There’s a kind of perverse joy that comes from watching a truly awful movie musical. Bad acting. Bad dancing. Bad songs. The roller disco extravaganza Xanadu (1980) is considered by many to be the Mount Everest of bad movie musicals, with the Village People’s Can’t Stop the Music (1980) running a close second. But there is another, lesser known, contender that was also released in 1980. Thanks to a series of midnight shows and cable airings, Menahem Golan’s The Apple has achieved a whole new cult fan base. This freaky multi-genre spectacular has earned a place along side Xanadu and Can’t Stop the Music as a movie musical that is so completely misguided that it must be seen to be believed.
The story takes place in the far flung future of 1994 where thousands of music fans rush to the Worldvision Song Festival. The first musical number is an assault on the senses and just a sample of the insanity to come. Inside the packed arena, Dandi (Alan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy) perform their hit song, “BIM”. Surrounded by dozens of back-up dancers, they perform choreography that’s reminiscent of an old Jane Fonda aerobics routine. The film’s outlandish glam/punk costume designs are by Ingrid Zore, whose apparent design concept for the film was, if it sparkles, then it’s futuristic…let’s use it! The enthusiastic crowd pumps their fists in the air and wave their glow sticks as they sing along, “Hey, hey, hey. BIM’s are the way!”
Music mogul Mr. Boogalow, played by sunken-faced character actor Vladek Sheybal, watches the performance on monitors while machines gauge the audience’s approval. “I predict our BIM song is going to take this competition by storm.” He immediately orders his marketing executive to create some BIM merchandise.
Next to perform are Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart with vocals sung by Mary Hylan) and Alphie (George Gilmour). At first the audience resists their Carpenters-esque ballad, “Love, the Universal Melody”, but they are soon won over by the sincere soft-rock song stylings of the Canadian duo. In sharp contrast to Dandi and Pandi, Bibi and Alphie forgo rock n’ roll glitz and are dressed plainly, though Gilmour wears what might be the tightest pants in cinema history.
When Boogalow sees that their audience approval rating will win them the competition, he orders his creepy assistant Shake (Ray Shell) to broadcast an irritating sonic tone through the auditorium’s sound system. The feedback makes the audience go crazy. Bibi and Alphie are booed off the stage and their scores plummet, making Dandi and Pandi the winners.
As the international press question Mr. Boogalow after the show, he fluently answers them in several different languages. The American and French reporters are played by George S. Clinton and Corby Recht, the writing team behind the movies memorable songs.
Boogalow and his entourage arrive at their penthouse via a hideous custom station wagon that’s painted gold and comes complete with “futuristic” tailfins. The party guests play the BIM ball machine and drink BIM & tonics from their BIM glassware. The fashionable BIM mark, a triangular piece of sparkly plastic that you wear on your face, is also introduced. Everyone at the party is promptly “BIMunized”.
With an invitation from Mr. Boogalow himself, the innocents from Moosejaw arrive at the party. While Alphie remains suspicious of the beautiful people (in ugly clothes), Bibi is immediately swept away by the glamorous life. During the 1950’s doo-wop song “Made for Me” she is easily seduced by the charming rock star Dandi. “Can it really be wrong,” she sings, “When it’s feeling so right?” They seal the song with a kiss.
The next day Bibi and Alphie arrive at BIM headquarters. The triangular logo on the outside of the building finally reveals that BIM is an acronym for Boogalow International Music. Though they’re bout to sign a major record deal, Alphie still has doubts about the music mogul, “He’ll destroy us.”
Inside the vast BIM complex, Bibi and Alphie wait alongside various freaks and circus acts from a Cirque du Solei type performance troupe. Showgirls, jugglers, fire eaters, drag queens and creepy clowns do their thing while Boogalow sings about the pitfalls of “Showbizness”. The disturbingly omni sexual Shake joins his boss during the number and leads a group of chorus boys who vamp a la Mae West with feather boas. “Life is nothing but show business in 1994, we fight for the spotlight, we kill for encore.” Glittery chorus girls perform their vaudeville tap routine on desktops during the songs dance break.
