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John Milton's "Paradise Lost by Dashboard Lights," or...
 

The Apple (1980)

Directed by Menahem Golan
Written by Glolan, with Coby and Iris Recht
Songs by Coby and Iris Recht, with Roger S. Clinton
Details at the IMDB, US.IMDB

I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
Lord Byron (1788-1824)


Back in 1964, The Horror of Party Beach was billed as "The First Science Fiction Musical."  Not that billing is ever accurate, but this misses the mark on two points.  Debatably, it's not really a musical.  And even if it is, it wasn't the first science fiction musical.  That honor probably goes to Just Imagine (1930).

Just Imagine took place in the far off year of 1980.  One of the characters is a man who went into suspended animation after a freak accident (struck by lightning while playing golf) and is revived fifty years later.  While he surveys the movie's Buck Rogers styled future, he is disappointed by some of the new future marvels, like alcohol pills replacing liquid alcohol and reproduction by vending machine.  Each time he encounters one of these things, he puts up his right hand and says, "Give me the good old days."

Had he seen the musicals of our 1980, his response might've been more like Sylvester Stallone's pained mumbling in Demolition Man (1993).  "Somebody please put me back in the box!"
 

Contents

The Plot

It's My Party and I'll Buy Who I Wanna

We open with a shot of several national flags and the movie title.  As night falls, crowds of screaming people in heavy shoulder pads hurry toward a truncated glass pyramid while others buzz around on funky, blocky motor cycles.  A hard to read sign on the building says "World Vision Song Festival."

Cut to a rainbow filtered shot of a glam rock band in the middle of a percussive intro.  Dandi (Alan Love) and Pandi (Grace Kennedy) are at center stage.  "Be!" shouts Dandi.  The audience shouts, "I am!"  (Or maybe they shout back, "IM!"  Hard to tell.)  Since somebody thought it was such a cool thing, they repeat this twice, and then the backing vocals say, "Do the BIM."  (BIM?  That will be explained later.  For those of you who've read Huxley, at least it's not the Orgy Porgy.)
 

 
Brought to you by Microsoft.  ("Who do you want to own today?") Dandi and Pandi after visiting a yard sale at Sir Elton John's

The intro takes off and bridges into the song, which is heavy on the saxophones and guitars.  We are treated to various shots of the band, who look like they were standing near ground zero at a glitter factory explosion.  Dandi and Pandi sing that there ain't no good, bad, happiness, tears, love or hate.  There's only there's only power, and BIM is the power.  Then the song jumps into the chorus, which the audience excitedly sings along.

[Before we go any further, I should explain something.  Like many people, I have problems understanding the lyrics of some songs.  For example, I was one of those that was perplexed because he thought Jimi Hendrix was singing, "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."  (You don't want to know what I thought Manfred Mann was singing on "Blinded by the Light.")  Therefore, I had to rewind the tape about five or six times to understand the words of the chorus.  At first, I thought they were singing, "Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Just go away!"  Then it started sounding like "Just go and wave."  Mrs. Apostic says it sounds like "BIM's the only way."]

The words of the repetitious six-word chorus are probably "Hey!  Hey!  Hey!  Disco and wave!"

After the chorus, Dandi and Pandi sing that there ain't no pride, shame, sympathy, blame, pleasure, or pain.  (And there ain't no good grammar.)  The crowd eats it up as it goes into the chorus again.  (This, by the way, is an Informed Attribute, as defined by Ken Begg.  Regardless of how bad or silly a performance piece may be in a movie, a cheering audience tells you how great it's supposed to be.)

Outside the building, Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) and his entourage arrive.  They enter a control center, where everyone congratulates him on the success of Dandi and Pandi.  One of the highly scientific devices in this room is a beat monitor.  (We're not sure, but we assume it's counting heartbeats per minute.  Also, we're not sure whose heart rate it's displaying, but we'll assume an average, as opposed to the sum, of the audience.)  The numbers on readout are climbing, and they announce for the sake of the audience that this a good sign.  (In other words, they've quantified the Informed Attribute.)  Boogalow's declares he's going to make Dandi and Pandi the biggest stars of the decade.

Back at the concert, Dandi and Pandi have abandoned the words of the chorus for staccato "ha-ha" noises.  (Many of us may feel inclined to join in with the similar noises.)  There's a big dance number, followed by that damned chorus again.  It ends on an appropriate crescendo, and the crowd goes wild.

Back in the control room, one of Mr. Boogalow's deeply effeminate flunkies named Shake (Ray Shell) announces 150 beats.  (And there's not an ambulance in sight.)  Boogalow tells another flunky, Ashley (Leslie Meadows), to prepare some BIM merchandizing.  They laugh at his idea of BIM T-shirts.  They want something grander for this highly advanced year of 1994.  (BIM?  No, they don't explain it yet.  Perhaps it's short for "Bug Id Monsters."

