The Applerecommended viewing

It's a natural, natural, natural, natural desire...
★★★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1980
Director: 
Menahem Golan
Starring: 
George Gilmour, Catharine Mary Stewart, Vladek Sheybal, Grace Kennedy, Allan Love
The Setup: 
Bizarre musical about the future world of 1994, when pop music is sort of like a totalitarian government? Kind of thing?
Discussion: 

Someone wrote me a while ago and asked me why this movie wasn't on my site, and I had to inform then that I have indeed seen it, and in fact OWN it, and had a whole review written, then my hard drive crashed and I just haven't been able to bring myself to watch it again. But now I did, since I wanted to make a video review of it, meaning I have actually watched this shit THREE TIMES. You see how much I love you people.

Okay, so this is this movie written and directed by Menahem Golan, with songs by Coby Recht and lyrics by Iris Recht. It was released in Germany in 1980 [looks like it was filmed there, too] and received a cursory release in the United States. In the intervening years it has become somewhat of a cult classic because... well, you'll see.

So we start at this big convention hall. Inside the crowd of youngsters in "futuristic" outfits are watching the WorldVision contest, which is an obvious analogue to the EuroVision Song Contest. On stage is this sort of glitter rock group fronted by a pretty blond man, Mandi, and a black female, Pandi, that repeats, ad nauseum, the lyric "Hey, hey, hey! BIM's on the way!" We get here a taste of how all the songs are just WRONG in some way when we get the lyric: "There ain't no GOOD! There ain't no BAD! There ain't no HAPPY! There ain't no... TEARS?!" Yeah, that's right. The song goes on for a while, but surely the thought on your mind that those lyrics sound like MORAL RELETAVISM, which turns out not to be an accident.

Meanwhile, up in this control room above the din, the evil Dr. Boogalow and his assistant Shake, a black queen with glitter makeup and red and greed tiles pasted to his front teeth, are monitoring the heart rate and other vital signs of the crowd below. Then the stage is ceded to Alphie and Bibi, these two totally wholesome singers in a Donny and Marie kind of vein, him looking like a cross between David Hasselhoff and the lead singer from A-ha, she a total 70s Breck girl with big blue eyes and long straight hair. They sing, to the accompaniment of just Alphie's guitar, this noxiously pure n' innocent song called "Love (The Universal Language)" which is so wholesome it was actually written BY granola. But here's the thing: the crowd takes a second to get used to it, but once they do, they LOVE it. It moves them to tears! You see, the public would just adore hippy-dippy songs about love if only the EVIL music industry didn't MAKE them listen to sex-charged rock songs! Anyway, Boogalow realizes that these kids got what it TAKES, but is horrified by losing control of his control over the fans, so he plays a subliminal signal that makes everyone hate the song, and boo and hiss Alphie and Bibi!

Okay, you must understand that this truly hideous, out-there movie is virtually impossible to capture in print, because there is just so much insanity going on you couldn't possibly express it all in words. So as we go along, you'll just have to imagine every outfit ludicrously tacky, every line reading astonishingly over-the-top, and every setting bizarrely overdone. Yes, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. For example, all the buildings are sort of "futuristic" German concrete buildings and modernist outdoor spaces, and we have numerous shots of quite-recognizable cars [I think they're mustangs] and motorcycles with a few "space-age" fins and lights added. And it just never stops.

Anyway, Alphie and Bibi are invited to a party at Mr. Boogalow's, which Bibi wants to go to but Alphie is suspicious of. The party contains a number of extras [the same faces show up in many different scenes], there's a lot of future-fetishwear, a lot of cross-dressing, and glitter to the max. This blond dude has invented the BIM-mark, which is a little triangle sticker [in then-futuristic hologram-foil] that you wear on your face. They immediately become compulsory for all citizens. Then Alphie and Bibi arrive, and she is whisked away by Mandi, who looks a but like Rodger Daltry, and he is taken by Pandi. Alphie is offered a drink, but announces quite haughtily that he does not drink alcohol, which all the jaded BIM-ites laugh at. Not so Bibi, who is upstairs, popping whatever pill Mandi gives her and downing drinks like she's on spring break. She is then seen--by the entire party--making out with Mandi, until Alphie grabs her in a huff and drags her out.

