The Apple

apple-rev The Apple  (1980)    Cannon/Musical-Sci-Fi    RT: 86 minutes    Rated PG (language, violence, sexually suggestive content, a scene of drug use)    Director: Menahem Golan    Screenplay: Menahem Golan    Music: Coby Recht    Screenplay: David Gurfinkel    Release date: November 21, 1980 (US)    Cast: Catherine Mary Stewart, George Gilmour, Grace Kennedy, Alan Love, Vladek Sheybal, Joss Ackland, Ray Schell, Miriam Margolyes, Derek Deadman, Gunter Notthoff, Michael Logan, George S. Clinton, Clem Davies, Coby Recht, Francesca Poston.    Box Office: N/A

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 I’ve been in the movie-watching business for a long time and I’ve seen some doozies but The Apple takes the cake. It’s a futuristic sci-fi musical about a pair of young clean-cut singers who get drawn into the corrupt music industry by a Mephistophelian producer bent on world domination. It’s a glitzy, silly, cheesy, disco/rock extravaganza that gives Xanadu a run for its money in terms of tacky outrageousness. It’s so freaking bad, it’s GREAT!

the-apple I actually remember when The Apple opened in theaters. I wanted to see it but didn’t get around to it and it closed after a week. Sometimes I still kick myself for missing the opportunity to view this bad movie spectacle on the big screen. I was 12 at the time and still under the thumb of parents who didn’t understand or appreciate my passion for cinema. I didn’t actually get to see The Apple until 1994 which is hilarious since that’s the future year in which it takes place. Let me tell you, the 1994 envisioned by writer-director Menahem Golan (The Delta Force) in 1980 is nothing like the 1994 I remember.

 In the 1994 of The Apple, America (and presumably, the rest of the world) is overseen by a totalitarian government. Musical tastes are dictated by Mr. Boogalow (Polish actor Sheybal), the head of Boogalow International Music. The latest craze is a number called “Do the BIM!” sung by brother-sister musical duo Dandi (Love) and Pandi (Kennedy). It’s a shoo-in to win the Worldvision Song Festival; that is, until Alphie (Gilmour) and Bibi (Stewart, Night of the Comet) take the stage with a nice love song called “Universal Melody”. The crowd loves it and it almost beats the BIM until Boogalow cheats. However, he knows a good thing when he sees one so he invites the young couple from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to a party at his place where he wastes no time driving a wedge between them.

 Boogalow wants to sign the pair to his label. Bibi is all for it; Alphie has strong reservations, he doesn’t trust Boogalow. That’s when he experiences a waking nightmare that reveals the truth about the producer (as if we didn’t already know). He’s Satan. The fantasy/nightmare sequence shows the pair as Adam and Eve and the producer as the Dark One offering them a bite of a big apple (obvious Biblical symbolism!). Bibi partakes, Alphie doesn’t. Back in “reality”, Bibi signs her contract and Alphie storms out of the building. Of course, Bibi becomes an overnight sensation while Alphie fades into instant obscurity. She lives the high life while he rents a room from an older Jewish lady (Margolyes). He tries to lure her away from Boogalow but gets a brutal beatdown from the producer’s fang-toothed henchmen for his efforts.

 The Apple gets even nuttier from here. After being drugged and seduced at a party by Pandi and seeing Bibi in bed with Dandi, Alphie ends up on a park bench where he’s found by the leader (Ackland, Lethal Weapon 2) of a hippie cult that looks like the cast of a road company production of Hair. He invites Alphie to join them in their simple life away from modern society (a cave under a bridge). It isn’t long before Bibi finally comes to her senses and leaves Boogalow. She finds out where Alphie is and joins him. A year goes by and they have a child together. Then Boogalow, his lawyers and the police come calling. It seems that Bibi is in breach of contract and owes her former agent $10 million. Since she can’t pay up, she and the rest of her new family are arrested. Just when it seems all hope is lost, all are saved by a literal deus ex machina. An apparition of a golden Rolls Royce descends from the sky and a Mr. Topps (Ackland) steps out and materializes before their eyes. He says that he’s had it with Boogalow and invites all the good people to come with him to start over somewhere else. All of them (and a repentant Pandi too) ascend and walk off into the clouds. End of movie.