At the show, a hostess introduces the next act.  It's a remarkably wholesome couple from Moosejaw (we assume the one in Canada) called Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Stewart).  They sing a nice, simple romantic ballad, which openly displeases the crowd.  (To be fair, it would hack me off, too.  It's the entertainment equivalent of following Metallica with The Carpenters.)  As they play, the crowd begins to calm down, goes silent, and starts getting into it.  Tears come to the eyes of one of the audience members.

In the control room, Boogalow asks who they are.  Shake says they're a couple of nobodies and they'll never reach 150 on the Informed Attribute Meter™.  It's at 151.  (Yeah, sure.  Mellow stuff, like Lawrence Welk, will make everyone's hearts tach up to high speeds.)  Boogalow explains away their popularity by saying their music is nostalgic.  He tells Shake to use the red tape.  Shake gives a technician a red cassette and tells him to play it.  The tech protests, but does it anyway.

Horrible, high-pitched tones come over the speakers at the concert.  (No.  Not from the act on stage.)  The audience gets angry and starts throwing things at the double-crossed couple.  The numbers on the Informed Attribute Meter drop.  Alphie and Bibi finish their song, but Bibi runs off while Alphie strums the last chords.

Later, outside the concert area, Mr. Boogalow is meeting the reporters.  One of the reporters called Jean Louis (Coby Recht) asks questions in French, and Bug responds in kind.  The same thing happens in German and then Italian.  An American reporter (George S. Clinton) pushes some questions in English "for the billion Americans listening."  (Must've been a hell of territorial acquisition.)  He asks about how the government (pick one; we don't know) has decided to use BIM music for its fitness program.  (BIM?  We still don't know.  "Bloody Idiotic Movie" perhaps.)

Then he asks about the other song, and was the contest rigged?  Boogalow asks the reporter his name.  The reporter answers Joe Pittman.  Boogalow announces the man's name in the form of a threat.

Elsewhere, an unusual looking car stops at what looks like a tollbooth.  (That's "unusual looking" as in it looks like a small armored personnel carrier variation on a station wagon, with guard rails around the hood, small domes on the top, and a big spoiler in the back.  You see several of these throughout the movie.  For the sake of convenience, we'll be referring to this as a BiMW™.)  Dandi and Pandi get out of the BiMW™, and Boogalow greets them with hugs.

The scene shifts to a victory celebration.  Boogalow enters with a large, pointy trophy.  (Usually, when someone carries in an item like this, the movie will eventually show someone impaled on it.  This never happens, despite how much we may hope this to happen to at least one of the annoying characters.)  Ashley brings out some huge BIM ("Big Intoxicating Mixture?") glasses, which have a triangular base.  They toast to BIM ("Beatings Include Maiming?"), and, to the credit of the adroitness of the people at the party, the goofy glassware dribbles on no one.

Some people are playing on a BIM ("Bakes In Minutes?") pinball machine, which is a regular pinball machine with the triangular BIM (Ah! "Balls In Machine") logo on the back glass.  (It also has the word Paragon on the back glass; this is not a shameless plug for the video distribution company, but a vestage from the original machine.)  Ashley (who must have taken some kind of promotions laxative to produce so much merchandizing crap on such short notice) unveils his new marketing object.  It's a small crosshatched Mylar triangle sticker with the BIM ("Bowel In Motion?") logo.  Ashley says excitedly, "It's a BIM mark, and you can stick it anywhere!"  (Awesome dialogue in this movie....)

Boogalow sticks one on his forehead and encourages everyone to do the same.  Ashley passes them around.  Dandi says to Pandi, “Allow me to BIMunize you.”  (“Boredom Inspires Malapropisms?”)  Pandi coolly accepts while Dandi plants the BIM mark on her forehead.  (“Bitch Is Me?”  Mrs. Apostic volunteered that one.)

Elsewhere, Brad and Janet, er, I mean, Alphie and Bibi are walking on the street.  She tries to persuade him to talk to Boogalow, but Alphie doesn't trust him.  (And for a guy who's supposed to be from Moose Jaw, his accent sounds very European, eh?)  Bibi is more optimistic, and reminds her sensible sweetheart that Boogalow is a powerful agent.  Besides, this prominent promoter only wants fifty percent.  (No, didn't make that up.)

They arrive at the party.  Boogalow announces them to the rest of the party.  Dandi corners Bibi and tells her that love songs are no good anymore.  Boogalow offers Alphie a drink.  When Alphie refuses it, aggressive agent gives it to Bibi, who accepts it.
 
 
George S. Clinton (left) and Coby Recht (right) try to cut a deal with Boogalow for distributing this movie. "Friends, this is fresh meat, er, I mean, Alphie and Bibi."

Dandi walks off with Bibi.  They go to a rooftop garden.  Bibi plays up her wide-eyed innocence.  Dandi gives her a pill, saying,   "C'mon, take it, it's harmless."  Then he tells her he thinks she's funny because from the boondocks.  To heighten her innocence, she asks him what that means.  (Guess that means they don't listen to Billy Joe Royal anymore.  Oh, OK, nobody listens to Billy Joe Royal anymore.)

