awfully racist The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, and even then, as a mere boy, I knew it was terrible, and regretted not picking Xanadu, which I saw a few years later and loved. It’s certainly bad, but it’s a film about the rollerskating craze of its time and it had the camp cred that the great American culture critic Susan Sontag made intellectually respectable in 1964. Also, I love Olivia Newton-John’s title track, “Xanadu,” and still dance to it: “Now that you are here...”
Xanadu screens at the Grand Illusion between Jul 9 and Jul 13.