By the way, in here there have been a number of musical numbers which I haven't even bothered to mention. The songs are uniformly awful, the choreography that accompanies them uninspiring, to say the least, and they all seem to go on forever. By 30 minutes in we have already had six [or seven?] songs, none memorable. What makes them worse is that they all have micro-sections [like maybe eight bars long] that ARE catchy, and they all kind of sound like pale imitations of decent songs, so you can't just tune them out entirely. Anyway, up here comes my favorite song of the movie--which is not in any way to be taken to imply that it is GOOD. Alphie and Bibi go to the headquarters of Boogalow International Music [that's BIM, folks]. Alphie is once again sure that it's a mistake, but of course the easy-to-corrupt Bibi is rushing in. They find a huge lobby full of aspiring performers [the building is obviously some convention center or something], including Ballet 2000. Soon they all burst into song, a fairly catchy number [relative to the rest of the music] that serves as a SCATHING INDICTMENT of the mercenary music industry. In fact, fully half of the songs in this film are trying really hard to be scathing indictments. This one says "A computer for a heart... make them stop and make them start. Feeding their emotion while we feed off their devotion and we call it... ART." If you are not prepared to have your assumptions about what constitutes art shaken to their very core, and everything you THOUGHT you know called starkly into question, I highly suggest you NOT watch The Apple. The chorus to this song abruptly shifts to a different time signature, which I think was intended to be avant-garde, but comes off as just fucked up, as well as the [once again, scathing] main line: "Life is nothing but show business in 1994," with syllables "no-thing-but" uncomfortably crammed onto one beat. Seriously, every aspect of this movie is so off on so many levels it is impossible to quantify.

SPOILERS > > > BUT COME ON > > >
So A&B are brought up to Boogalow's office, where his core entourage is present, and presented with a recording contract. They are told that they have already sold an album, despite not having made it yet, and are already booked on a world tour that starts that night. Bibi, is once again presented as the weak woman who gives in to temptation. Has it occurred to you yet that they are styled as Adam and Eve characters? Well, if not, that'll come clear right now as Alphie has a vision that they are suddenly in a hell-like environment, and Boogalow is in a Satan-style outfit, comeplete with one glittery horn.

So there they are in hell, all extras present and in various modes of fetish-wear [sexual fetishes are the work of Satan, FYI], and it’s time for THE TITLE SONG! This all being a Christian allegory, with Alphie and Bibi our pure, innocent original man and woman, of course the symbol of Bibi getting a tantalizing taste of sin is an APPLE. Now, while you’re pondering whether “The Apple” makes for a very good song chorus [“Bite the apple! Juju apple!”], you’ll be hearing lyrics like the [justly famous]: “It’s a natural, natural, natural, natural desire… to meet an actual, actual, actual, actual vampire.” It’s all insanely over the top—so much so that you might just get overloaded and shut down—and finally Bibi bites the apple. She is taken in and becomes a star, while Alphie is cast out on the street.

One thing that will be painfully apparent by now is that, since this movie is following an extremely common religious template, we know precisely where this story is going to go, and that means pretty much zero suspense of sustained interest. Ugh. Meanwhile, we join our kindly Jewish landlady as she nurses Alphie, and he finally jumps out of bed, SUPER–late for… what? Where has he got to go? Obviously he soon remembers he has nowhere to go, as he forgets all about all that, and sits down to sing his new song for the landlady, who is of course ENTHRALLED. We are supposed to believe that Alphie’s music is pretty much the music of the spheres, despite SERIOUS evidence to the contrary. In a few seconds we will see him play this song at an audition, then become outraged when they don’t like it. It’s like… would you go in front of Britney Spears’ producer with a song that sounds like John Denver? Before this, you will have cause to wonder WHAT Alphie’s accent is supposed to be, anyway, and are unlikely to miss the moment when he full-on grabs the landlady’s breasts. By the way, it may not surprise you to learn that this was George Gilmour’s one and only film.

Now, one of the highlights: There is suddenly a public announcement that everyone must prepare for “BIM Hour,” which is sort of a widespread public exercise program where it is compulsory for the public to dance. They play the BIM song, which is the one that goes “Hey! Hey! Hey! BIM’s on the way!” This goes on for two straight minutes. Now, I timed it, and it takes about four seconds to say that chorus, and if you calculate that by two minutes, that is THIRTY straight repetitions of that one, particularly evocative line. I will admit there were some instrumental breaks, but boy, it sure FELT like… well, even MORE than thirty. Nevertheless, while this is going on, we see the entire populace dancing, including people on public transportation, groups of riot police, surgeons in the middle of surgery, and my favorite: DISCO FIREMEN! They are actually compelled to let to let the building they’re working on burn as they dance. It’s as silly as everything else, but… don’t you wish your city had enforced DISCO BREAKS!?!?!? God, how life would be different. I’m gonna get on the horn to Obama… I know he’d be down with it.

Anyway, then Alphie goes and tries to see Bibi after a concert, and ends up just getting beaten for his efforts. At which point, of course, it starts pouring rain. At which point, of course, we begin another SONG. This one is called “Cry For Me!” and is begun by Bibi, who is beginning to feel, like, TOTALLY pooty at being a big music star and misses Alphie, the only one who really loved her for who she was inside. It’s going along, fine, then Alphie, wandering post-beating through the rain, starts singing too, and you’re like “Holy Shit, it’s a DUET!” And sure enough…

Then Alphie has JUST wandered all the way home through the rain, post-beating, and collapsed into bed, when his landlady starts hectoring him about how he has to not sit around moping, but “get out your ass out of bed and FIND her! Jeez, can’t this guy sit down for a SECOND? And besides, he JUST came from trying to get her… it just goes to show that whatever you do is never enough.