Bibi and Alphie are brought into the rarified enclave of Boogalow’s office, where the walls are decorated with gold records and opalescent wrapping paper. While Bibi is eager to sign and start the glamorous process of becoming international music sensations, Alphie is more hesitant.
It’s at this point in the movie that the biblical subtext kicks into high gear. During the film’s high camp title song, “The Apple”, Alphie has a vision in which he and Bibi are Adam and Eve. In the fiery pits of hell they are encouraged to taste the forbidden fruit. Amid the dancing tortured souls, Dandi (wearing a sequined jock strap) holds an oversized apple prop while he sings the rock/gospel title track, “Take a little bite, spend a splendid night, in our garden of delights.”
After this frightening glimpse of career apocalypse, Alphie resists the temptation to sell out, “You’ll never get me! Never!”, and leaves his girlfriend behind.
During the reggae infused song, “Master”, Boogalow demonstrates that he knows, “how to be a master.” Though with Sheybal’s accent it sounds more like “moss-tah”. Bibi is whipped into superstar shape and immediately sent on an American tour.
The new, improved and über-glam Bibi performs “Speed”, an ode to amphetamines and patriotism. “America your reds, whites and blues, are in our blood, we’re strung out on you. There’s just one thing we’re all dying for…Speeeeeed!” With a large troupe of leather clad dancers to back her up, Bibi shakes and growls and tosses her hair around while wearing silver hot pants and thigh-high boots. If there were a dance number in the Al Pacino thriller Cruising (1980), this is what it might look like.
Meanwhile, Alphie has hit rock bottom. Living in a tenement slum, his only friend is his foul-mouthed Jewish landlady. “Why don’t you write the kind of shit they like,” she suggests, “so you can sell it and pay me what you owe me?”
He plays her the song he’s been working on, “Where Has Love Gone”, a melancholy pop ballad that begins acoustically, but dramatically introduces a full orchestra. While loitering in the park, he is given a ticket for not wearing a BIM mark, now mandatory by law.
In this new BIM governed police state, a broadcast announcement signals the beginning of the strictly enforced national exercise program. “Time to stop ordinary activities and prepare for the national BIM hour. The national fitness program is watching you.” People from all walks of life literally drop what they’re doing and begin BIM choreography. The elderly, firemen, bikers, ER technicians, nuns and the Gestapo-like police force dance to an extended remix of the “BIM” song.
Alphie tries to see Bibi after one of her concerts. Mobbed by adoring fans who chant her name, she is swept away in her motor cade as Alphie is attacked by Boogalow’s ruthless bodyguards. Seeing her lost love prompts Bibi to belt the sorrowful ballad, “Cry for Me”. Alone in her room, she wails, “Where has all the pity gone? I sing my song, to deafened ears.”
As a beaten and bloodied Alphie stumbles home, he joins her in a melodramatic duet. His sorrow is so great that he opens his apartment window and sings out into the rain.
“You kids today,” his landlady chastises, “You’re so meshuga.”
“They won’t let me talk to her.” Alphie complains.
“So get your ass out of bed and go find her.”
Alphie arrives at the BIM penthouse to find Shake throwing a party. The guests are an avant garde assemblage of drag queens and leather fetishists. After gulping down a Passionate Pandi Special, the powerful elixir has Alphie tripping on another weird vision. Boogalow transforms in a glittery version of the devil as we’re led into the films zany highlight.
So far, we’ve seen a biblically inspired dance interpretation of Dante’s Inferno and watched our heroine sing about the glories of substance abuse. Just when you think things can’t get any more bizarre, The Apple pulls another musical rabbit out of its hat. Pandi lures the inebriated Alphie into bed while singing, “Coming”, a funky, disco-infused song about orgasms.
“I’ll take you deeper and deeper, and tighter and tighter, and drain every drop of your love,” Pandi coos as she removes her pink satin jumpsuit. This slickly produced disco number sounds as if it were a long lost Giorgio Moroder track from an old Donna Summer album.
