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Apple, The

MGM // PG // August 24, 2004
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 10, 2004 | E-mail the Author
"There ain't no good
There ain't no bad
There ain't no happiness
There ain't no tears
There ain't no love
There ain't no hate
There's only power
BIM is the power
Hey, hey, hey
BIM's all the way
Hey, hey, hey
BIM's all the way
Hey, hey, hey
BIM's all the way
Hey, hey, hey
BIM's all the way
I said "B"!
I said "B"!
-- an excerpt from a song I can only assume is titled "BIM"

In "The Trial of Reed Richards", the elongated leader of the Fantastic Four argued that the world devourer known as Galactus transcends the mortal concepts of good and evil...of right and wrong. Galactus is a cosmic entity incapable of being judged by beings as small as ourselves. Such is The Apple. It would be easy to label The Apple as a bad movie based on the concept, the set design, the costuming, the makeup, the dialogue, the music, the lyrics, the choreography, the complete lack of subtlety or subtext, or the laughable vision of the then-future-now-past. On no creative or technical level does the movie meet with even a passing glimpse of success, yet somehow the sum total of its ineptitude manages to be strangely entertaining.

"What else have you got to astound me?"
"This, sir!"
Set in the far-flung future of 1994 (!!!), music mogul Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) seems to have stumbled upon the perfect combination to dominate the masses. His stars Pandi and Dandi amass 150 heartbeats with "BIM" in the Worldvision Song Competition, causing him to literally howl with excitement. I mean, 150 heartbeats -- what could top that? Certainly not some crummy old love song from a duo out of Moose Jaw! I mean, love songs are so 1991, yet...hark? Lovebirds-slash-songbirds Alphie and Bibi step onto the stage with "Love, the Universal Melody". The crowd's not convinced at first, but with lyrics like "We belong to one another / We share each other's destiny / United by our love / We're all children of / the universal family / And we are everybody's brother / We share the birthright to be free", how could those heartbeats not start to accumulate? As they reach a perilous 151 heartbeats, Boogalow rigs the competition by ordering his effeminate man-servant Shake (think a prototype of Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element, only with shit painted on his teeth) to use the dreaded red tape, thus ensuring his victory. Okay, we're not even ten minutes into the movie and clearly I'm enthralled.

Sticking to the adage about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, Mr. Boogalow offers to sign Alphie and Bibi to an exclusive and lucrative contract. Alphie sees past the glitz and glamour, but not before Bibi is suckered into signing her life away. Yup, it's all about temptation, and if you didn't pick up on the Faustian undertones of the contract, The Apple is more than happy to unambiguously hammer the point home with brief glimpses of a horned Boogalow and a musical number about a voodoo apple or something. With Bibi as Boogalow's marionette, BIM reigns supreme! There are BimBurger stands on every corner, the entire nation is required to wear a BIM mark somewhere on their person or face a stiff fine, and, most ominously, there's a mandatory daily exercise where the country shuts down and disco-dances to the pulsing rhythms of the anthemic BIM...anthem, I guess. Will Alphie be able to break through the feral post-apocalyptic security to reach his superstar ex-girlfriend before it's too late? Will a Rolls Royce emerge from the sky in the final moments to make for one of the most literal deux ex machina-style endings ever captured on film? Oh, for these answers, you'll just have to stop and take a bite out of...The Apple!

Visions of the future from the past are fascinating. I'll assume The Apple was written in 1979, placing its setting 15 years in the then-future. Apparently Israeli writer/director Menahem Golan was expecting the world to take a deeply homoerotic turn, one where sharp geometric shapes, holofoil, body glitter, extremely large and angular shot glasses, and Bedazzlers reigned supreme. The good news is that feathered hair...still in! Spoilers...even bigger! Taller than the car, even! Actually, of all the innumerable ways the world transforms in the space of a decade and a half, automobile design is perhaps the most enthralling. If Detroit finds itself at a loss for ideas, just glue some more bike racks on with reckless abandon, and the kids are into having those large hemispheres gingerly distributed across the roof. I bet it has four horns that all play "La Cucaracha" too.