The music cues up, and Dandi sings Bibi a love song.  (So much for his "love songs are no good anymore" maxim.)  While the music plays, the people at the party dance along.  (Uh, it is sort of like dancing.  The guys drag the girls around in time to the beat.  Think of it as a tango on Quaaludes, and you get the idea.)  Bibi joins in the song, too.  At the end of the song, the charismatic crooner puts the moves on her.  She doesn’t protest.  Alphie sees this, and Boogalow tells him, "C'est la vie."  Alphie grabs her and they leave.
 

Whole Lot a Shakin' Goin' On

The next day, Alphie and Bibi arrive at the offices of Boogalow’s International Music.  (Oh, darn.  They defined BIM.  And we were having so much fun.)  Bibi still wants to cut a deal with Boogalow, but Alphie still doesn’t trust him.  In particular, he doesn’t trust the anticipated American contract that runs into hundreds of pages.  As they enter, a bored receptionist tells them to have a seat.  They find a couple of empty chairs among the neon and pastel freak shows that are the rest of the waiting acts.  Everyone’s wearing a BIM mark.

While they’re waiting, Alphie asks one of the others if he is supposed to be a clown.  The man introduces himself as Yobloth, and his act is Ballet 2000.  Naturally, this means a production number immediately follows.  This one is done in the style of a cabaret act with a reggae beat and far too much money.  They sing about how life is nothing but show biz.

Boogalow joins in and sings about the ethics of deception. (Note that Sheybal seems to be a better actor than he is a singer.  If his half beat behind the pace of the song was intentional, someone should’ve suggested another intention.)  Shake sings about manipulation while dancing with a feather boa; some chorus boys with their own feather boas back him.  Shake finishes his bit by getting cutesy with Boogalow, who winks at the camera.  Then the whole scene goes into a massive tap-dance, which might have been more impressive if the dancers' feet were shown.

Eventually, Alphie and Bibi are called to Boogalow's office.  Their contracts are ready.  They are upset they’ve been offered separate contracts because they wanted to sign as a single act, but some legal types named Clark James (Clem Davies) and James Clark (Michael Logan) assure them that signing separately is in their best interest.  They want to read them first (which should be do-able, since the documents look like they’re only about twenty pages long as opposed to the hundreds we were told earlier), but they have an appointment with a fashion designer.   This means they only have twenty minutes.

Bibi is ready to sign.  Alphie wants to read his and get a lawyer, but Boogalow will be too busy promoting their upcoming album.  And they're already scheduled for their first tour on the American West Coast.  (For those of you who’ve seen Parts: The Clonus Horror, "America" is pronounced with the same tone of wonder and doom.)  Bibi signs her contract while Alphie looks on.

Suddenly, there's an earthquake, with a windstorm.  Alphie looks out the window and sees red skies.  And then it suddenly stops, the sky is clear, and everyone is looking at Alphie like his fly is open.  Bibi tries to get Alphie to sign. As he leans forward, pen in hand, he has another bad trip.

Alphie sees flames, and the set becomes a huge cave full of various monsters and demons.  Bibi is in a bodysuit with ivy in strategic locations, and Alphie has been reduced to a pair of leafy jockey shorts.  Boogalow is in tux with cape and has one silvery horn on his left forehead.  (No, he does not have an eye patch nor is he purple.  Of course, he did wink earlier regarding Shake….)  Bibi likes it.  Alphie says he hates it, and Boogalow tells him he can go back to paradise.  (Moose Jaw is paradise?  Who knew?)  Then the diabolical director snaps his fingers and changes Bibi's costume to a red sequined dress.  He introduces Dandi as his son and Pandi as his daughter.
 

 
Boogalow explains the penalty for not wearing the "Mark of the Beat." In another hellish twist during "The Apple Song," Dandi turns into Jon Mikl Thor.

Shake is wearing a cobra hood.  (Call me Snake.  Mr. Plisken if you’re feeling particularly nasty.)  He’s making a big deal about a special hors d'oeuvre.  They hand Bibi a two-toned apple the size of volleyball.  All the Transylvanians, er, flunkies chant for her to taste it.  Suddenly it breaks into a big, boppy musical production with lots of sax.  Dandi sings about the magic apple.  (Rather than describe this song here, the lyrics can be found in the notes section.)  During the chaotic dance that ensues, the crowd enchants Bibi and terrorizes Alphie.

After the song, everything abruptly switches back to normal again.  (That is, normal for this movie’s universe.)  Alphie shouts,  “You'll never get me!”  Two of Boogalow’s hired goons, Bulldog (Michael Deadman) and Fatdog (Günther Notthoff), block his path to the door and growl at him with their lower fangs protruding.  Boogalow tells them to let him go.  Alphie strides out past the lobby.  Bibi tries to stop him, but Dandi and Pandi talk her out of leaving for him.

