While movie musicals had their heyday in the 1940s through the 60s, by the 70s they were beginning to wane, and by 1980, they weren't doing well at all. With the selection present at the time, however, it's no big shock that they didn't. Here are some of 1980's notoriously cheesy musicals which haven't gotten any better with age.
1. The Apple
It's over the top. The best compliment you can give it is that it makes good use of sequins. And it's set in the far off future"¦of 1994. Adapted from an Israeli stage play, The Apple is a heavy-handed biblical allegory about temptation that seems to think disco has no chance of ever dying. Audiences at the Los Angeles premiere loved the movie so much they threw their soundtracks at the screen, causing extensive damage. The only other positive thing about the movie is that none of its stars seems to have escaped with their careers intact; however, Nigel Lythgoe, the film's choreographer, has gone on to produce American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Did I mention that the end of the movie consists of God taking the protagonists away in his magic sky Cadillac? It's not to be missed.
2. Can't Stop the Music
Filmed at the height of 1979's disco craze and produced by Allan Carr (coming off of the massive success of Grease), Can't Stop the Music had the unfortunate luck of being released after disco had already peaked and was starting to experience a backlash. Directed by Nancy Walker (best known as Ida on the TV show Rhoda) and starring The Village People in a pseudo-biography of their start, the film was actually award-winning. Don't worry, we're not talking Oscars here. 1980 was the year the Golden Raspberry Awards started. CSTM took home the first "Worst Picture" and "Worst Screenplay" awards given out by the group, and was nominated for 5 others.
This one seems to have all the right pieces. Olivia Newton-John, fresh from her success in the film version of Grease? Check. Music from Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) during the high point of their career? Check. Gene Kelly? Check. So what happened? Well, much like the previous 2 entries on the list, Xanadu celebrated Disco at a time when no one else did. Add a completely unbelievable plot (muses"¦rollerskating"¦huh?) and you've got a turkey on your hands. Xanadu cost $20 million to make, and barely made it back. The movie has had some luck recently, though. A Broadway version (complete with roller-skates and tongue-in-cheek references to the original) continues to do well, recently receiving 4 Tony nominations/awards.
Shame on you, Robert Altman. You can do better. We're looking at you too, Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. While the film made double its budget in the end, critics and word-of-mouth kept many filmgoers away from the theaters after opening weekend. Harry Nilsson's score was derided as unintelligible, and Altman's career suffered through most of the 1980s as a result of the movie's poor performance. Everyone eventually experienced a resurgence in their career's popularity (Altman with The Player, Duvall with The Shining, and Robin Williams with"¦being Robin Williams), but Popeye still stands as a blemish on their careers.
5. The Jazz Singer
Neil Diamond is a respected musician with a long career. The Jazz Singer is best known as being the first talking motion picture. But much like oil and water, these two don't mix well. Starring Diamond, Laurence Olivier (who stated he only did it for the money), and Lucie Arnaz, the vanity picture has an atrocious script, overly sappy songs, and horrible acting. The soundtrack was more successful than the movie, which was nominated for 5 Golden Raspberry awards and won 2 for "Worst Actor" (Neil Diamond) and "Worst Supporting Actor" (Laurence Olivier).
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