Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Apple Really Bites!

Proudly taking its place next to Can't Stop the Music, Xanadu, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and other breathtakingly bad musicals of the same basic era is this rapturously awful piece of celluloid punishment. This one tops all of the aforementioned flicks in the heinousness department because the others, at least, contain some modicum of memorable and, even good, music! You might find yourself remembering a song or two from The Apple, but it will likely be for the wrong reason. The “styling” in this film is also in a category all its own (notice I didn’t say class!) The word for it is putrescent. (These pictures appear very small for some reason. Ones not centered can be clicked on and enlarged a bit.)

Released in 1980, this film is set in the far-flung future of 1994. Shoulder pads, face and hair paint and garish, gaudy, shiny clothes are all the rage. (So are ridiculously appointed cars, full of gadgets with no apparent purpose.) Music (and apparently most everything else!) is controlled by a huge conglomerate called BIM, run by a demonic looking, all-powerful executive. During a Worldvision Song Festival, Catherine Mary Stewart and George Gilmour, two young, folksy types from Moose Jaw, Canada, completely at odds with everyone else in sight, pit their sappy love ballad against the over-the-top, synthetic music of Grace Kennedy and Allan Love.

Surprisingly enough, they start to endear themselves to the whacked-out audience and come close to winning the competition, but the evil head of BIM (played by Polish actor Vladek Sheybal) rigs it so that they lose. Realizing their potential, however, he attempts to sign them to a record deal. He invites them to a party at his elaborately designed house where the chains really begin to come off in the hair, wardrobe and makeup stakes! A crazed assortment of music celebs and hangers on populate the party. (Look fast for Finola Hughes - above, middle - as one of the dancers!) Stewart is entranced by everything, but Gilmour is skeptical.

The following day, the duo reports to Sheybal’s headquarters where a plethora of musical acts are waiting for the chance to be signed. Search the world. Try it. I’ll wait. You will never see another production number as zany, ridiculous and as musically unsound as this. It’s bad enough that Sheybal speak-sings the number (and he’s no Rex Harrison!), but the song is so disjointed and bizarre that there was no chance of it being good in the first place. However, like almost everything else in this movie, it entertains nonetheless due to sheer audaciousness and lunacy.

Once inside Sheybal’s office, Stewart foolishly gives in and becomes a performer with BIM while Gilmour stands his ground. His reservations about signing are manifested in a couple of hallucinatory interludes, one involving that disaster movie era staple – an earthquake – and the other a far more elaborate and memorable one.

Suddenly, he and Stewart are shown in pseudo Adam and Eve style getups with Sheybal (natch!) as Satan. They find themselves in a cavernous, hell-like place filled with writhing, deformed inhabitants. Love, in a gold lame thong that seems to have a hoagie bun stuffed into the front of it, prances around singing about the temptations of “the apple” while black henchman/assistant Ray Shell, in full-on, glam, snake suit hisses accordingly. The primary benefit of this senses-shattering debacle is that Gilmour spends the entire number in a very skimpy, leafy loincloth and, whatever his other faults may be, he is a cute, furry little guy.
Once back to reality, he refuses to sign with BIM and is quickly on the skids. He returns to his seedy apartment where Miriam Margolyes plays his fretful landlady with every solitary drop of stereotypical Jew mama cliché that she can muster. He sees what the money, drugs and sexual excesses are doing to Stewart and attempts to break her away from BIM. When that doesn’t work, he is roughed up and left to flounder in the pouring rain (mustering up enough energy, though, to warble a love duet as the blood seeps from the corner of his mouth.)

Gilmour only wears one pair of jeans throughout the bulk of the movie. The chances of them being any tighter are about 150,000 to one. He sports some serious moose knuckle (and, to be honest, sometimes camel toe!) any time he's shown in anything but a close-up! I feel guilty all over for looking, but that, and his hairy chest, which is frequently peeking out of his shirts that are sometimes unbuttoned to below the sternum, seem to steal my attention away from the never-ending parade of tacky, outrageous and deliberately garish costumes that everyone else has on. That said, most of the extras seem to also have been encouraged to "go commando" and put their junk up there on the silver screen whenever possible!