Boogalow sings (sort of) a cutesy song (with another silly dance number) about knowing how to be a master.  It becomes a montage of scenes showing Bibi getting a makeover, going through recording sessions, and working out at a gym.  The diabolical despot describes it as a combination of cruelty and care.  Pandi, Dandi, and Shake sing about his lesser points.  After this sequence, Boogalow introduces the new and improved Bibi to the press.  (Yes, she’s been turned into a BIMbo.)

Cut to Bibi's show.  While flanked by dancers on prop motorcycles, she's singing an edgy song about America, the home of the brave, "and everyday she cries out for more...SPEEEeeeed!"  (Let's be charitable and say it's in the same neighborhood as Tina Turner's "Acid Queen" in Tommy.)
 

Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll

Elsewhere in an inner city, a cop hassles a woman (Miram Margolyes) for not wearing a BIM mark.  He tells her she can get one at the post office.  She carries her shopping back to a tenement building and wakes up Alphie, who is to housekeeping what Jeffery Dahmer was to vegetarianism.  (Yif!  No wonder Bibi could be talked into breaking up the act.)  He has overslept because he was up all night writing a song.  She complains about the noise (heh heh) and his overdue rent.  He's not worried about either of those because he knows his new song will sell.  When she complains about the BIM mark, he declares he won't wear one.

After a moment, she admits she liked the song that he and Bibi did.  He gets cutesy with her, makes her sit down, picks up his guitar, and plays her his new song.  He begins strumming, and like all guitars in movies, it's soon putting out the sounds of a full string orchestra.  The song is about missing the one he loves in a scary world and has the recurring lyric, "Where has love gone?"  Shortly after he starts, we are treated to shots of Alphie riding a train, passing a BIM burger stand, and avoiding a riot trooper carrying a BIM shield.  The sequence ends with him at a recording studio.  The faceless people in the booth tell him it's not what they're looking for.  It's not the popular sound.  (Interesting.  This is probably the best song in the whole movie, and it is not supported as an Informed Attribute.)

Later, Alphie is at a park.  A riot trooper gives him a ticket for not wearing a BIM mark.  As the guard walks away, Alphie tears up the ticket.  A PA system announces it's time for the national BIM hour, which means everything must stop for national fitness exercises.  All traffic stops.  Firemen stop.  Surgeons stop.  "The national fitness program is watching you."

The PA system starts playing the six word chorus of "Disco and Wave" repeatedly.  It's a big dance number.  Everyone bops along to the tune.  The surgeons bop along, and so does their patient, who clutches his chest.  A pious procession of nuns suddenly breaks from their sedate pace into a precision jitterbug and drop back into their virtuous formation.  A group of elder people at a lunch counter bop along.  One of them raises his eyes to the sky.  (Maybe it was part of the movie.)  A fire brigade dances like they're auditioning for Solid Gold while the set behind them burns.  Effeminate hairdressers wave around their blow dryers.  Riot troopers bearing truncheons do sets of pirouettes.  (Yes, it's all as hilarious as it sounds.  Wish I could tell if that was their intention.)

As the final, sustained note ends, we are shown Bibi, who was one of the vocals on this set.  Dandi and Pandi have become her backup vocals.  (At this point, I have to admit I'm a trifle confused.  I thought they were trying to ruin her.  For example, they gave her that crappy "Speed" song.)
 
 
Scenes from a BIMage Bibi sports her new "Whore o' BIMylon" look.

Alphie looks on as several fans rush the back door of an auditorium.  As she comes out and the mob presses around her, Alphie tries to get her attention.  Dandi and Pandi are waiting by a BiMW™.  They're bitter about being replaced in the Boogalow order of things.  Bibi notices Alphie, but Dandi and Pandi make her get into the BiMW™.  Bulldog and Fatdog push Alphie back and beat the crap out of him.  (Overall, the dog boys seem to be remarkably decent fellows; they avoid turning the pretty boy's face into hamburger.)  Boogalow and Shake pass by.  Shake says, "You never learn, do you?"

At Bibi's place, the guards hustle her in.  Dandi offers her a drink, but she refuses it.  He offers it to Pandi, but she pours it out..  Bibi shuts herself in her room and sings another missing you ballad.  It begins to rain outside.  Alphie stumbles along in the cliché storm and picks up his side of the song while staggering home.  The sequence ends with in a duet, with Bibi looking out her window and Alphie, back at his room, singing with his head out his window.  (Alphie must live in a relatively tolerant section of the inner city; no is packing expletives into an encouragement for him to shut up.)

Alphie wakes up.  His landlady hassels him about his condition.  She spoon-feeds him some chicken soup.  "You kids today," she says.  "You're so meshuga."  He admits he didn't sell the song.  She tells him to go find her.

Cut to a drag club.  Shake greets Alphie at the door and introduces the reluctant straight man to the, uh girls, who seem to fancy him.  (Note from personal experience: a T-shirt that says "BREEDER" is useful at these times.)  Suddenly, Pandi steps in and grabs him.  "'Scuse me fellows," she says while pulling him to the bar.  The bartender is French reporter Jean Louis, and the waiter is the American reporter Joe Pittman.  Alphie is surprised the two journalists are working for Boogalow.  Speak of the dealer – he enters and explains that he bought their publishers.

