Instant Finds: The Apple
Disco was the hottest thing in music for a good chunk of the 70s and into the 80s, and during that time Hollywood certainly took advantage, with blockbusters like Saturday Night Fever and The Wiz.
But disco-themed hits seemed to be few and far between, and for every Saturday Night Fever there seemed to be at least three Can’t Stop The Musics. Hollywood just couldn’t translate disco’s success into box office dollars, apparently.
One of the biggest bombs that tried to cash in both on the disco craze and the surprise success of Grease was The Apple, 1980 musical produced and directed by Menahem Golan, the b-movie god behind such “classics” as Delta Force, Superman IV and The Masters of the Universe.
The second I found out about this film, I knew I had to see it. A disco musical directed by the man who decided that Dolph Lundgren should star as He-Man in a feature-length film? C’mon.
I knew it would be bad. I knew it would be a spectacle. I knew it would be ridiculous.
I did not know it would be an allegory for the rapture.
The Apple is a weird film.
It’s the distant future of 1994, where all music is seemingly controlled by the evil M. Boogalow and his omnipresent corporation BIM (Boogalow International Music). As the film begins, BIM is competing in the “Worldvision Song Festival,” and are poised with their catchy “BIM” theme song. That is, until the spunky folk duo Bibi and Alphie (I don’t know, okay? They’re Canadian.) start to win the audience over with their hippie-dippie folk ballad about love. Just as they’re about to win, Boogalow cheats, flooding the auditorium’s speakers with high-pitched static until the spunky little duo are forced to flee the stage.
Even though he crushed the lovey-dovey duo, Boogalow still feels threatened by them, so he invites them to his offices to sign them to his label. While Bibi can’t wait to make it big with BIM, Alphie is hesitant, and feels like there’s something up with Boogalow. He even has a (fully choreographic) vision of Boogalow as Satan, luring Bibi into hell with his promise of a magical apple that will make all her dreams come true.
Of course, she bites into the Apple (i.e. signs a contract with BIM) and shit immediately begins to go sour. Alphie refuses to be a part of BIM and leaves her, and she’s roped into singing songs about how awesome it is that everyone in America is apparently on speed (really) and becomes lost in a haze of casual sex and drugs. Meanwhile, Alphie continues to try and make it as a folk singer, despite the fact that A) no one in this world seems to like folk anymore and B) BIM controls ALL media.
In fact, BIM pretty much control everything. By the midway point in the film it’s made clear that BIM have ascended beyond your typical evil corporation and have reached Orwellian levels of power. BIM controls who you listen to. BIM controls what you buy. BIM even make it a crime not to wear the “BIM mark,” a sticky glittery triangle that must be placed somewhere on your body at all times.
Hmm, so we have an evil mastermind who corrupts innocence with an apple; an all-powerful world government; and a mandatory “mark” that all people are forced to wear if they want to do any kind of business…
Now, my end times theology is pretty much limited to Wikipedia entries on the Left Behind series and the occasional drunken viewing of The 700 Club, but even my Godless ass can see that Rapture symbolism. And surely enough, by the end of the film, when all seems lost for Alphie and Bibi, they get saved by the Big Guy himself, and ascend to the pearly gates, where they can make shitty folk music for all eternity.
As bizarre, poorly written and idiotic as it is, I feel that the people who made The Apple really had something here. I believe there’s an amazing story to be told equating the evils of showbiz with the devil and the actual end of the word, but they blew it by making it all so damn literal. Within the first 45 minutes you see Boogalow in a literal hell, complete with his own set of devil horns, there’s no ambiguity as to what is going on. He is the devil, and he wants to corrupt Alphie and Bibi so he can more easily take over the world. The film would have worked far better if Boogalow’s evil intentions were downplayed, preferably to the point of almost being invisible.
Because that’s the real power of the devil, right? To make it seem like you’re not doing anything wrong, anything evil, until it’s too late and you’re trapped in a disco inferno for all eternity while the straight-and-narrow get to rock out to CSNY until the end of time and beyond? If the devil’s evil is so flipping obvious that he sports a mole that looks like a horn, and he’s making you sing songs about how awesome drug addiction is, then you’re really not being tempted into damnation as much as joyfully jumping in head first.
But The Apple‘s biggest problem isn’t its heavy-handed portrayal of biblical themes, it’s the music. For a musical, The Apple has some pretty downright forgettable tunes, save for the BIM theme song (which is played over and over until it has to become memorable whether you like it or not) and Bibi’s ode to meth, which really just sticks with you because it’s so insanely bizarre rather than catchy. None of the songs in this movie stay in your head a second after they’re done, and none work in any substantial way to advance the plot or the feelings of the characters. They all seem tacked on, blatant attempts to create pop-friendly tunes that would tear up the dance charts (which of course never happened).
Perhaps one of the strangest things about the music in The Apple is the portrayal of disco. As the film starts, Alphie and Bibi are portrayed as pure, innocent souls (from the magical realm of Canada) who express their lovely, peaceful thoughts through acoustic folk-pop. But as Bibi is corrupted, she quickly abandons her folk roots and embraces the upbeat, catchy sound of disco that BIM is forcing onto the masses. Alphie’s inability to find anyone to listen to his brand of folk music seems to become harder over time as BIM’s power over the world increases, leading to a point where literally no one on earth wants to hear a white dude with acoustic guitar sing about his feelings (and the movie portrays this as a bad thing).
It’s strange that The Apple, a disco musical aimed entirely at cashing in on the disco craze, seems to take the stance that disco is the music of the devil, the music of unholy sin and damnation, while folk is the one true sound that will lead us all into heaven.
Maybe writer/director Mehan Golan was a failed folk rocker himself, and he felt disenfranchised by disco’s massive success. Maybe this was his subtle attempt at social commentary, a way to express his views against disco to the very people who love it the most. Maybe The Apple ins’t just a bizarre allegory for the rapture, but a critique on disco culture and the plasticifcation of pop music.
Or maybe it’s just a really stupid mess and I’m just reading too much into it. Who knows.
The Apple is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.