(Please note, this post on THE APPLE first appeared on Daily Grindhouse in 2015. It has been updated and reformatted by the author.)
For all the shit that gets talked about CLEOPATRA, HEAVEN’S GATE, ISHTAR, HOWARD THE DUCK, GIGLI, WATERWORLD, JOHN CARTER, and 2015’s FANTASTIC FOUR, that conversation is consistently, ironically lacking. 1980’s THE APPLE is one of the lesser-acknowledged costly debacles in cinematic history. Coming from the legendary Golan-Globus production team, THE APPLE is a sci-fi disco musical-slash-Biblical allegory set in a future America (the year: 1994!) but filmed in Germany.
A couple of Israeli producers take an inexperienced Canadian cast over to Germany in order to tell a story about the religious collapse of a futuristic version of America, and the entire thing is set to song? At the apex of the disco era?
No way that could miss, right? Well, let’s start out with the trailer…
Understandable if anyone needs to take a moment before the plot recap comes in.
Conceived as a Hebrew stage musical by composers Coby and Iris Recht, Menahem Golan had a wider vision for the material. With the help of the Rechts and the (eventually-prolific) film composer George S. Clinton (WILD THINGS, AUSTIN POWERS, A DIRTY SHAME), who also plays a minor speaking role, Golan launched this epic production, which many (including Golan himself) might at times have called his greatest folly. To some of us, however, it’s pure candy-coated gold.
THE APPLE is basically a nihilistic, dystopian, kitchen-sink fantasia, blending the musical virtuosity of THE RUNNING MAN with the non-stop action of American Idol. It tells the story of Alphie (George Gilmour, who never appeared in a feature film before and never appeared in one again) and his true love Bibi, a young pair of aspiring pop stars who are tempted, like Adam and Eve, by the forces of absolute evil, played here by the music industry. They are separated and each nearly lose their way entirely before finding redemption and salvation and each other.
THE APPLE presents us with the Golan-Globus team’s idea of the future, which in 1980 is how they referred to 1994. Question: Who are Golan-Globus? Answer: The production team of Menahem Golan (THE APPLE‘s writer & director) and his cousin Yoram Globus, they also brought us COBRA, OVER THE TOP, the BREAKIN‘ films, and a whole lot of ninja movies, among others.
Towards the start of that now-legendary production run, Menahem decided to make a musical. Unless you count BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, he never went near the genre again. The opening scene, if you will:
One of the first sights we witness is that of a battalion of armored policemen synchronized in dance. Particularly in this tempestuous sociopolitical year of 2015, it’s a surreal image, one that serves as a barometer as to whether or not you, like me, have no choice but to follow this movie wherever it leads.
But be careful with that. It could lead you into what looks like an airport full of creeps.
Or it could take you to the gym, for a musical number and makeover montage mixing the then-popular aerobics trend with the reggae genre, for some reason.
It could even take you to an underground sex club for gender-fluid hijinks and for a song that couldn’t be any more explicitly about fucking:
Choose any scene at random, and two things become clear: A) This movie is an absolute disaster of quite literally Biblical proportions, and B) it’s also hard to discard the notion that it’s still got more imagination in five frames than most movies do in fifty minutes.
By the time you get half an hour into the movie, and they’ve gone to Hell for a musical sequence with animal masks, there are no longer adjectives left in the dictionary to describe THE APPLE. There are, however, vampires.
But back to Hell for a second.
Running the full gamut from the netherworld up to the heavens, THE APPLE is a disco-porno-sci-fi musical featuring everything from clowns to little people to Canadians, all of it presided over by a master of ceremonies known as “Mr. Boogalow” (played by Vladek Sheybal from RED DAWN and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE) who is basically the shit version of Roy Scheider in ALL THAT JAZZ.
He’s this movie’s incarnation of the Devil, omnipresent and uber-powerful and cunning, and he is mentioned by name many times. If you are drinking while watching THE APPLE and decide to drink every time someone says “Mr. Boogalow,” you will very quickly be dead of alcohol poisoning.
Over on the side of the angels is the movie’s heroine—its Eve, if you will—who is played by Catherine Mary Stewart, a Canadian-born heartbreaker who I and every other horror geek in the universe loved in NIGHT OF THE COMET. Catherine Mary Stewart’s character in THE APPLE is named Bibi, which, apropos of absolutely nothing, is also the name of the robot from Wes Craven’s DEADLY FRIEND.
Catherine Mary Stewart is lovely and winning, but THE APPLE also gives you a svelte young Miriam Margolyes (a distinguished character actor you’ll recognize from Martin Scorsese’s THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, Baz Luhrmann’s ROMEO + JULIET, Henry Selick’s JAMES & THE GIANT PEACH, Paul Thomas Anderson’s MAGNOLIA, and a bunch of HARRY POTTER movies).
And as long as we’re looking up pictures of distinguished character actors who appeared in THE APPLE, let’s all take a moment to enjoy the IMDb headshot of Joss Ackland, who plays “Mr. Topps.”
You know Joss Ackland as De Nomolos from BILL & TED‘S BOGUS JOURNEY, or as the villain in LETHAL WEAPON 2.
Not for nothing, but I bet you $5 when Broadway gets around to making a musical adaptation of LETHAL WEAPON 2, its closing number is going to be called “Diplomatic Immunity.”
The natural counterpoint to Mr. Boogalow, “Mr. Topps” is this film’s conception of God. And if you don’t believe in God, how do you explain this cosmic miracle?: At one point in the story, Alphie, the young hero, seeks refuge in a colony of hippies “from the 1960s.” Again: Hippies from the 1960s still partying in 1994. Do you know what that means?
GOLAN-GLOBUS PREDICTED WOODSTOCK ’94!!!
Free will dictates you can believe in divine provenance and be rewarded or you can remain in the mud with the sinners, but here’s what happens to the true believers: Near the end of THE APPLE, God himself comes down from the clouds in a golden space-Cadillac and walks all the hippies up to Heaven. So, you know. There’s that.
IMDb reports that: “Reportedly, during [the premiere of THE APPLE], audiences threw their free souvenir soundtracks at the screen, causing extensive damage.” Yet, of course, the damage had already been done. IMDb further reports that “Director Menahem Golan has said that he felt like committing suicide after the picture was booed at the 1980 Montreal Film Festival.” I know how Golan felt, or at least I have ever since I typed the phrase “a svelte young Miriam Margolyes.”
Seriously though, imagine having to watch this movie over and over again in the editing room. The rest of us only have to watch THE APPLE one, or even none, times. How many times did Menahem Golan have to watch it? And is it any wonder why he turned his attention primarily towards making violent revenge movies afterwards?
If you want to learn more about THE APPLE, there’s this review of the DVD from Entertainment Weekly (they gave it an A!!!), or better still:
Check out the epic episode of the great Projection Booth podcast, which features interviews from many of the principals, including Catherine Mary Stewart herself. It gives a thorough picture of the production and the reception of this uniquely bizarre movie, and features more than the usual amount of utterances of the word “Menahem,” which is also just fantastic.
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Tags: 1980, 1994, BIM, Cannon Films, Catherine Mary Stewart, Coby Recht, Finola Hughes, George S. Clinton, Golan-Globus, Iris Recht, Joss Ackland, Menahem Golan, Miriam Margolyes, Musicals, Paradise Lost, Rock, The Apple, Yoram Globus