Alphie tells the malevolent manager to release Bibi from her contract, but Alphie is interrupted by a vision of Boogalow as a devil again.  As the hapless hero speaks, his words become echoed.  (Did I forget to mention that Pandi ordered a drink for Alphie?  Silly me.)  Alphie asks Pandi where Bibi is.  She says she's here somewhere.  Alphie drinks.  Someone puts a multiprism filter on the camera.  Alphie looks at the crowd and sees a blurred parade of drag queens.  The music in the background goes disco.

Can't stop the music, so we continue.  Pandi sings Alphie a Donna Summer styled song with nonstop sexual innuendoes called "I'm Coming For You."  She pulls him into a room, and the hallucinating hero not in a condition to resist.  Pandi starts to strip.  The song continues, and the innuendoes in the lyrics pile up.  (Side note: Songs with innuendoes are more fun when the ribaldry is subtle.  This song abandons any sense of double-entendre after the first chorus.)  She straddles him.  Ordinarily, this would exempt the scene from a dance number, but no luck.  We are treated to shots of dancers on beds in nightgowns and what not.

Skipping ahead for the sake of taste, during the moment of truth, Alphie calls out for Bibi.  The song reaches a, well, climax and bridges out for the chorus.  Alphie gets up and dressed.  He wobbles along while having the multivision of drag queens again.  He opens a door and sees (?) Bibi in bed with Dandi.  She tells him to go away.
 

If I Could Take You Up, In Paradise Up Above.... (Sha-Boom)

Cut to shot of old man (Joss Ackland) with a full beard and dressed in Woodstock era accessories.  (He doesn't have a name; therefore, we will be referring to him as the Grayfull Head™.)  Alphie shouts "Bibi" and it echoes.  The Grayfull Head™ wakes Alphie.  Some giggling kids mock the rejected Romeo by shouting Bibi.  The ripened radical takes Alphie to a sit out.  It's a field full of hippie refugees from the '60's.  (No, really.  That's what they're called in the movie.)  They all sit around and groove and are mellow, resplendent in their tie-die patterns and even more attractive by the fact we can't smell them.  However, the cops arrive, and these leftovers from the cast of Hair beat feet.  Before he leaves, the Grayfull Head™ tells Alphie they live in a cave under a bridge.  The cops tell Alphie that the park isn't open this early in the day and he must leave.

Over at chez Shake, they're having the standard morning after bummers.  Bibi tells Pandi that she dreamed that Alphie was there, and Pandi admits it.  (She doesn't admit to anything else, though.)  Bibi freaks.  She grabs up that pointy trophy from earlier, shouts, "Oh, happy deco!" and stabs herself with it.  Nah, just kidding.  Pandi tells her to go find the lost boy.  Shake enters wearing a bathrobe with the pulp logo Amazing Stories.  The prissy punk orders Pandi to shut up.

Bibi packs up some things into a transparent suitcase.  (Must be to help her get past customs.)  At the door, the dog boys won't let her go.  Shake calls them off and dares her to leave.  Pandi encourages her to get out while she can.  Bibi tries to get Pandi to leave too, but the despondent diva says it's too late for her.

After Bibi leaves, Pandi sings song about realizing she's seeing things differently.  Elsewhere, Bibi picks up the tune and it goes duet.  (Mrs. Apostic called it a greasy tune.  That is, in the style of Grease.)  The song fades down when Bibi shows up at Alphie's room.  The landlady tells her that Alphie is not there, but he's been hanging out at a park with some old bums.

The song picks up again while Bibi travels to the park.  (She seems to have acquired a form of selective fame.  No one recognizes her.)  It ends just as she walks past the Grayfull Head™.  He startles her by saying hello and leads her to the cave under the bridge.  It's a crowd scene in there (and you if you really want to, you can imagine the smell).  She says it's like the Stone Age.  (Yeah.  "Everybody must get stoned…")  He takes her to Alphie while singing a song called "Child of Love."  (We may assume this it the title since it has only those three words.)  Alphie arrives and pulls the BIM mark off Bibi's forehead.  The camera does a dizzy spin around them as they hug.

The scene goes to outside, where the Grayfull Head™ is still singing "Child of Love" and the leftovers are rocking back and forth.  We'll assume some time has suddenly passed because Alphie has a beard and Bibi has a child.  (Man, this dowdy drop-out must have some kind of stamina to be singing that song for so long.)  Also, Bibi has a drawing of a blossom on her forehead.  (A BUD mark?)  The, uh, groovy scene is interrupted by the sound of several approaching boots jogging at a quick time.  Riot troops with BIM shields jog into the clearing and surround the crowd of leftovers.

