Holy Apple, sacred Apple
Take a little chance
Get into a trance
And join me in the Apple dance!
Whoa! Go, go! Do it, do it, do it, do it, do it!
In the 1994 of The Apple (1980), society is about to bend its knee to the all powerful BIM – Boogalow International Music, led by the devilish Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal, From Russia with Love). “BIM, BIM, BIM – BIM’s on the way,” everyone sings, fist-pumping with glow sticks. At the Worldvision Song Festival, amateurs from Moosejaw, Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart, Night of the Comet) and Alphie (George Gilmour), sing a heartfelt acoustic ballad, which almost wins the contest until Mr. Boogalow swings the audience with some sonic subliminal manipulation. Boogalow wins the award. “How about a drink with our BIM glasses?” says the bartender. Boogalow lifts his BIM glass and announces, “A toast – to BIM!” Then he plays a BIMball machine and is introduced to the latest from the marketing department, BIM marks – stickers which can be stuck on the forehead to announce your loyalty to BIM. “May I BIMionize you?” someone says as he affixes the BIM mark. Everything is BIMtastic. But Boogalow is fascinated by the talents of Alphie and Bibi, and he invites them to BIM headquarters. Bibi immediately falls under the influence of BIM stud Dandi (Allan Love), and Alphie piques the interest of BIM starlet Pandi (Grace Kennedy). Within minutes Dandi is offering Bibi pills, making out with her, and singing a love song:
You’re made for me
Created for me
And I am your man
You’re made for me
It’s fated to be
And you’ll be my wo…man
The Apple was The Cannon Group kicking off the 1980’s with style (most of that style being from the 1970’s, with all the excesses of the disco era). Directed by Cannon’s Israeli co-founder Menahem Golan and produced by Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, The Apple was intended to be a stage musical – composed in Hebrew by Coby and Iris Recht – before Golan decided this had the makings of a blockbuster hit, and helped bring it to the big screen instead. The book was rewritten from Hebrew into English, and perhaps as a result the lyrics have a boggling simplicity, stripped of any trace of linguistic wit. In the love song “Made For Me,” Bibi sings back to Dandi, “Why do you do this to me? Tell me why. The touch of your hand has me trembling inside. I don’t understand this magic I feel. Are you a fantasy, or are you real?” Grease this is not. But Golan had something more fantastic in mind. As Catherine Mary Stewart says in the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014), “The Apple was going to be Menahem’s Tommy…’I’m better than Ken Russell!'” Thus the film indulges in outrageousness, but with a PG rating, and without any satirical bite because the film lacks Russell’s intelligence. My wife and I recently had some friends over to watch The Apple. We had watched it several times, but our friends were newcomers. “Why is it called The Apple?” one of our friends asked at the outset. “Oh, you’ll figure it out really fast,” my wife said. “There is nothing subtle about this movie.” A short while later we’re watching Dandi, naked except for a G-string, spray-tanned in glittering bronze, holding aloft a gigantic apple to Bibi, dressed as Eve. And that’s it – that’s the whole damn story. Bibi and Alphie are tempted by the record industry. She has a bite of the metaphorical apple and becomes a drug-addicted pop star. BIM dominates the world, with everyone in the streets wearing their BIM marks and pumping their fists, singing, “Hey, hey, hey, BIM’s on the way!” Alphie takes refuge with some hippies, and eventually God – “Mr. Topps” (Joss Ackland, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) – comes out of the sky in a Rolls Royce to set everything right again.
The Ken Russell inspiration makes sense, and not just because Allan Love, standing in his G-string and shaking his fabulous hair, looks a lot like Roger Daltrey in Tommy and Lisztomania (1975). Golan lets his freak flag fly, taking the premise of each song to its limit, and filling the widescreen with glitter-showered, body-painted, makeup-enhanced actors like a disco carnival sideshow. This reaches its apex in the title number, set in a Dante’s Inferno with Adam and Eve beset by the Devil, Mr. Boogalow in horns and wielding a pitchfork; sexual temptation in the form of Pandi dressed as Cleopatra and Love in his Magic Mike get-up; an “actual, actual, actual vampire” (who strikes a pose for the camera); and a horde of demons and damned souls including Napoleon, hanged men suspended from the ceiling and flailing, a man with two faces, dancers in black leotard skeleton costumes, and a number of Island of Lost Souls rejects. “Holy apple, mystery apple, juju apple, voodoo apple, sacred apple, bite the apple!” Love sings. Later, Golan again tries to match Russell’s over-the-top approach with Pandi’s song to seduce a drugged Alphie, called “Coming.” Over and over she croons, “I’m coming, coming for you,” while gyrating on his crotch, and underwear-clad dancers in the background form Joy of Sex poses on beds laid out like a mattress store. While everyone’s clothes stay on, the lyrics leave nothing to the imagination:
Come to me, come do me, I’ll come for you
Make it hotter and hotter and faster and faster
And when you think you can’t keep it up
I’ll take you deeper and deeper and tighter and tighter
And drain every drop of your love.
Bibi, having bitten the juju apple, becomes a BIM superstar with her hit song, “Speed.” Surrounded by male dancers in leather pants and jackets, Bibi sings a similarly straightforward song about her newest obsession:
America the land of the free
Is shooting up with coke energy
And every day she has to take more
America the home of the brave
Is popping pills to keep up the pace
And every day she cries out for more
Just when it all threatens to become too much to take in, Golan brings the film to a screeching halt as Alphie returns to his run-down apartment to commiserate with his Jewish landlady. “What happened in here last night, a pogrom?” she asks in her broadest possible accent. “No,” he protests, “I’ve just written a new song!” “Yeah, I heard it, you kept me up all night with that racket!” Alphie, separated from his partner Bibi, mopes on the monorail. Not wanting to wear the mandatory BIM mark, he joins up with a (literally) underground group of hippies straight out of Hair. When Bibi finally gives up her stardom and joins him in his cave, he symbolically removes the silver sticker on her forehead, and it’s intended to be a moving moment. As legend has it, when The Apple premiered, free copies of the soundtrack were given away to patrons, who quickly rid themselves of the discs by dropping them in the streets or hurling them at the screen. Nobody, apparently, was interested in becoming BIMionized.