CONTINUING Musical May at Film Torments, we’re taking a look at one of the most baffling, ill-advised and awful musicals ever set to film: 1980’s chop-shop disaster, The Apple.
The Apple (1980) is a nightmarishly garish and ear-rendingly awful musical vision of the distant future of 1994. It is also probably the most heavy-handed attempt at polemic… satire (?) ever set to music. You see, the titular apple is actually a dead clever metaphor for consumerism, and it’s a metaphor director Menahem Golan will attempt to shove very far down your throat.
Golan, who sadly passed away last year, is otherwise known for bringing the world such gems as Masters of the Universe, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, as well as for being a one-time joint-owner of that fine purveyor of recycled/repurposed cinematic trash, The Cannon Group. Throughout his career, Golan developed a reputation for buying up atrocious scripts from dubious sources and making them into atrocious films which generally bombed; probably a great source of inspiration for today’s Uwe Boll. With The Apple, Golan repurposed a Hebrew stage musical by Coby and Iris Recht into a bizarre dystopian parable, spit-balling a glitzy, tasteless, suppurating look at the future of glamour and pop.
Know then, that it is the year one thousand, nine-hundred and ninety four and the biggest band in the world is the super group known as B.I.M. – comprising Dandi (Allan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy); along with about 32 fabulously stupid looking supporting members we presumably neither know nor care about. Why 1994? Presumably, Golan felt 1984 was too drab and lacked the sparkly quality he was looking for (not to mention those pesky copyrights).
B.I.M’s repertoire apparently consists of one track, ‘B.I.M.’, the single verse of which is filled with double-negatives and non-sequiturs, half of which don’t rhyme: “There ain’t no good / there ain’t no tears” and one refrain which is repeated ad absurdum to the point it will literally haunt your dreams: “Hey! Hey! Hey! B.I.M.’s on the way!” But trite repetition seems to sell in 1994, as the audience at World Vision (the natural successor to Eurovision) rapturously chant B.I.M.’s one and only hook.
When a doe-eyed duo of Canadian kids from the one-horse town of lil’ Moose: Jaw Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), strike up their “Love, the Universal Melody”, they are raucously booed by the teen audience, who clearly haven’t had enough ‘B.I.M.’. Gradually, however, their banal monotone strikes a chord with the crowd.
This brings Alphie and Bibi to the malevolent attentions of Mr Boogalow (Vladek Shaybal) – the (cough) diabolical mastermind behind B.I.M. and his dandy/assistant Shake (Ray Shell). In what is otherwise a mottled, discordant affair of terrible writing and zero-dimensional characters, Boogalow and Shake really stand out as shining beacons of camp entertainment.
Their turn in ‘Showbizness’ is a perfect storm of overbearing pretentiousness and fabulous stupidity which serves as a brilliant epicentre to the film: “Like a bleary eyed-baboon, to an organ-grinder’s tune / mankind screamies for whatever bits of dreamies we might treat them to.”Don’t get me wrong-they’re still genuinely awful, terrible even, but they elevate the overriding awfulness of the film to a level of camp that actually makes it entertaining.
The Apple is the sort of movie that starts off badly and steadily builds to a cacophony of awfulness. Alphie and Bibi quickly begin falling into Boogaloo’s snare; a sip of champagne and a pill from a stranger immediately put paid to Bibi’s inhibitions as she starts making out with Dandi, seduced by his dulcet tones in ‘I Found Me’, which is, essentially, an anthem to date-rape.
Alphie is talked into attending a contract signing session by Bibi, where they are told a promotion tour for their first, unmade album is already in the works: “First you sell it, then you make it.” But Alphie backs out after a series of random visions, beginning with an earthquake and devolving into one of the more spectacularly wtf sequences where Bibi and Alphie, as Adam and Eve, find themselves in a crappy looking hellscape, where Boogalow, as Satan, presents Bibi with an enormous sheeny plastic apple.
It gets dumber. Bibi becomes the next big B.I.M. star with her hit song ‘Speed’, the closest thing The Apple has to a respectable track. It’s still dull, tuneless and ponderously heavy-handed. Alphie, meanwhile, is dealing with the harsh and unremitting reality of a world dominated by a static, totalitarian media and a government that introduces a “B.I.M hour”. This is a literal hour of the day when the people of the US (and possibly the world) must, by law, stop whatever they are doing to dance to that nauseating refrain from ‘B.I.M.’, for an hour.
What follows is an endless sequence of dancers, and old people on trains, cavorting and stretching to that one fucking refrain in a series of Village People outfits, including: riot police, firemen and of course the obligatory Carthusian monks of the future (replete with Styrofoam pyramid heads). If the intended effect was to leave the audience drooling from sheer befuddlement, then Golan really knows his shit.
Alphie decides his only hope for saving Bibi, is to get Boogalow to tear up her contract and chases him down to a clubhouse full of transvestites having make-out orgies. But he quickly gets distracted when Pandi offers him a drink of suspicious green gloup which Alphie dutifully quaffs and begins seeing transvestites everywhere in ambi-vision. Pandi then seduces- or really, pretty much straight up rapes Alphie- in what is probably the most unambiguously explicit song ever to make it to PG-rating: ‘Coming For You’. Clue: IT’S ABOUT SEX.
Alphie flees and wakes up on a bench with “The Hippie Leader” (Joss Ackland), who tells him about his own mysterious people: “Refugees from the 60s, otherwise known as hippies.” Considering the setting is 1994, most of the hippies are weirdly young. Alphie and Bibi find peace among these smelly cave-dwelling folk until Boogalow comes to claim back Bibi with lawyers and riot-police in-tow.
The Apple then throws whatever shredded core of sanity it had left to the winds, as Mr. Topps (Ackland), a white-clad beneficent from the clouds, arrives to deliver Alphie, Bibi and the hippies from Boogalow and his droogs, leading these chosen few across a green-screened sky. Das Rheingold, it ain’t. Roll credits.
You could fill several reviews, if not several volumes, with everything wrong with The Apple. It’s a wreck from start to finish, a special, rarefied level of bad that you just don’t see very often. The implication any sane viewer would like to draw from The Apple is that it is a satire, a joke. Surely, no-one could really hope this film would, or even could, be taken seriously.
Thing is, there’s every indication that Golan and his fellow producers were gunning for a thoughtful allegory on the evils of the music industry and consumerism in general, oblivious to the irony of a large bureaucratic corporation producing a crass musical about a large bureaucratic corporation mass-producing crass music.
In this regard, it’s hard to see how they could have failed more spectacularly. However, like many a terrible film, The Apple does have an almost endearing quality of compulsive clumsiness. It’s like a lovable inbred mongrel: she tries so earnestly, wagging her tail, but she gets everything, so, so wrong.