Boogalow, Shake, and the rest of the entourage enter.  Alphie has his flashback of Boogalow as a devil and Shake as a cobra.  The Grayfull Head™ asks them what they want.  A lawyer type asks for Bibi.  The head hippie tells him that she's been living with them for a year now.  (We note that the child with them looks about a year and a half as opposed to three months.  You do the math.)  Eventually, the choice chanteuse steps forward.  The lawyer asks her to come because she's under arrest; for skipping out on her contract, she owes BIM ten million.  (Since this was filmed in Germany, perhaps the currency is the BIM mark.)  She doesn't seem interested in going, and Alphie doesn't seem interested in letting her leave, so the troops gather up the entire commune and herd the hippie hoard away.  (Huh?)

Alphie says someone is coming, but Bibi doesn't know what he's talking about.  The Grayfull Head™ looks up to the sky for a moment.  Suddenly, a cheesy electronic sound effect and a superimposed gold car in the sky interrupt the soft parade.  The driver, wearing a white suit and surrounded by light at odd intervals, comes down.  The troops and the hippies are stunned and perplexed.  (Yeah.  Is this the guy for whom my Jewish friends have been pouring an extra glass of wine during Passover?)  The chief guard asks, "Who the hell are you?"  The man in the white suit (Joss Ackland again) says, "They call me Mr. Topps."  (Oh, so this guy makes those sticks of chewing gum that can be used as roofing asphalt.)
 
 
 
During Middle Earth's greatest moment of peril, Gandalf casts a spell of summoning... ...And it's Repo Man to the rescue.

They try to arrest him, but no go; the trooper assigned that task becomes paralyzed.  Topps tells Alphie to come with him, and to bring his wife and child.  One of Boogalow's lawyers says they have a warrant, but Topps snaps his fingers and the dreaded document disappears.  Then Topps tells the other hippies to come with him, too.  A heavy orchestral processional plays while the happy hippies march up into the sky.  (We assume they're happy from their goofy smiles.  That, or they're still living in the Stoned Age and they'll smile at anything.  Or maybe it's just that the extras figured out how silly this is.)  Pandi breaks ranks from the Machiavellian music makers and goes with them.

Boogalow asks Toops where he plans on taking them.  The deus ex machina says maybe to another planet.  He wants to start over without the evil entrepreneur.  The problematic producer protests that the world cannot exist without him.  Topps says, "Let's give it a try."  He turns and strides up through the clouds while the processional music finishes.

The End.  Roll credits while playing "The Apple Song."  The credits finish after a minute, and the screen fades to black.  But "The Apple Song" is still playing.  It continues for about ninety seconds over a blank screen.  They must've figured that the audience would like this song so much, they'd stay until the end of the credits, and then leave the theater happy while the song was still playing.  Based on descriptions of audiences at this movie, it's not likely it worked out that way.
 

The Good Stuff

BIMTV

The direction and editing for the music scenes in this movie is usually good, and sometimes it's excellent.  Rather than long, static shots, there are several satisfying, energetic cuts in time to the music.  The technique may not seem so fresh today, but this predates MTV, when the modern music video, as opposed to the musical performance short, was a new thing.

(I would also like to say a few good words about the mise-en-scène and cinematography, but I can't.  See "Pan and Scam" below for why.)
 

Music to Your Ears…

Some of the songs are well arranged.  The quicker songs are mostly upbeat rhythm and blues with jazzy brass and rhythm guitars.  Although it's intentionally banal, "Disco and Wave" is kind of catchy, and the backing orchestration drives it.  You could say the same thing for "The Apple Song."  Bibi's "Speed" song contains some nice, subtle snatches from patriotic American tunes.

Strings back the slower songs.  As noted in the plot description, Alphie's "Where Has Love Gone?" is quite good, although it's not what you'd call particularly memorable.  And it doesn't hurt that Gilmour has the vocal qualities to carry it off.
 

The Bad Stuff

…But Muzak to Your Brain

Most of the songs have atrocious lyrics.  "Coming for You," as noted in the plot description, goes for blatant innuendo as opposed to clever double-entendres.  As an outside example, consider AC/DC's "Big Balls."  It manages to be vulgar and clever at the same time, and it maintains the premise that it's really about dances.  "Coming for You," on the other hand, doesn't even bother with that much formality.  It's as embarrassing to listen to as Donna Summer's "Love to Love You, Baby."

"The Apple Song" is particularly silly.  (See notes near the end.)  And it's difficult for me to be objective about this, but the "Speed" song is objectionable in its own right.  (It's a patriot's privilege to openly say bad things about his own nation.  If someone wants to imply that another country is primarily a collection of drug addict, he'd better be smiling.)

And, of course, some of the songs are bad on their own merits.  The disco tune "Coming for You" is, well, a disco tune.  What's worse, it's disco with annoying lyrics, making it doubly annoying.
 