Anyway, thanks to Margolyes and her cure-all chicken soup (which is ladled into the bowl clear, but is cloudy when she feeds it to him!), he makes one more try to get to Stewart. This time, he in intercepted by Kennedy, who takes him on a drug-laced sexual journey that includes visions of pasty pale “dancers” in gold thongs simulating positions probably not even found in The Kama Sutra while she sings, “I’m comin’, comin’ for you” in addition to other even more suggestive lyrics. When Gilmour enters the house, there are gays a’ plenty, in and out of drag. When the erotic couples are shown, naturally it’s all hetero.

Things get really loopy when Gilmour runs into bearded hobo Joss Ackland who introduces him to a 1960s hippie culture. (The largest percentage of this sect is under 40 or even younger though the movie’s timeline of 1994 would have this about three decades after the 60s. Did they all join as children?) Eventually, Stewart and Gilmour are reunited and join the hippie troupe as a God figure (also played by Ackland) confronts the Satan figure (Sheybal.) Somehow, in a year’s time, the young couple have conceived, born and raised what looks to be a three year-old child (or else the planet’s most overgrown three month-old!)
The basic plot line of the film, which, despite all the fanciful trimmings, couldn’t be more hoary (an innocent seduced into sin by shady opportunists?) takes its basic cues from The Bible, but is souped up with Rocky Horror Show-style hair, make-up and costuming topped off with ludicrous production design and some of the most dreadful, ear-assaulting production numbers ever to be captured on film. Every dancer acts as if there's a $1000 prize for the most obnoxious or idiotic expression captured on film that day. In a move that could only have happened in the 80s (or maybe the 60s), the characters have names like Alphie, Bibi, Pandi and Dandi. (They needn’t have gone that far overboard. The movie was only set 14 years in the future and no one was naming their child Pandi or Dandi in the 1970s, which is about when the characters would have been born!)

Bad as it is, it’s all in fun I suppose (and like many of the flicks I remark upon here, it does have a devoted cult following.) There’s a thoroughly zany enforced-exercise sequence with nuns doing choreography and surgeons dancing while a patient is being operated on (and even he is required to give the movements a try, sick or no!) Fans seem to be split on which songs they like or hate more...the disco-esque BIM songs or the love ballads cranked out by Gilmour. None of the songs in the film are particularly memorable though, even if one can't get the imagery that goes with them out of one's head!
It is astonishing that Stewart could actually carve out some type of career after this, but she did. Her fresh face and amiable persona somehow won out. Though she had something of a singing voice, she was so new to the business that the producers grew anxious about her abilities and hired a pro to record her songs, which Stewart then lip-synched to. She actually enjoyed a fairly healthy TV and movie resume in the wake of this film, though she has to have set some sort of record for appearing in the most gaudy, strenuously chintzy looking movies ever during the 80s and 90s. I remember seeing her in the mid-80s as the original Kayla Brady on Days of Our Lives and then as another innocent caught up in squalor in the tackilicious 1985 miniseries Hollywood Wives. Now, having grown into her looks and lost some of the trappings of the earlier hair and fashion felonies, she looks quite appealing.

Gilmour is another story. He dropped off the face of the earth entirely, apparently. His singing isn't all that bad and he had a compact, sexy body (shown off to good advantage at several stages of the movie) but he could not act at all and occasionally resembles Will Farrell! He actually looks even more handsome in profile than straight on and sported a great head of hair. He was apparently a member of a band, but it’s very difficult to find any sort of concrete information about him. Speculation about him runs rampant on the Internet. In any case, he never made another movie (or even TV) appearance, which suggests that he had his fill during this production.

Kennedy and Love were also virtually obliterated by this turkey. Love was quite awful, but Kennedy actually appeared to have a certain amount of talent and presence and it's a shame she was sunk before she even got started. I believe she had a moderately successful career in music, at least.