Then comes the dance break. Half naked dancers cavort on top of mattress, gyrating with gymnastic abandon to Kennedy’s moaning vocals. After escaping Pandi’s orgasmic clutches, Alphie crashes through a window to find Bibi in Dandi’s arms.
After spnding the night on a park bench, Alphie is awakened by the Hippie King (Joss Ackland) a Birkenstock version of Santa Claus with a fake beard and rubber nose. “These are refugees from the 60’s.” he explains. With nowhere else to go, Alphie joins the commune.
Realizing that the glamorous life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Bibi escapes the penthouse with Pandi’s help. Kennedy manages to regain some of her dignity and show off her true vocal talents when she tearfully launches into the R&B ballad “I Found Me”.
Bibi’s search for Alphie ends in the caves underneath the park. While the Hippie King sings “Child of love”, they are reunited and, as the camera circles them, Alphie removes her BIM mark, symbolically setting her free. Time passes. We can tell because Alphie has grown a really fake beard. Bibi has joined the commune and given birth to Alphie Jr. But she hasn’t relinquished her glitter make-up. Their peaceful hippie sing-a-long is interrupted by the BIM police. It seems that Mr. Boogalow is intent on bringing Bibi back into the fold. As the entire commune is being led away, Alphie has a premonition of the most ridiculous plot twist ever. “I know he’s going to come.”
Suddenly, a solid gold Cadillac streaks through the sky and out steps God…uh, Mr. Tops (Joss Ackland…again). In a flash of light, the white suited messiah appears and invites the faithful to join him as a heavenly chorus sings a reprise of “Love, the Universal melody”. As the trusting masses walk up into the sky, Mr. Tops tells Boogalow that he plans to start all over, “But this time without you.”
Boogalow/the devil is unconvinced, “The world simply cannot exist without me.”
“Let’s give it a try.” And low…the true of heart have vanquished evil and continued on to the Promised Land, leaving the rest of us to enjoy The Apple, quiet possibly the weirdest musical ever.
The Apple was written, produced and directed by Menahem Golan and was one of the early films Golan produced with his cousin Yoram Globus for Cannon Films. Though The Apple was a flop, Golan/Globus continued to flood movie theaters with low budget fare for the better part of the decade. It’s ironic that dubious musicals would launch and eventually end their partnership. Financial problems and a bitter feud over competing Lambada projects (Lambada and The Forbidden Dance, both 1990) drove a wedge between them and forced them to close Cannon’s doors.
The Apple DVD features both widescreen (2.35:1) and full screen formats, though why anyone would choose to watch the pan and scan version and miss half of the films gaudy visuals is a mystery. Also included is the original theatrical trailer which satisfyingly condenses the movies excesses into a terrific two minute clip.
Apple fanatics who watch the trailer closely may notice a quick glance at a scene not included in the final cut. The scene looks to be part of the “Child of Love” sequence at the end of the movie. After Bibi and Alphie are reunited, they are married in a torchlight ceremony by the Hippie King. The clip features alternate lyrics to “Child of Love” sung by Mary Hylan and lip-synched by Catherine Mary Stewart. Strangely, George Gilmour can also be seen mouthing the Hylan vocals. It’s conceivable that during filming they used a temporary track and Gilmour never laid down the song before it was cut from the film.
A quick internet search uncovers the song list from the movies soundtrack. A song called “Creation”, sung by Joss Ackland is listed, but does not appear in the film. Perhaps Mr. Tops had a musical number before leading the flower children up to heaven. It’s hard to imagine a song that wasn’t considered good enough to appear in The Apple.
Like the distinctly 80’s sounding voice in the trailer says, “The Apple…is the experience.” True. One that won’t be forgotten.
- Learn more at imdb.com
- Cannon Films Appreciation Society
- She’s Very Catherine Mary: A Catherine Mary Stewart Fansite
- Check TV Listings
The Apple Publicity Images
CCT also recommends:
Can’t Stop The Music
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