More Loose Sequins than Liberace's Closet

This movie has some of the most absurd make-up, costume, and production designs ever filmed, and there's a lot of it.  To be fair, this silliness is likely intentional.  The setting is a decadent future with too much flash and sparkle.  Presenting people in tacky outfits in weird places is a must.  On the other hand, this also means the audience is relentlessly subjected to these crimes against taste.  Kitch and camp are difficult to handle in any movie, but this one goes overboard.
 

Successful Gamblers Know When to Go for Baroque

The dance numbers tend to be remarkably ridiculous as well.  Once again, this may be intentional.  For example, the silliness during "Disco and Wave" (at both the opening and in the middle) is there to express the decadence.  The big production number in Hell (to the tune of "The Apple Song") is horribly chaotic, giving it a literal sense of Pandemonium (both in a good and bad way).  The slow motion tango during Dandi's love song to Bibi and the sudden appearance of the "dance" routine in "Coming for You," look like things out of Busby Berkeley's worst nightmares.

There are also some astoundingly derivative presentations to go with the lyrics.  The audience waves light-sticks to the beat of "Disco and Wave."  A woman made up as a punk vampire jumps into view during "The Apple Song" when the word "vampire" is sung.  During the show biz song at the waiting room, Boogalow sings about keeping others dangling and produces a small slip noose as a visual aid.  In the "Master" song, Boogalow metaphorically sings that he plays with the cards he is dealt, so they throw in a scene with a casino.  We'd like to give them points for this because it shows some creativity; however, on the whole, it's not as sharp nor as effective as Airplane! (1980), where the honest intention of the technique was to make people laugh.
 

The Good Bad Thing

This movie rewards repeated viewings; every time you look at it, you will see another excess that you missed before.  It's evidence of a lot of hard, creative work, and it's a real shame that the result is more absurd than it is impressive.
 

Pan and Scam

To my knowledge, the only version of this movie available on tape was released with the Paragon label.  It's one of the worst "pan-and-scan" jobs I've ever seen.  Far too many scenes show people talking, but since the selected frame stays at dead center, both characters speaking cannot be seen.  Also, some of the big production numbers feel too "tight" and look too unbalanced on the screen; I suspect that they would look better in their full format.

I'd love to see a widescreen version of this one released.  I also know the odds are against that.  Who'd buy the damned thing?
 

The Who Cares Stuff

Notes on the Cast and Crew

Menahem Golan (Screenplay, Director) started with small films in his native Israel back in the early '60's.  In the '70's, he made critically and financially successful movies like Kazablan (1974), which was a large musical about rival Jewish sects, and the convincing military docudrama Mivtza Yonatan (1977, a.k.a. Operation Thunderbolt).  In 1980, he began to make movies with goy appeal, and throughout the '80's he and his partner Yorum Globus became synonymous with notorious (and profitable) movies by producing things like Hercules (1983), Sahara (1983), Bolero (1984), and Cobra (1986).

Catherine Mary Stewart (Bibi) didn't really suffer a career setback from this movie.  She got several good youthful parts throughout the '80's in movies like The Last Starfighter (1984), Night of the Comet (1984), and Weekend at Bernie's (1989).

When you watch this movie, you may be surprised that Catherine Mary Stewart has such a powerful singing voice.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Pardon the pun, but one of the unsung heroes of music, Mary Hylan, did the vocals for the character Bibi.  She has been on a variety of albums as a backup singer, and has recently been doing children's singalong albums.

Vladek Sheybal (Mr. Boogalow) had several small parts in a variety of films where he was usually cast for his distinctive ethnic look.  He's most likely to be remembered as Captain Ferriera in Shogun (1981)

The movie career of Miriam Margolyes (The Landlady) didn't really take off until the '90's.  She has been a voice talent and has had some good parts in some good (and not so good) movies.  She was the powerful Mrs. Mingott in Age of Innocence (1993), did the voice of Fly in Babe (1995) and played the Nurse in Romeo + Juliet (1996).  As of this writing, she appears as the superhuman mother Mabel in End of Days (1999).

Joss Ackland (The Greyfull Head™ and Mr. Topps) has been in a variety of roles since the '60's, including C. S. Lewis in the TV version of Shadowlands (1985) and the cuckold husband in White Mischief (1987).  He's most likely to be remembered for his Sydney Greenstreet styled characters, like the South African diplomat in Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).

When discussing the career of George S. Clinton (Joe Pittman, music, and recording supervision), the words versatile and eclectic come to mind.  This movie was one of his first cinematic projects, and his task was to "Americanize" some of the songs.  He later composed the wild, industrial score for Mortal Combat (1995) and the theme for Austin Powers (1997).

Roots, Shoots, and Other Compares

Before The Apple came out, there were several musicals and music inclined movies that established some expectations for what would be several music movies in 1980 and 1981.  As usual, the following list is not all inclusive, and starts at the first "rock opera."  Also, note that most of these were stage shows before they were movies.
 

1973-1979 – Overture

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) – Movie version of the "rock opera" (wherein every word is sung).  See also the musical Godspell (1973).

Phantom of the Paradise (1974) – Rock musical variation of the Phantom of the Opera.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Let's be honest here.  What am I likely to tell you about this one that you didn't know already?