The lyrics throughout this musical are uniformly terrible, but even worse, they don't even fit the music. A line like "life is nothing but show business in 1994" is incapable of fitting comfortably into any song. "It's a natural, natural, natural desire / Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire." Okay, now you're not even trying. Although the style of music has its feet firmly rooted in 1979, it bounces across a few different genres, including sappy love ballads, something vaguely resembling rock, a healthy smattering of disco, and reggae so unrelentingly wretched it makes UB40 sound authentic. The songs don't really progress the story along so much as nearly word-for-word recount exactly what's happening on screen or, even worse, what we already know. Although The Apple is baffled by the concept of subtlety in all its forms, the most glaring example is "Coming For You". "Make it harder and harder / 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." That's not subtext...that's text, especially when accompanied by fantasy footage of a bunch of moustachioed guys banging homely women in lingerie.

Although The Apple is a failure in almost every conceivable respect, its garish ineptitude almost passes for charm. A complete disaster isn't worth seeing, but as The Apple unfolded before me, I started tallying a list of names...people I felt obligated to force this movie on, people with whom I'd very soon be watching this movie again and again and again. The closest point of comparison I can name off-hand is Troll 2. That's a movie I discovered on cable and was instantly fascinated with, and in high school, I'd quote and re-enact entire scenes incessantly with a couple of friends who had also seen it. It's one of the only movies I'd rented on VHS (repeatedly, even) after buying a DVD player, it remained atop my list of most wanted DVDs, and since buying that eventual DVD, I've watched it three times. Maybe it's premature to class The Apple, a movie I've seen just once and less than a day ago, in that same group. Still, I was struck with the same immediate reaction. Normally when I watch a movie, I have a plain expression on my face and periodically shift around uncomfortably. During The Apple, either my jaw was agape, I was silently giggling, or I inexplicably managed to accomplish both simultaneously. The Apple is incapable of being boring -- as soon as I was convinced I'd just seen the most bizarre imagery captured on celluloid, it tosses out a Polish man in his late sixties belting out a shitty reggae song or an entire nation dropping everything to do synchronized disco moves.

The Apple is not a movie sufficiently described by a paragraph-long synopsis and a couple of promotional stills. As my heartfelt adoration of clichés compels me to type, it has to be seen to be believed.

Video: I've barely tapped into the inexhaustible supply of puns a movie with this title offers, so I feel obligated to say that The Apple looks good enough to eat. Outside of its brief theatrical run and a handful of revival screenings, The Apple has typically only been seen heavily cropped, including a newly-transferred version that was making the rounds on The Movie Channel a short while back. For the seven or eight people who care, that's optionally provided on this DVD. Of course, most will want to experience The Apple in a form that I don't believe has ever officially been available on home video. Along with that cropped version is an anamorphic widescreen presentation, retaining its original scope aspect ratio. It looks pretty amazing -- no wear or grit are visible at any time, and even the grain frequently expected from an older low-budget flick is rarely noticeable. Authoring flaws like compression artifacts and edge haloes aren't a concern either. The DVD is respectably sharp and detailed, especially given my expectations for a movie of its age and obscurity. The oddball palette looks a little drab, falling short of the ultra-vivid neon vibrancy The Apple seems to demand. I've clearly written far too much, but to quickly summarize with five words and a comma: original aspect ratio, looks great.

Audio: The Dolby Digital stereo surround track (192Kbps) doesn't deserve quite as lengthy a paragraph or nearly as much praise. Although the songs are in the neighborhood of okay, the rest of the track sounds flat and edgy. The roar of the crowd in particular devolves into an almost indecipherable crackle. It's listenable, but not much beyond that. The only other audio options are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish and closed captions.

Supplements: The sole extra is an anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer. The disc includes a set of static 16x9 menus, and The Apple has been sliced into twenty-four chapter stops.

Conclusion: Most movies set out with a specific mission statement in mind and, at least to some extent, fail. Anyone reading this review has probably sat through a saccharine romance, a bland, formulaic action flick, an excruciatingly unfunny comedy, or dismal efforts in any of a dozen other genres I could easily rattle off. These are the sorts of movies that show up in heavy rotation on Showtime five months after a brief theatrical release and are immediately forgotten. That's mediocrity, and that's uninteresting. No, an attempt to reach for something truly great, truly different, and completely, utterly failing...that sort of misguided ambition is rare. I find a colossal failure infused with the grade of ineptitude prevalent throughout The Apple to be hopelessly compelling. If the concept of watching this sort of movie is baffling to you, then obviously you should veer far, far away from this DVD. For readers who want to see a movie fail and fail incomparably well, The Apple is an essential purchase. Recommended.
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