Tag Archive for Grease

Stop the Music! (Part 1 of 3)

CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC, from left: Valerine Perrine, Bruce Jenner, 1980, © Associated Film Distribution

10 Bizarre Movie Musicals
You Have to See to Believe
Part 1 of 3

Before you go out to watch that little elf from Legend prance around as a “rock god” in Rock of Ages, see how many of these weird movie musicals you’ve heard of, let alone endured in their entirety.

10. Can’t Stop the Music (1980)

By the time Bruce Jenner hooked up with the Kardashian clan, he already had experience dealing with superficial sluts, namely, the Village People. Jenner made his film debut in Can’t Stop the Music after being crowned the “World’s Greatest Athlete.” Despite having set three world records in the Decathlon and a Gold medal win at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, he very nearly added “World’s Worst Actor” to his impressive résumé. Thankfully, this would be his last starring role.

Ostensibly a bio pic, Can’t Stop the Music sets out to tell the story of the formation of the seminal disco ensemble Village People. Producer Allan Carr was coming off a huge box office hit with Grease, and clearly thought he could catch lightning in the bottle once again by capitalizing on the disco craze. Problem is, he and his bottle were a little late as disco had already overstayed its welcome by the time Can’t Stop sashayed into theatres.

This film supposedly has the dubious distinction of being the only PG-rated movie to include full frontal male nudity (during the “Y.M.C.A.” production number) in its theatrical release. I’m not even going to try to confirm that. If you have any doubts, be my guest and seek out the “evidence,” just don’t come back and complain to me if you get it.

Can’t Stop the Music is the reason there is a Razzie (Golden Raspberry) Award given out each year for Worst Picture. This film set the bar pretty damn low, but films like Howard the Duck and Gigli have somehow been able to limbo underneath it ever since. Still, as the first winner ever, it’s place in bad film history is firmly secured.

9. Grease 2 (1982)

If at first you don’t succeed, go back to the well one more time. Producer Allan Carr may have mistimed his previous effort with Can’t Stop the Music, but surely what movie audiences REALLY wanted was a sequel to his smash hit Grease, right? Wrong.

Well, maybe. Maybe if John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John returned. Maybe if Randal Kleiser returned to direct. Maybe if there was a Broadway musical to provide Tony Award-caliber songs. Sadly, none of those maybes came to pass.

Instead, Grease choreographer Patricia Birch was asked to pull double duty and direct as well as choreograph this slap job. A pre-Scarface Michelle Pfeiffer is probably this film’s only saving grace, and her star was rising so fast that even this 115-minute millstone couldn’t hold her down. As Stephanie Zinone, she is the new leader of the Pink Ladies, and is in the market for a little British strange in the form of Maxwell Caulfield’s Michael Carrington. This, predictably, causes tension with her ex, the new leader of the T-Birds, Johnny Nogerelli (Adrian Zmed of T.J. Hooker “fame”). Everyone involved is left with no recourse but to sing and dance about their woes (as well as reproduction, bowling, and atomic terror) for nearly two hours.

Supposedly, as of 2008, Paramount’s straight-to-DVD division, Paramount Famous Productions, was developing a number of undoubtedly shoddy sequels to popular Paramount properties. Grease 3 might be on its way to you on Blu-Ray after all these years. Pink Ladies and T-Birds rejoice while the rest of us weep.

8. Xanadu (1980)

Olivia Newton-John might as well have done Grease 2. It’s not like she was parlaying her Pink Lady cred into a legit career in film. Instead, she was signing up for the romantic musical fantasy Xanadu.

Xanadu is so far removed from its original source material, it might have been carried on the backs of sherpas from Broadway to the Himalayas. Let’s see if I can get this straight. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) was an adaptation of Harry Segall’s stage play about a man mistakenly taken to Heaven before his time and given a second chance on Earth. It spawned a sequel, Down to Earth (1947). Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty and picking up 9 Oscar nominations (winning one). So, naturally, Xanadu is a remake of Down to Earth and, thus, an unofficial sequel to Heaven Can Wait. Surely it can capture a little bit of that Oscar magic from just two short years ago, no?

Well, sure, especially considering the filmmakers were able to identify the one key component missing from its predecessors: Roller disco. Oh, and hey, why not throw in dancing legend Gene Kelly reprising his role as Danny McGuire from Cover Girl (1944). That way they can capture that huge crossover demographic between roller disco aficianados and those with fond memories of 1940s musical romances. Assuming they were in their early teens in 1944, they would be age 50 by the time Xanadu hits theaters and hence in perfect roller disco form. Or maybe it was just a case of the producers throwing enough shit against the wall in the misguided hopes that something had to stick.

Be sure to return tomorrow for Part 2 of our little waltz through the world of weird movie musicals.