Tommy (1975) – Ken Russell's film version of The Who's rock opera.  (Note: Russell was no stranger to unusual musicals.  See also the campy The Boy Friend (1971) and bizarro Lisztomania (1975).)

Oz (1976) – Australian Rock & Roll reworking of Wizard of Oz.  See also, its Motown cousin The Wiz (1978).

Alice in Wonderland (1976) – Soft porn version of the story, with musical numbers.  (Uh, this was back when these things had plots.)  Didn't really break new ground the "skinny singing" movie genre; that was done by the stage show Oh! Calcutta! (which was presented as a movie by 1972).  See also (if your parents don't care anymore) The First Nudie Musical (1976), The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (1976), Cinderella (1977), and Fairy Tales (1978).

Grease (1978) – Based on a stage show, it was considerably more upbeat than the other pop musicals of the time.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) – Beatles songs performed by others and used as a framework for a plot.  They used to say that if you dropped acid and listened to Led Zeplin's "Stairway to Heaven" backwards, you'd see God.  If you did the same with this movie's soundtrack, you'd see George Burns holding his ears.

KISS Meets the Phanton of the Park (1978) – KISS was originally approached to play the bad guys in Sgt. Pepper's, but they made their own movie.  Bad move?  You decide….

Rock and Roll High School (1979) – Traditional juvenile delinquent comedy from the '50's reset as a punk performance musical.  Featuring The Ramones.

Hair (1979) – By the time they got around to filming this one, no one really cared anymore….
 

1980 – The Year in Musicals

Can't Stop the Music (1980) – The story of the Village People.  Sort of.  Kind of.  Ah, the hell with it!  Go read Jason MacIsaac's description.

Blues Brothers (1980) – Music on a mission from God!

Fame (1980) – Ye olde entertainment battle cry of "Hey!  Let's put on a show!" becomes "Hey!  Why can't we put on a show?"

Xanadu (1980) – Olivia Newton John as a muse, ELO as a band sold out to disco, and Gene Kelly as a man who deserved to be in a better movie.

Forbidden Zone (1980) – Weird musical by Richard Elfman, and introducing his band, The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo.  Includes his brother Danny as the Devil.

The Jazz Singer (1980) – Has anyone besides me noticed that Neil Diamond doesn't sing any jazz in this?

Headin' for Broadway (1980) – Hopefuls try for the big time, as done by Joseph Brooks (of You Light Up My Life fame).

Popeye (1980) – My God!  What kind of medication was Robert Altman on?  By the way, the writing credit for this one goes to Jules Fieffer, who is also credited with Oh!  Calcutta! (see above).  The last line of that movie is, "Who wrote this sh*t?!"

Times Square (1980) – Punk/New Wave background musical.  Two runaway girls become folk heroes by wearing garbage bags and engaging in some vandalism.  Sort of remade by the director (after he'd developed some honest insight) as Pump Up the Volume (1990).
 

1981 – The Fade Out

Heavy Metal (1981) – Loosely based on the stories in the comic book by the same name.  The soundtrack kicks!

American Pop (1981) – Ralph Bakshi's story of several generations of an East European family in America, their music, and their professions as organized criminals.

Pennies From Heaven (1981) – Various actors lip sync to tunes from the 1930's.

The Creature Wasn't Nice (1981) – Musical version of Alien.  (Ah, well, at least it's not another variation on the Wizard of Oz.)

Shock Treatment (1981) – Perhaps the question shouldn't be why this didn't work, but, rather, why did Rocky Horror work in the first place?
 

The Apple Song

And now, as a public service (and because I don't normally use an Immortal Dialogue section), here are the words to "The Apple Song."
 
Magic apple
Mystery apple
Take a little ride
Let me be your guide
Through the apple paradise.

Juju apple
Voodoo apple
Take a little bite.
Spend a splendid night
In our garden of delights.

It's a natural, natural, natural desire.
Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire.
Let the apple set your soul on fire, fire, fire, fire.

You'll be hypnotized,
And you'll be demonized,
But you'll be paralyzed,
So you can victimize.
You're facinating, captivating, losing your mind
When we cast the apple light on you.

Holy apple
Sacred apple
Take a little chance,
Get into a trance,
And join me in the apple dance.

[Big dance number follows, then song repeats with minor variation at "It's a natural"]


Don't ask me, folks.  I just call 'em as I hear 'em.
 

The Bottom Line

Musical variation of the temptation of Adam and Eve, but set in a dystopian showbiz future.  Some reasonable songs with questionable lyrics.  Competent editing and story telling, but the traditional ending is traditionally disappointing.  Astoundingly (and probably intentionally) garish costumes, sets, props, production numbers, etc.  Many scenes are baroque in their gaudiness, which rewards repeated viewings; you almost always notice something entertainingly bad that you missed before.  Debatably not as good as Xanadu, but definitely better than Can't Stop the Music.

Published on 29 November 1999

 






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