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The Apple(1980)

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The Apple (1980)

What the hell does Blade Runner (1982) have that The Apple (1980) didn't have first, two years earlier? The obvious Christian allegory, the studly but dull crypto-Fascist hero whose rite of passage comes via a bloody beating that mirrors Christ's passion, the unpersuasively retrofitted vintage automobiles kitted out with "futuristic" chrome appliqus and bubble domes, the flying cars, the overuse of see-through plastic as a fashion accessory and the neon-splashed, rain-soaked Dystopia in which old world brick and mortar tenements are offered in counterpoint to cold Bauhaus architecture were all in place before Ridley Scott had even signed his contract. So why is Blade Runner heralded as a sci-fi classic and The Apple branded (to quote one of its kinder detractors) "lovably incoherent"? Part of the answer is that no one has ever gone to bat for The Apple, while Blade Runner has had an endless stream of defenders since its initially unfavorable reaction twenty-five years ago. A box office dud at the time of its November 1980 theatrical release and shown only sporadically in the early days of cable television, The Apple quickly lapsed into relative obscurity, decried as a bomb by more people than had ever seen it. The other half of the answer is that it's really bad!

For a movie made by an Israeli, The Apple plays like a Christian scare film and even sets one production number in Hell, where vampires, zombies and wolf-snouted slaves fawn and scratch over the naked bodies of the story's surrogate Adam and Eve as they are seduced by Satan himself (the suitably serpentine Vladek Sheybal). Evil in The Apple (influenced as much by the Book of Genesis as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975) is aligned with electronic music, glitter make-up, lawyers and homosexuality, all of which get in the way of the "normal" relationship of four-square hero Alphie (the pseudonymous "George Gilmour," whose English carries more than a hint of Germanic bluntness) with virginal heroine Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart). While Alphie resists the siren call of sin, Bibi falls (so like a woman) and the only time Alphie wavers is when he is drugged and mounted against his will by a flirty Negress (Grace Kennedy). The majority of the film's villains are effeminate if not downright flaming and at one point Alphie is introduced to a stable of "girls" who are clearly men in drag. There's a Mein Kampf quality to Alphie's struggle and eventual martyrdom; that he ultimately allies himself with a troupe of aging counter culture types doesn't ameliorate the Final Solution aftertaste that The Apple leaves you with, as God (veteran British actor Joss Ackland) cleanses the earth of "pollution" in a Rapture-like mass exodus of the faithful. It would be a happy ending if Alphie weren't such an unappealing homophobic knob whose "pure" music weren't such torture to listen to.

Beyond the thematic and subliminal bizarreness and the thievery from better films (Bob Fosse's All That Jazz (1979) comes instantly to mind), The Apple remains solid guilty pleasure entertainment. While few of the songs are memorable, the film clips along energetically and its maladroit futuristics are fun in the way of Italian science fiction movies post-The Road Warrior (1982). The candied chromatics of cinematographer David Gurfinkel (who would go on to shoot Delta Force (1986) and several of Cannon's "ninja" programmers) have aged well and editor Alain Jakubowicz (who later cut Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars (1986) remake and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) for Cannon) keeps the scenes from overstaying their welcome. If The Apple's leading man and leading lady leave something to be desired, bad guy Vladek Sheybal (a former James Bond villain and a reliable exotic in British films since the early 1960s) is always fun to watch (even when participating in painfully clubfooted dance numbers), as is singer Grace Kennedy (in bad-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold mode), whose two solos are by themselves worth the price of admission to The Apple...provided one hasn't paid too much to see it.

Producers: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus
Director: Menahem Golan
Screenplay: Coby Recht, Iris Recht and Menahem Golan
Cinematography: David Gurfinkel
Film Editing: Alain Jakubowicz
Music: Coby Recht
Cast: George Gilmour (Alphie), Catherine Mary Stewart (Bibi), Vladek Sheybal (Mr. Boogalow), Joss Ackland (Hippie Leader/Mr. Topps), Allan Love (Dandi), Grace Kennedy (Pandi), Ray Shell (Shake), Miriam Margolyes (Landlady), Leslie Meadows (Ashley), Derek Deadman (Bulldog), George S. Clinton (Joe Pittman), Francesca Poston (Vampire/Boogalow Receptionist).
C-90m.

by Richard Harland Smith

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The Apple (1980)

The Apple was conceived in 1977 by creators Coby Recht and Iris Yotvat as a Hebrew stage musical.

Principal photography of The Apple took place in Berlin between September and December of 1979.

The cast and crew were billeted at Berlin's Hotel Am Zoo, where Michael Caine's slacker spy Harry Palmer stayed in the film Funeral in Berlin (1966).

Most interiors were filmed at CCC Film Studio.

Catherine Mary Stewart had never acted and was studying dance in London when she tagged along with friends to The Apple auditions and walked away with a lead role.

Stewart's musical vocals were provided by Grammy-winning session singer Mary Hylan.

