Thursday, July 20, 2017

1980 Week: The Apple

          Highly entertaining documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) explores, in part, the cultural dissonance that resulted whenever Cannon’s founders, Israelis Menaham Golan and Yoram Globus, attempted to create movies for the international market without realizing how idiomatically they approached storytelling. As a small example of this nuance, consider a moment in the batshit-crazy musical The Apple, which Golan directed. Entering a messy apartment, a landlady exclaims: “What happened in here, a pogrom?” Or consider The Apple itself, a staggeringly wrong-headed epic using a story about the disco-era music business as an allegory for the fall of Adam and Eve from God’s grace. Yes, the apple at the heart of the story—represented, per the film’s bigger-is-better aesthetic, by a gigantic prop the size of a watermelon—is a symbol of man’s eternal sin.
          Don’t get the idea, however, that The Apple is purely high-minded, because the picture also contains one of the filthiest original songs ever composed for a motion picture. That’s how it goes with The Apple, and that’s how it went with most of the terrible movies that Golan and Globus unleashed on the world during their decades-long reign of cinematic terror. More than just bad taste, chintzy budgets, and grade-Z actors, the Cannon Films brand was synonymous with misguided storytelling. The Apple is perhaps the apex of Cannon leaving human reality behind to venture into parts unknown.
          Set in the future, the film imagines a bizarre scenario wherein a music-publishing company becomes the dominant political force in the world, controlling the economy through the popularity of its rock stars. Naturally, the head of the publishing company, Boogaloo (Vladek Sheybal), is the devil figure in this parable. His victims are the story’s Adam and Eve characters, sensitive and wholesome singer-songwriters Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), who hail from the random location of Moosejaw, Canada. When the story begins, Alphie and Bibi try performing their ballad about love, “The Universal Melody,” during Univsion’s famous song contest. (In real life, the contest introduced the world to ABBA, so there’s that.) Boogaloo tampers with speakers during the duo’s performance, ensuring that his prefab band wins the contest. Then Boogaloo tempts Alphie and Bibi with the promise of a recording contract. Bibi accepts the offer—a moment dramatized by a dream sequence set in hell, complete with the aforementioned giant apple—but Alphie does not.
          Thereafter, the movie tracks Bibi’s degrading transformation into a slutty pop star. Meanwhile, Alphie mopes about the cost of integrity. Eventually, Boogaloo decrees that everyone in the world must wear a “BIM sticker,” emblematic of his publishing company’s brand name, or else risk arrest. Alphie gets pulled into Boogaloo’s seductive web, only to help Bibi escape so they can find God—excuse me, “Mr. Topps” (Joss Ackland)—hiding in a hippie commune. It’s all much weirder than it sounds, and the whole thing is presented like a bad ’70s TV special: think shiny costumes, sexualized dance numbers, and star filters. The most staggering moment involves the original song “Coming,” a tune cooed by one of Boogaloo’s acolytes—a sexy African-American chanteuse—on the occasion of luring Alphie into bed. As she writhes atop Alphie, she moans these lyrics: “Make it harder and harder and faster and faster, and when you think you can’t keep it up, I’ll take you deeper and deeper and tighter and tighter, and drain every drop of your love.”
          Is it hot in here, or is it just me?
          Golan and his collaborators employ seemingly every musical style imaginable, as if the notion of a guiding aesthetic never occurred to them; The Apple has ballet, tap, reggae, and more. Adding to the weirdness is the international cast. Stewart, appearing in her first film, is an actual Canadian who sounds like she’s from the American heartland, while Gilmour, who never appeared in another film, sounds indecipherably European. Playing the devil character is a Polish actor who sounds Israeli, and playing the God character is an English actor who sounds German. Plus, for every song that’s more or less palatable—despite its salaciousness, “Coming” is catchy—there’s a tune that punishes the eardrums. It’s best to avoid deciphering The Apple, instead letting the monumental vulgarity wash over you. If you’re a real masochist, try watching this one alongside 1980’s other misbegotten disco epics, Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu.

The Apple: FREAKY


Eric Colin said...

I've never been able to sit through this particular nightmare.

Allen Rubinstein said...

AAAAAhhhhhhh!!!!!! The Apple. I LOVE The Apple! So much cheese, it's jaw-dropping.

The thing that cracks me up the most about it is that the devil is actually a pretty good agent, who delivers everything he promises in his contract. That is until Bibi decides to give up unimaginable wealth, international fame (that materializes for her inside of about a month), top-chart success in the music industry, glitz, glamour, non-stop partying and free drugs so she can live with a bunch of dirty hippies in a cave. Priorities, girl!

Plus, the clown-car limo to Heaven. You'd think by 1980, people knew the hippies weren't going to ascend.