Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Apple (1980)

In our previous discussion of Camp vs. Irony, we tried to distinguish if there was a difference between the two, and what that difference was. In many ways the two intersect, and nowhere is this more obvious than in 1980's glam-disco dystopian musical The Apple. The film knows it's bad, and all the characters act and sing in a predictably overblown camp fashion.

The problem is, unlike other musical camp classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the songs are unimaginably terrible. They are badly written, poorly performed, inadequately choreographed, and downright obnoxious. Reportedly, audience members at the film's premiere threw their complimentary soundtracks at the screen in anger and frustration.

The Apple takes place in the distant future of 1994. Grunge and Gangsta Rap are nowhere in sight. Rather, the public embraces disco and glam-rock, eager to carry on the 1970s' traditions of Ziggy Stardust, Donna Summer, and cocaine abuse. The top recording act is BIM, managed by the most powerful talent agent in the universe: Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal), a prancing bearded middle aged man who vacillates between ruthless efficiency and flamboyant flights of fancy.

During 1994's National Song Competition, BIM's dominance is challenged by the clean-cut Canadian couple Alphie and Bibi, who sing a duet called "Love, the Universal Melody." The song is meant to be an earnest breath of fresh air in a contest populated with superficiality. The problem being that "Love, The Universal Melody" is just as formulaic, insipid, and horrible as anything else in the contest.

Boogalow sabotages their performance, but insists on signing them to his record label. Alphie (George Gilmour) is reluctant to agree, primarily due to a contract more restrictive than his jeans, and frequent vivid Apocalyptic hallucinations equating Boogaloo to the Devil. However, Bibi (Mary Catherine Stewart) sees no problem, and eagerly deserts her life partner to enter the Faustian agreement.

Rather than forget about his duplicitous, moronic, drug-addled girlfriend, Alphie continues to write terrible love songs in an effort to make it big and win her back. When he's not finding new words that rhyme with "love" (dove, glove, mauve, salve, oeuvre, cove, hugs, road?) he's sexually harassing his big-breasted Jewish stereotype landlady.

She encourages him to stop plutzing, kvetching, and schvitzing about his bubbelah like a schlemiel schmuck meshugana and be a mensch. She then bothers him about the rent, because apparently Jews love money.

The script is appropriately flashy and mindless camp. I didn't even mind the (literal) deus ex machina. The problem, as I said before, is the songs suck. They're downright unlistenable. If US troops pumped The Apple soundtrack into the Vatican embassy, Noriega would have run out screaming and tearing his hair.

The Apple knows it's bad and does everything in its power to assure the audience of this. However, the movie is much worse than it knows it is, and proceeds completely oblivious to this added texture. In one musical number, Mr. Boogalow winks at the camera not once, but twice. The rabbit hole of suck goes deeper than the filmmakers anticipated. There is some commentary about the oppressiveness of the commercial music industry and its resistance to change and innovate. Unfortunately, The Apple's alternative is no better than the cultural hegemony.

Though it's fun to mockingly compare the actual music landscape of 1994 with The Apple's inaccurate predictions, the film does get some things right. There seems to have been an abundance of love songs in the movie's recent past, and this glam-disco reemergence is a response. This ties in well with the state of music in 1994, where the death of grunge paved the way to mindless pop tunes from Ace of Bass, and schmaltzy ballads from Celine Dion and Boyz II Men. If The Apple were a smarter movie, it would have solidified the fact that no matter the decade, awful music will never go out of style.

What to drink:


Quotable quotes:

Boogalow: Ashley, prepare some BIM merchandise.
Ashley: Something like... BIM t-shirts!
Boogalow: Ashley use your imagination. This is 1994!

Boogalow: Nostalgia is always dangerous.

Alphie: Joe Pittman from The Daily Post! What's he doing here?
Arbitrary rating system:

3 1/2 keytars


  1. It's a natural, natural, natural desire/To see an actual, actual, actual vampire.

  2. I suppose I'm the odd person out because I actually enjoyed this movie when it first came out. I now own it on DVD and still enjoy it. My favorite song from the movie: Cry for Me.

    1. While I cannot say that I find The Apple to be a good movie, I do wish they still made big budget movies like this. Also this reminds me that we should do more musicals on Your Stupid Minds.

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  4. Sorry that you hate this movie. I had a difficult childhood but my neighbor lady,who owned every movie in the 80s,let me borrow this all the time and I LOVE IT! It's in my top 10 of all time. Made me happy when I was sad. Now as an adult I have owned it for over 25 years. I'd just like to know who did the singing for Katherine Mary Stewart. Who ever it was has a beautiful voice!!