Classic Cannon: The Apple (1980)

Andrew reviews 'the Mount Everest of bad musicals'.

Samuel Jackson before the surgery. 
How do you explain what is aptly named 'the Mount Everest of bad musicals', or rather, the most singularly bizarre, incoherent, maddening and truly staggeringly awful film in all of Cannon Films' library?  Written and directed by Israeli former co-owner of Cannon Films, Menahem Golan, The Apple is that rare curious object which manages to form bigger invisible question marks over viewers' heads than Giulio Paradisi's perversely bizarre The Visitor.  Attempting to capitalize on the cult success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when it isn't blatantly ripping off of Ken Russell's Tommy, the truly strange and tacky hunk of cultural disconnect is a kind of disco/rock opera of sorts set in the dystopian future of 1994 with loose connections to the  Book of Genesis.  In The Apple, God (or Mr. Topps in this case) comes down from Heaven in a Cadillac walking down the clouds before beaming down to Earth Star Trek style as sounds lifted from an Atari arcade game dominate the soundtrack.  There's a musical orgy sequence called Coming get the idea.  The head of the music industry label BIM is named Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal from Red Dawn), a cross between Bela Lugosi's Dracula and Dr. Frank-N-Furter.  There are musical numbers with everyone from firemen, leather bikers from William Friedkin's Cruising, S&M bondage guys with bear masks over their heads, nuns and elders thrown into the mix with choreography so inept it rivals the shoddy direction of zombies running amok in Uwe Boll's House of the Dead.  In other words, The Apple is a movie so utterly insane it defies categorization.  

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Everybody get naked!
The brainchild of Coby and Iris Recht before being spearheaded by Menahem Golan who infamously declared on set "I'm better than Ken Russell", The Apple originally began as a Hebrew religious stage musical before Menahem relocated the story to Canada.  Reportedly produced under a tax-shelter, the story was intended initially as an Orwellian allegory ala 1984 until Menahem kicked the timeline up one decade.  Part of the problem with the timeline is the disco musical backdrop, which was intended to ride the crest wave launched by 1977's Saturday Night Fever, a film which was already pushing the genre well after the general public had dispensed with it.  It is simply out of touch with reality.  When it isn't pushing dreadfully uninspired retreads of pseudo Bee Gees tracks, we get such wonderous lyrics like 'It's a natural, natural, natural desire, to meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!'.  A common reaction one has to The Apple the first time will have most people checking their drinks to make sure they weren't drugged beforehand, though lyrics like 'America, the home of the brave is popping pills to keep up the pace, and everyday she cries out for more speed' don't help dispel notions that substance abuses may have been involved making this thing.  This is one of those rare beasts of unbridled gonzo madness that manages to gradually become steadily more insane as it progresses.  

As a bad musical, The Apple joins the likes of Xanadu and Can't Stop the Music for purporting "music" that will make most listener's ears bleed.  But unlike the aforementioned pictures and in terms of gaudy and psychotic sensory overload, The Apple is arguably closer to the Scientological madness of Battlefield Earth and Jupiter Ascending.  Say what you will about Ken Russell's berserk and maniacal Lisztomania with Roger Daltry.  At least Russell's film had an underpinning which you could follow as anachronistic satire germane to all of his work.  The Apple, on the other hand, is like a black hole spinning somewhere in our Earth's orbit waiting for the next unsuspecting cosmonaut to be sucked into the bottomless vortex.

Why, yes! There is a car floating in the clouds.
Got a problem?
Reportedly (and as expected), the Hollywood Paramount Theater premiere of The Apple is as legendary as the film itself, with angry patrons booing the film and throwing their complimentary vinyl soundtracks at the screen.  Further still, a devastated Menahem attempted suicide before co-Cannon-owner Yorum Globus intervened.  Thankfully Menahem didn't let the catastrophe that is The Apple kill him as he went on to produce many more wild, outrageous and occasionally good films for Cannon.  As it stands today, The Apple is a bad movie objectively speaking but not one you can easily dismiss.  Like Battlefield Earth, The Visitor and of course The Room, it is an endlessly fascinating and compulsively watchable train wreck which is as hard to avert your eyes from as a road accident.  Seriously, how does something this otherworldly happen let alone play in multiplexes?  As of current, the DVD for The Apple remains out of print and is well overdue for a Kino Lorber blu-ray or even an Alamo Drafthouse disc considering the theater chain recently played an extended workprint version of the film.  For as much as myself and others have written about The Apple, no matter how many times I've seen it, trying to make sense of what's happening onscreen is ultimately futile.  Being an avid fan of the likes of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and even bearing a soft spot for Crispin Hellion Glover, I can confidently say The Apple is infinitely more bizarre than anything from those guys.  For as many insane and outrageous "gems" have come from the Cannon Group over the years, The Apple remains the epitome of weird, incoherent and among the few works out there arguably from an interplanetary space alien.


- Andrew Kotwicki