 I don’t usually describe an entire movie but one as crazy as The Apple calls for it. But I can only tell you about it. It’s another thing altogether to experience it for yourself. You totally should! It’s a lot of eye-rolling, head-shaking, unintentionally hilarious fun. The key adjective here is “tacky”. “Gaudy” works too. The costumes look like something from a disco nightmare. The characters wear an awful lot of glitter and sparkly things. The sets look as futuristic as anything from a bad sci-fi B movie from the 60s. The musical numbers are amazing…. amazingly bad, that is. One of them, a disco ditty called “Coming” features male and female extras rolling around in beds while Pandi tries to seduce Alphie. One thing The Apple is not is subtle if you catch my meaning. A few other extra dancers look like charter members of the Glenn Hughes (aka the Leather Guy from the Village People) fan club. Either that or they wandered off the set of Cruising. Another song is a heartfelt piece called “Cry for Me” in which Bibi and Alphie express their regrets over their choices and how much they miss and need each other. I’ll mention one other bit called “Showbizness” in which all the acts waiting to see Boogalow (musicians, magicians, clowns and God knows what else) break into this elaborate number. It’s weird yet it’s one of the movie’s best scenes. Many of the songs are forgettable; the ones that aren’t are pretty good. The dancing and choreography aren’t half-bad either meaning I’ve seen worse. At least Xanadu had Gene Kelly.

 I had the privilege of getting to know Golan via FaceBook the last few years of his life. I told him of my fondness for many of his films under the Cannon banner with The Apple being at the top of the list. He was grateful for the compliment but for me, it wasn’t mere flattery. It really is a great film in its own right. I LOVE the cheesy sets and costumes. I LOVE the bad musical numbers. I LOVE the whacked-out storyline that feels like the end product of a nightlong coke-and-writing session. The campy acting is also a highlight. Sheybal so looks his part, it’s disappointing the makers didn’t think to have him wear a pair of horns on his head and a tail on his behind (or maybe they did, who knows?). Stewart is good as the innocent girl-next-door singer lured into a life of PG-level sin and debauchery. Gilmour didn’t go very far in his acting career; in fact, The Apple is his sole credit. Seeing him in action, it’s easy to see why he chose a different path in life (what that might be, I’m sure I don’t know). He is a good singer though.

 It would be untrue to say that I don’t ask a lot of movies because I do. But I do know when to adjust my expectations and take what a given movie has to offer. I knew long before my first viewing that The Apple would be a bad movie; its reputation preceded it. Well, it exceeded my expectations. It’s a bad movie of epic proportions. It’s gloriously idiotic on every level and wonderfully inept in every respect. It depicts a future where disco is alive and well which it most certainly was not in 1980 making it the third movie musical that year (after Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu) that was dated prior to its release (1979 is the official death date for disco). It’s a future where the BIM has taken over and everybody is required to wear a BIM sticker (a glittery triangle) in a visible place or risk being ticketed by the fascist police. An hour of each day is set aside for mandatory BIM exercise. Everybody must stop what they’re doing (even firefighters and surgeons!) and.... you guessed it, do the BIM! This future also features a lot of matching jumpsuits.

 The Apple is unintentionally hilarious. Wait until you get a load of the dialogue and song lyrics. Here are a few quick samples:

Hippie leader: “These are children of the 60s…. commonly known as hippies.”

Here’s a brief exchange atop a building:

Bibi: “I’ve never been so high in my life!”

Dandi: “You’re joking.”

And check out these brilliant lyrics (from the Garden of Eden/Hell number “The Apple”):

Dandi: “It’s the natural, natural, natural desire…. to meet an actual, actual, actual vampire.”

The Apple is a true extravaganza. It’s a disco/rock musical, a futuristic sci-fi tale AND a Biblical allegory. It’s easily one of the weirdest, wildest movies I’ve ever seen. I miss the days when movies like this could get made and released theatrically. Bad movies aren’t what they used to be. These days, they’re just bad. Back around 1980, they were fun. Look at “The Apple” number. Dandi looks like a cross between Rocky (from Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Roger Daltrey from Ken Russell’s Lisztomania. The Apple is true brilliance! I just hope somebody doesn’t attempt a remake. This is one that needs to be left alone. It’s best appreciated in its original form.

QUESTION: Did this movie’s antagonist in any way inspire the title Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (still one of the greatest movie titles EVER!)?

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