One of the background dancers in the film is Finola Hughes, who would later have her own shot at stardom by starring with John Travolta in Staying Alive (1983), the belated sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977).

The film's concert scenes were shot inside the Main Hall of Berlin's International Congress Center.

Concert extras were comprised mostly of the children of American servicemen and were paid 50 Deutschmarks for one day of work.

In true Boogalowian fashion, Iris Yotvat has claimed she and fellow Apple creator Coby Recht were never paid by Menahem Golan for their services.

compiled by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Catherine Mary Stewart Interview by Monika Guttman, Splice, 1987
Catherine Mary Stewart Interview by David Holmes, 1993
80s Movie Rewind, fast-rewind.com

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The Apple (1980)

Director Menahem Golan was born Menahem Globus and took his surname from Israel's Golan Heights.

Golan was once a pilot for the Israeli Air Force.

Along with Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Towne, Golan worked as an assistant director for Roger Corman during the shooting of The Young Racers (1963).

To make use of existing locations and equipment, Corman offered the direction of a new project to both Coppola and Golan. Corman preferred Coppola's ideas, which became Dementia 13 (1963).

With his cousin Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan founded Noah Films in 1963.

In 1979, the partners bought the failing Cannon Film Group for $500,000. They reaped millions from backing several Chuck Norris action films and Death Wish sequels starring Charles Bronson.

In the mid-1980s, Cannon acquired the rights to Marvel Comics' Spider-Man although their film adaptation was never made.

Actor Vladek Sheybal was born Wladylaw Sheybal in Zgierz, Poland, on March 12, 1923. His father was a professor at Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Sheybal spent time in a concentration camp.

Sheybal's first big English language film appearance was as a villain in From Russia with Love (1963).

Sheybal worked several times with director Ken Russell, whom he met when both were on the payroll of London's BBC Television.

Sheybal was a semi-regular on the cult TV series UFO.

Sheybal supplied voice work for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).

Catherine Mary Stewart was born Catherine Mary Nursall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on April 22, 1959. Her father was a marine biologist and her mother was a physiologist.

Catherine Mary Stewart went from starring in The Apple to a bit as a shopgirl blown up by terrorist Rutger Hauer in Nighthawks (1981).

She auditioned for the lead role in Flashdance (1983) but the part went to Jennifer Beals.

Subsequent films for Catherine Mary Stewart include The Last Starfighter (1984), Night of the Comet (1984), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Weekend at Bernie's (1989) and more recently The Girl Next Door (2007).

British veteran stage, film and television actor Joss Ackland is probably best remembered for his villainous turns in Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991).

Ackland was born Sidney Edmond Jocelyn Ackland in London's North Kensington on February 29, 1928.

A graduate of London's Central School of Speech and Drama, Ackland lived for two years in South Africa before returning to London to become a member of the Old Vic repertory.

A busy character actress since the 1960s, Miriam Margolyes would later turn up in Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993). She was the voice of Fly the Sheepdog in Babe (1995) and Babe: Pig in the City (1998) and played Hogwarts professor Pomona Sprout in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).

Production designer Hans Jrgen Kiebach's resume includes art direction on such diverse films as the West German Bryan Edgar Wallace adaptations The Mad Executioners and The Phantom of Soho (both 1964) as well as Cy Endfield's De Sade (1969) and Bob Fosse's Cabaret (1972).

Composer George S. Clinton was a former Nashville session musician and songwriter for Warner Brothers Music. For Cannon films, he scored several ninja movies and later the soundtrack for Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and its sequels (however, the famous theme song, "Soul Bossa Nova", was actually by Quincy Jones and was originally recorded in 1962).

Clinton's wife at the time was Francesca Poston, who appears as the front desk receptionist for Boogalow's International Music and a vampire in the production number set in Hell. Francesca Poston is the daughter of the late comedian Tom Poston.

Choreographer Nigel Lythgoe later created the hit reality TV series American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

Actor/singer Allan Love became a restaurateur whose Brighton eatery Love's Fish Restaurant was featured on a fiery episode of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares.

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
Cannon Films: The Rise and Fall by Patrick Runkle
Vladek Sheybal Interview by Tim Mallett and Glenn Pearce, FAB Magazine No. 8, 1992
Vladek Sheybal Interview by David Del Valle, Psychotronic Video No. 31, 1999
"In Step with Catherine Mary Stewart," by James Brady, Parade, 1993
Joss Ackland Interview by Andrew Gulli, Strand Magazine
Roger Corman: Metaphysics on a Shoestring by Alain Silver and James Ursini

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The Apple (1980)

"It's a love letter to the stylistic excess of that time, only it's been penned by illiterates with terrible handwriting. It's an awful movie, to be sure, but it's never boring, if only because they find something absolutely stupefying to point the camera at in every second of film."
The G-Line

"An inane Science Fiction musical from the dedicated team who've inflicted umpteen versions of Lemon Popsicle (1978) on the world... The flashily mounted farrago of nonsense is not even enlivened by such patent absurdities as the casting of (Joss) Ackland as an aged, outlawed hippie; and the film's production values would be disdained by almost any disco."
The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction edited by Phil Hardy