Sheybal had a long career as a character actor and he always struck a distinctive note, but his singing here is disastrous. Ackland also can't sing, but he manages to provide a little bit of presence in his dual role. The writers, a married couple named Coby and Iris Recht, have bit parts in the film. They had originally planned this as a Hebrew stage musical (!), but were persuaded by the producer Menahem Golan to do it cinematically in order to ride the wave started by Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Sadly, there were really no similarities in the slightest to those previous, far more successful films. None other than George Clinton was enlisted to make the song’s lyrics more understandable to an English-speaking audience and he cannot be commended as having succeeded very well! He is also given a part in the movie. His wife at the time, the daughter of comedic actor Tom Poston, was also given a part. It’s a miracle that the meter readers and hairdressers of the staff weren’t given parts as well and maybe they were!

And who choreographed the delightful musical numbers? The ones in which people thrash and stretch and flail around? British TV presenter and dance aficionado Nigel Lythgoe is to blame! Lythgoe is the force behind So You Think You Can Dance and the non-stop musical juggernaut American Idol! Methinks he learned a thing or two from this film! The movie may seem preposterous, but one thing that isn’t as off as one might think is the makers’ insight into the way the music business will have evolved. It isn't all that far off the mark!

Useful as a party-enhancing laugh machine and as an example of balls-out excess (regardless of a low budget), look high and low, far and wide, but it is unlikely that a more splendiferously hideous film will be found. Just remember that if you're showing it to someone for the first time, you may see damage to your TV or your home. Viewers at the premiere in Hollywood were given free souvenir soundtrack albums, but as the film progressed, they found what they were seeing and hearing so vomitous that they began throwing their records at the performers, causing damage to the screen!


Hilly Blue said...

I fall on the side of loving this movie for trying so hard. I do have the soundtrack and, believe it or not, like some of the songs. I'm so glad Stewart didn't fall off the face of the Earth like Gilmore. I love Night of the Comet. I am in total agreement that this film is awful, but something keeps bringing me back to it. I'm a Kennedy lover too and wish she could have had another movie to get her noticed.
I used to think Gilmore was totally hot, but when you compared him to Will (YUCK) Farrell, it killed it for me.
Spot on review!

BTW, Incredible Shrinking Man just arrived from Netflix!!!

Poseidon3 said...

It's primarily in the scenes with the beard at the end. Somehow the cheapo beard reminds me of Farrell's days on SNL! ;-)

Thanks for you comments! You muct let me know if you fall for Grant Williams.

Dean said...

OOO...A movie to seek out, this one is! I don't think I've ever seen or heard of it, but for some reason a lot of these pictures look familiar. Could it be I've actually seen it, but was so traumatized I blocked it out? I think not... I'll definitely look for it.

On a side note: I noticed you mentioned Xanadu and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that movie! Recently, a friend posted a comment on Facebook in regards to her horror in discovering The Warriors is being remade, which caused a flurry of responses. It made me remember a quote Michael Beck (who I had a HUUUUUGGGE crush on) made at one time which I think is hilarious: " 'The Warriors' opened a lot of doors for me, which 'Xanadu' quickly closed."

Poseidon3 said...

I loathe remakes as well (I am all upset because a bigscreen version of The Big Valley is in preproduction!!) Incidentally, I believe that someone is also planning to remake The Incredible Shrinking Man, a movie who's star I just profiled days ago. I thought the music from Xanadu was brilliant and despite its unrepentant cheesiness, I like the movie itself, too. Sometimes outrageousness accidentally works, especially in retrospect. I must say I think Mr. Beck was the wrong fit for it, though.

Pantheon Zeus said...

I found the Apple soundtrack on a link at imdb-- a free download. The soundtrack was reportedly given to opening night audiences who flung them back like frisbees.
Love the inane lyrics, dance breaks,and 'Cry For Me' duet has one of my fave moments in the film. Alibis sings in a storm of fire hose rain about having his "back against the wall" while placing his back against a wall. Genius!
Love the mooseknuckle shots too.

That Alan Young guy turned up on a food network show
Restaurant Makeover Show
(I gushed about it on my Apple blog at celluloidslammer)

Pantheon Zeus said...

Oops - I meant Allan Love ( not Allan Young) turned up on
a restaurant makeover show on telly.