Apple, The (1980)

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 03/19/05 02:52:20

"As good as a movie can be without discernible talent in any position."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: Context is so very important when reviewing a movie. There are classic films I don't properly appreciate because I've only seen them on DVD in the solitary privacy of my living room. Similarly, when I tell you that I greatly enjoyed The Apple, it's important to realize that I saw it as the eighth film of a twenty-four hour, thirteen-film marathon, starting at around quarter of two in the morning. An actual good movie would have knocked me out cold, whereas The Apple sent my optic and otic nerves into overdrive and delivered enough sheer nonsense that my brain had to jump back up to full power in a futile attempt to make some sense of it.

Actually, making sense of it isn't terribly difficult. You just have to accept that American Idol (er, Eurovision - this 1980 movie only predicts the far-off world of 1994) is not only corrupt and rigged, but is in fact run by Satan - who not only controls the record industry, but can give its desires the force of law. Go ahead, use your own jokes. I'll wait.


Okay. Basic story - Satanic music executive Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) decides that horrifically over-produced pop duo Bim (Alan Love & Grace Kennedy) will win Eurovision, and is peeved when folky, sincere youngsters Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart) seem to win over the audience. He adjusts the applause noise, but covers his bases by attempting to sign them. Bibi is seduced, but Alphie has a vision of Boogalow as some sort of really gay devil and hauls ass out of there. But the poor boy's still in love, so you know he's going to do whatever he can to try and rescue Bibi from Bim & Boogalow's base bastardy.

The main problem with this movie, as I figure it, is that nobody involved has a lick of talent. The story is laughable, the acting is bad, and the direction isn't much better than "people and things don't bump into each other." To be fair, most of the singing and dancing shows some skills in the performance, but the actual songs themselves are the kind that give musicals a bad name - they take something that could be communicated in two lines of dialogue and stretch it out for five over-produced minutes. Not that the "using dialogue" option is tremendously appealing with the level of talent on display here, but there's something about jumping into a song from a dead stop that makes the audience feel like the movie should be justifying it somehow - why did you choose here to start singing? What makes this moment so special that you've got to go changing narrative techniques on us? And then, afterward, there's the pause where the audience thinks "well, that was weird" (and the characters seem confused about their musical outburst, too).

The movie takes place in 1994, as imagined in the late seventies, and it's probably one of the last times that the future was predicted to be shiny and metallic and pointy. The wackiest bit of design is the metallic baby carriages that come to a point at the front, and honestly look like something hot dog vendors, rather than new mothers, would push. Most of the time, there's nothing that much more futuristic to it than some really tacky fashions. Normally, I'm pretty good about not being the twelve-year-old who uses "gay" as a pejorative, but there were two or three times during this movie when I found myself thinking "wow, this is the gayest thing I have ever seen. I feel bad about it, but when Boogalow's assistant Shake (Ray Shell) shows up at a party wearing a robe and a Speedo with his scrawny self looking oiled up, I defy you to think anything else.

I feel sort of bad for the cast; aside from Sheybal, most of them appear to be guys in their first roles. They're really trying hard, and for all I know, they all went on to have perfectly fine careers on the stage where the scripts for musicals aren't quite so stupid. Writer/director/producer Menahem Golan's long list of credits includes a lot of crap, and that's after he'd apparently gotten acclimated to working in English.

There's a time and a place for movies like this. That time is after midnight and that place is in a crowd. Sure, by the harsh light of day, one may think "I could have been sleeping!", and I'd never suggest seeing The Apple on it's own, but there are points when insanity is rather useful

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