"In the far future year of 1994, gold lame, helmets and underwear-as-outerwear are everywhere, and disco - which apparently merged with glam rock and Rollerball during some lost night in the Studio 54 men's room - is plowing ahead, stronger than ever."
Nathan Rabin, The Onion A/V Club

"... ridiculous PG musical fantasy... steals ideas from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)."
Michael J. Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide

"Shot in Berlin and set in the far-off future of 1994, The Apple was clearly designed to duplicate the success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and failed dismally, in large part because the music is so stupendously banal... The lesson: Making a cult hit is harder than it looks."
TV Guide

"Apparently inspired by The Rocky Horror Picture Show, its tunes and staging bear a resemblance to that cult hit, but without being troubled by its wit or imagination, with a childishly silly storyline and daft character names."
Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

"... Can't Stop the Music (1980) meets Logan's Run (1976)... The choreography is reminiscent of brain tumor seizures, the sets look like a third-world shopping mall, and the entire project has that undeniable stench of chintzy, foreign-lensed tripe... everything here is fake, puddle-deep and flaccid."
Steve Puchalski, Shock Cinema

"... a lovably incoherent vision from writer-director Menahem Golan, which has amassed a minor cult following because, best I can tell, it cribs from every other synthetic guilty pleasure of the entire decade that preceded it, and can't be bothered to actually make sense of it all... an Old Testament movie in more ways than one, and its relentless bad taste is sure to appeal to the same audience that won't even realize they're being slapped in the face."
Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine

"... a camp classic for all the wrong reasons. The Apple is fascinating because it takes a conceptual wrong turn at every angle: the 'futuristic' production design looks garish and cheap instead of sleek, the tone constantly veers back and forth between comedy and melodrama and the script is a mind-boggling muddle of religious overtones, heavy-handed "showbiz" satire and silly attempts at an anti-totalitarian message... The finished product seldom makes sense but delivers so much sheer oddness at such a high speed that it is virtually impossible to be bored by this film."
Donald Guarisco, The All Movie Guide

"... this surreal seminar on the abuse of filmmaking power is in a deranged category all its own... Perhaps the best way to watch this film is to turn on the English subtitles and read along with the kindergarten song craft as game performers belt out completely incompetent brain busters. It may be worth a look, and there could be a few who actually tune in, turn on, and drop out - of the gene pool, that is - based on the befuddling film before them."
Bill Gibron, DVD Verdict

"... makes Ishtar (1987) look like Raging Bull (1980)."
John Edward Kilduff, 80s Movies Rewind

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

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The Apple (1980)

"Hey, hey, hey... BIM's on the way!"

MR. BOOGALOW (Vladek Shybal): "Ashley, prepare some BIM merchandise."
ASHLEY (Leslie Meadows): Something like... BIM tee shirts!"
MR. BOOGALOW: "Tee shirts? Ashley, use your imagination. This is 1994."

MR. BOOGALOW: "Who the hell are they?"
SHAKE (Ray Shell): "They're nobodies. I swear, they're just a couple of kids from Moose Jaw."
MR. BOOGALOW: "Moose-where?"
SHAKE: "I think it's in Canada."

MR. BOOGALOW: "Nostalgia is always dangerous."

MR. BOOGALOW: "Pandi, may I Bimunize you?"
ASHLEY: "Yes you may, my darling."

ASHLEY: "How 'bout a BIM and tonic?"

SHAKE: "You see, Boog is already selling your first album."
BIBI (Catherine Mary Stewart): "But we haven't even made one yet."
SHAKE: "First you sell it, then you make it. That's marketing."

SHAKE: "Bring the Master's special hors d'oeuvre... the Apple!"

"Life is nothing but show business in 1994/We fight for the spotlight... we kill for encore!"

MR. BOOGALOW: "Mr. Boogalow always keeps his word."

"Magic apple, mystery apple/Take a little ride, let me be your guide/Through the apple paradise..."

LANDLADY (Miriam Margolyes): "Oh my God, what... what happened in here last night... a pogrom?"
ALPHIE (George Gilmour): "No, I've just written a new song."

PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM: "The National Fitness Program is watching you!"

LANDLADY: "You kids today... you're so meshuga."

ALPHIE: "Who are you people?"
HIPPIE LEADER (Joss Ackland): "These are refugees from the Sixties, commonly known as Hippies."

TOPPS (Joss Ackland): "I'm looking for a new place."
MR. BOOGALOW: "A new planet?"
TOPPS: "If I can find one, free from your pollution."
MR. BOOGALOW: "Don't tell me you're going to start all over again."
TOPPS: "Yes. But this time without you."
MR. BOOGALOW: "Without me? But, my dear Topps, you know that is impossible. The world simply cannot exist without me"
TOPPS: "Let's give it a try."

Compiled by Richard Harland Smith

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