He goes to a party at Boogalow’s [yeah, they just let him right in, after beating him and leaving him for dead in an alley earlier… such is the fickle music business!], where he has not one, but TWO alcoholic drinks! These are called “Passionate Pandi’s,” and she takes him on a tour of the upstairs, where numerous orgies are going on. She sings a disco song as we see the extras [the SAME extras] miming various sexual acts. Now, surely you're aware that many disco songs use thinly-veiled metaphors to speak of matters sexual, but this one is particularly subtle, with inscrutable lyrics such as "I'll take you deeper, and tighter, and drain every drop of your love." This, by the way, from a song entitled "I'm Coming." There is a long disco breakdown, during which Alphie and Pandi get it on, before he suddenly comes to his senses and realizes that he was wandered into a den of sin! He finally finds Bibi, but she's in bed with Mandi and tells Alphie to go away.

He wakes up in this park. How he got there, we'll never know. Here, by the way, is where the movie introduces that one whole new environment that makes viewers lose interest altogether. He is awoken by a kindly old man played by Joss Acklund, who some may know from Pet Shop Boys music videos and their feature film. There are a bunch of hippies there, who you might think are some ragtag band of futuristic drop-outs, but no, they are outright called "Refugees from the 60s... commonly known as Hippies." Yes, these hippies remained completely unaffected by the world from 1968 to 1994. That's what happened. Meanwhile, Bibi suddenly, inexplicably realizes that it's all a lie and that she has lost the love of a good and pure [and boring] man, and wants to leave. Then Pandi suddenly, inexplicably has a change of heart and helps her to escape. Pandi then sings a tearful ballad about how it's too late for her, now she realizes the error of her ways, etc. Bibi wanders the streets and soon enough finds Alphie with the hippies.

They all live in this huge cave under a bridge [would they build a bridge over a cave system?] where we see the hippies engaged in such wholesome, sustainable activities such as playing sitar, weaving, and tending to children. There is of course the one extra aimlessly stirring a pot. Alphie and Bibi sing a song [Christ! Not another song!] called "Child of Love." If you watch the trailer, you can see that a much longer sequence, in which Alphie and Bibi marry in the cave, was apparently cut, which might cause you to exclaim "You mean SOMETHING was CUT from this movie?" Because the evidence mostly suggests a constant throwing of stuff IN. Then, all of a sudden, Alphie has a beard--and a BABY! Wait a minute, how long were they down there!?

We are told it's been a year. Then suddenly the riot police, led by Boogalow, come to take Bibi in for breach of contract. I guess they waited an entire year because... well... But Alphie is confident, because he knows that "Mr. Topps" is coming. Never mind that we have never heard this name before. And then, just when you thought you couldn't see anything more that would make your jaw drop...

A GOLDEN CADILLAC DRIVES OUT OF THE SKY. He appears as a glowing white figure with outstretched arms [i.e. he IS Christ] before appearing as Mr. Topps, played by Acklund again, and clearly telling you that Hippie Leader = Jesus. The movie tries to generate a little "endless rivalry between God and Satan" stuff as he and Boogalow have a little tete-a-tete, before Topps invites all the hippies to join him in heaven [so they all die?]. All the hippies, led by Alphie and Bibi with child, WALK INTO THE SKY. Then Topps' Cadillac turns and drives off into the sky as well, and you try to see if there's a nearby nail gun you can fire into your frontal cortex.

It is relentlessly, clangingly awful, yet so over-the-top in every conceiable way that it holds a grim fascination. It's just one astonishingly awful element after another, as you just sit and gape. Nevertheless, it remains awful. This is a good contrast with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which also features an unrelenting barrage of jaw-dropping elements, but in that movie, each element is somehow even more delightful, and it constantly keeps topping itself. Here, every new element is even more awful, until you're just a little heartsick and exhausted by the end, not afloat on a giddy fizz, like with Beyond. After the Apple, you may just need to go to a quiet room and sit with your head in your hands.

The key: invite friends. A group can get through this much more easily than an individual can, and you can talk and chat and drink and get chips during the numerous awful parts, making the whole thing go faster. Trying to endure this alone may just render you catatonic. It's worth seeing--I believe we all must touch the very bottom to bring perspective to your lives--but my God. My. God.

Should you watch it: 

If you love bad movies that never let up, you pretty much have to.

Comments

There's an AWESOME Rifftrax of "The Apple" available online if you look for it on torrents. Have you thought of maybe doing your own version of Rifftrax on some of your favorites? I would SO buy that.

Well, much as I know I should pursue new revenue streams, I think these reviews are my form of commentary. I've never felt I have enough to say for the full length of an entire movie, and sometimes I think my humor falls flat when verbalized... but thanks for the kind words and suggestion.