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Saturday, October 15, 2005
Countdown to Midnight: The Apple
It's a natural, natural, natural desire! Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!
Ah, The Apple. How to begin to describe you. Why, it's almost as if two vaguely right-wing Israeli film-makers saw the success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the midnight movie circuit and said to themselves "Hey! We can do that too!" Only their version included heavy-handed religious symbolism and a strong dose of anti-Americanism. It's produced by The Canon Group of Golan and Globus, who never saw a successful American film they couldn't mass produce rip-offs of on the cheap. Oh, wait, no...that's exactly what The Apple is. But I fear I may be underselling it.
In the long distant future of 1994 (I know, it's hard to conceive of something happening so far ahead of the present day), the entire world is captivated by the Worldvision song contest. Yes, even America. This may be because Dandi and Pandi are going to be performing a song in celebration of their recording company, BIM (Boogalow International Music). The song itself is sort of a disco version of Seig Heil, with lots of fascist imagery and people raising one handed salutes to the dancers. Because, you know, American pop music is all about Nazi ideology...And the song is a hit. What a surprise, a song about the company that paid for the contest turns out to be the big contest winner. But what's this? Two young folk singers from Moose Jaw are singing a love song? But those are so last year! Nobody likes those anymo-oh crap, the audience is responding to this song more than the one that would kill an epileptic, better sabotage it...and sign the singers to an exclusive contract!
It's more or less at this point that the villains of the piece are introduced. We have Mr. Boogalow, a vaguely satanic agent/record producer, his effeminate black right-hand man, Shake, his extremely effeminate marketing director Ashley, Dandi and Pandi his pet singers, and a couple of body-guards with tusks. (Boogalow is more than a tad effeminate himself, but it's in that weird European way that doesn't really count. It's that Euro-trash vibe that sets off a false reading on gaydar sort of way.) Struggling against them are folkies Alphie and Bibi. Bibi wants so desperately to be a rock star that she takes drugs, makes out with Dandi at a party where all the guests spontaneously break out into perfectly choreographed song and dance numbers, and eagerly signs the contract with Boogalow. Alphie refuses. It's never quite clear whether it's because he's jealous of his gal making time with the dull as dishwater Dandi (which is surprising, since all Dandi has going for him is a blond perm and a British accent, whereas Alphie is more than a little woofy and keeps taking his shirt off and wearing tight pants which show off his impressive ass), the hallucinations of hellfire and damnation he keeps having around Boogalow and his people, or that Alphie is, frankly, just kind of a jerk.
In any case, Bibi signs the contract and is turned into a star in a musical montage about how great slavery is (yes, the black cast members sing along...let's hear it for the racial sensitivity of Golan and Globus). Her big break-out song is another weird little disco-fascist number in which Bibi and a bunch of leather daddies sing a song that's either about America's dependence on oil, or drugs, or possibly both. "America needs more...speeeeeeed!" is the gist of it. Alphie meanwhile, in between groping his Jewish landlady, is trying to sell songs about how that bitch Bibi broke his heart, but strangely, no one's interested in buying them. It's then that we discover that the wearing of BIM merchandise is now compulsory, as is taking an hour every day at 4PM to dance to the BIM song. It's the kind of weirdo religious paranoia crap about "the number of the Beast" you usually associate with Jack Chick comics, not a big sci-fi musical. And yet, after we get Pandi trying to seduce Alphie with a subtle song called "I'm coming" ("I want it harder and harder and faster and faster and I'll drain every drop of your love"), the religious allegory pretty much takes over the film and it becomes "Godspell." Alphie drops out of society and joins a hippie commune, Bibi eventually leaves the BIM empire to join him, and when Boogalow and company track them down, God comes down in his flying car to take all the hippies away to a better world. Man, I wish I was making that last bit up, but no, that's actually how the movie ends. Were I a cynical man, I'd suggest that maybe ending your film with "all the hippies go away forever" doesn't exactly mean "the rest of you are screwed" to the average person, but there you go.
It's hard to describe exactly where the film goes wrong. Oh sure, there's the blatant attempt to encourage an audience participation cult, with dances that can be performed from theater seats and the cheapest props and costumes imaginable. Basically, all you need to do to "dress up" for the film is put a triangle shaped glitter sticker on your face. Voila! You're up for a midnight screening of The Apple. The songs are fairly dreadful, though a couple of them are okay, in the context of "this song is bad but faintly amusing all the same." Big chunks of it appear to have been filmed in an empty airport lobby. Not exactly an acoustically smart place to film a musical. And it's vision of the future is...odd. Cars with fins and bubbles, square motorcycles, triangular baby carriages, huge lapels, loads of silver lame and tons of eye make-up and glitter (and that's just on the men). It's got your old guys who don't get it bashing of pop music, a strong implication that gay=evil, and weird, out of nowhere anti-American sentiments. And did I mention that it's done on the cheap? Well, pretty much every crowd scene features the same set of dancers. Oh sure, the make-up is slightly different, but it's the same dancers. And despite its futuristic trappings, it's very much an artifact of its time. Of those self-same dancers, I saw fewer clones the last time I was in the Castro district, and that's pretty much the last place on Earth you still find clones. And did I mention the silver lame? Whoo-boy...lots and lots of silver lame. Truly, everything is showbizness in 1994!
The mandated BIM dance.
The fascist police state doing the BIM dance.
Extravagant musical numbers performed in the Delta lounge!