There are many reasons for a film to fail; a rotten script, awful production values, poor marketing and even something as simple as bad timing can be a factor in whether a film succeeds or fails, but in the case of Canon’s The Apple it suffered from all of those and more. The only thing the film had going for it was that producer/director/writer Menahem Golan had managed to assemble a fairly talented cast, even newcomer Catherine Mary Stewart seemed perfect to play role of the naïve heroine who was seduced by fame and fortune. So what went wrong? Sadly Menahem Golan’s boundless passion for the project was not enough to overcome all the other issues the film had, the chief one being that they were making a disco/rock opera in the late 70s when by that point disco was pretty much dead, but of course the key factor behind its failure was the fact that Menahem Golan has never been considered a very good director or writer to begin with.
The movie takes place in the distant future of 1994, where all cars would have bubbles on their roofs and fashion leaned heavily towards silver and gold lame outfits, but as silly as this film’s depictions of the future was I’d say the actually 21st Century has proven to be even sillier in some aspects. I mean who could have predicted a crazed orange muppet would become president?
The movie opens with contestants for a massively popular talent show called The Worldvision Song Festival vying for the honor of providing the official state song. Think American Idol if funded by Hitler. The public favorites are a duet consisting of Dandi (Allan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy) who’s performance of the song “BIM” looks to be a shoe in to win. Enter Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), two youths from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, whose love song seems to strike a chord with the audience and looks to win the top spot from Dandi and Pandi. Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), owner of Boogalow International Music (BIM for short), will not stand to see his sponsored song lose so he sabotages Alphie and Bibi’s act.
Despite being booed off the stage, the audience having turned on them due to the sabotage, Bibi is still excited about meeting with Mr. Boogalow, this because they need an agent and Bibi isn’t very bright. Alphie doesn’t trust the man and when later at the Worldvision after-party he sees Bibi in the arms of Dandi he has even less desire to meet with the man, but Bibi is all fired up with the idea of signing with Boogalow International Music and “Pooh Poohs” her boyfriend’s objection. This moment kind of moves Bibi out of the naïve category into the quite stupid one, now I’m sure many people have been caught up in the glamour of showbiz, making rash decisions that end in disaster, but as this movie progresses Bibi is revealed to have the intelligence and survival instincts of a lemming.
The title of the movie implies that this will be an allegory to The Garden of Eden but signing a contract with a character we soon learn is basically the Devil is more Faustian in nature than it is about Adam and Eve. In Genesis Eve was deceived into eating fruit from the Forbidden Tree of Knowledge by the serpent, she then gave some of the fruit to Adam and the two were banished from the garden by God. Yet in this movie the Eve analog signs the standard “Fame and Fortune” contract with the Devil but her “Adam” refuses to sign. What is even stranger here is that while Bibi is signing the contract Alphie experiences an earthquake and sudden darkness, events that no one else in the room seems to experience. Is God sending visions to Alphie to warn him about signing with Boogalow? If so it kind of implies that God doesn’t give two shits about poor sweet and innocent Bibi. Yet those warnings were only the start as Alphie is soon experiencing a psychedelic hallucination of their descent into Hell. If this is God’s work he’s pulling out all the stops to save Alphie’s soul, yet we never find out why.
What follows is your typical tale of two lovers torn apart by dark forces; Bibi goes on to become a huge successful star while poor Alphie lives in near abject poverty as he unsuccessfully tries to sell his songs to a world that is only interested in what BIM is pushing. To pad out the film’s running time we are introduced to Alphie’s landlady (Miriam Margolyes) who gives him a hard time about paying the rent yet gives him soup and tends to his injuries when his is beaten by Boogalow’s goons. If you are looking for well-rounded and consistent characters you’re watching the wrong movie. The film’s very structure makes little to no sense as the “plot” seems nothing more than filler between over produced musical numbers. Bibi’s stupidity earns no sympathy from us and neither does Alphie’s pathetic whining or his haphazard motivations. He abandons his “True Love” to the wolves one minute and then the next he wants her back…because? Well she is very attractive, so I guess that’s a reason.
To be fair one should certainly not go into a Canon film looking for high art but this attempt at a rock opera was certainly beyond Menahem Golan’s abilities. When dealing with a story that takes place in the future a certain amount of world building would be required, you don’t need to go into extensive details but what you do show has to make sense, yet in The Apple we find ourselves seeing a world where a music promoter has his own squad of Stormtroopers, he has the ability to suppress the press and make the wearing of a “BIM mark” sticker on your face a law, one that if broken will get you fined or thrown in jail. What world events would have had to take place for such a society to grow? Sure it turns out that Mr. Boogalow is The Devil but how does even the Devil go from simply being a corrupt entertainment mogul to all of a sudden in control of the country? Oh…right, never mind.
The film works best if you consider the whole thing to be just some kind of acid trip that Alphie was having, maybe he never left Moose Jaw and all this was some fever dream caused by eating to much back bacon, and that theory makes even more since when the film reaches its conclusion where out of nowhere we have the fucking Rapture. After finding solace with a group of hippies, and Alphie is finally reunited with his true love and is having a baby with her, Boogalow and his minions show up to crash their happiness, but before the Devil’s lawyers can so much as file a breach of contract suit Mr. Topps (Joss Ackland), aka God, arrives from the heavens in a flying Rolls Royce. It was at this point my WTF Meter broke. I guess if you are a god you may as well travel in style. So the film ends with Alphie, Bibi and all their hippie brethren traipsing up into the sky while Mr. Boogalow gnashes his teeth below.
The Apple is a bad film, there is no debating that point, even as a musical it fails for the song numbers range from the forgettable to the outright awful, yet there is a certain level of earnestness that permeates the film and that is why some consider it cult classic. It will certainly never reach the heights of such cult hits as The Rocky Horror Show but its unique visual signature and complete lack of restraint does merit some applause, and once you’ve seen The Apple you certainly will never forget it.
Note: Menahem Golan thought he had a sure fire hit with The Apple but the immediate hate the film received had him contemplating suicide, at the Montreal premier people threw the complementary soundtracks at the screen, but now as the years have passed we can look back at it through rose colored glasses (It’s safer viewing that way) and appreciate it for the wonderful lunacy that is The Apple.
The Apple (1980)
The Apple has recently been remastered and released on Bluray so if you are a lover of bad films, ones that could possibly melt your brain, don’t let the low score deter you as this is a must own.