Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Apple (1980)

Popular culture trains us in hyperbole. Everything is the (insert adjective) thing we’ve ever seen! Well I’m here to tell you that I have overcome that particular fault, at least when the blank is filled by the word “worst.” For The Apple is the worst movie ever made. Exclamation point.

I know many people make claims of this kind. But folks, Batman and Robin, Ishtar (actually, I rather liked the first half), and Plan 9 have nothing on this one. This is not a case of a movie “so bad it’s good,” which is a cliché with a lot of truth to it, just not here. This is a movie so bad I almost couldn’t sit still through all 90 minutes of it.

Here’s the gist: it’s 1994, the far future, where people wear costumes I think were recycled for Quantum Leap and listen to disco. A folk-duo from Canada with strangely mutating accents threatens Bim’s supremacy on the charts. Yes, the global music market is dominated by a band/corporation named Bim. This “Bim” is run by a Mr. Boogalow, a demonically ridiculous figure whose absurdity is thrown into sharp realism by the absolutely blinding weirdness of the people he surrounds himself with. He signs the young singers to keep them under his thumb—or tries to. Bibi, the female half, is seduced quicker than a curious rabbit but young Alphie starts hallucinating about an apple someone wants him to take a bite of.

Not only are we subjected to this subtle bit of sledgehammer symbolism, but we get a whole production number involving hellish figures writhing around unattractively with, yes, a huge apple and our heroes in some Adam and Eve costumes. Because this is, you guessed it, a musical. The music all the way through is based around one chord per song and lots of repetition of meaningless phrases. It’s as if someone set out to make a sequel to Rocky Horror Picture Show without all the advantages shown off so ineffectively in Shock Treatment. And a less coherent narrative, if that’s possible.

I’m not even going to bother to tell you what happens next, aside from this: boy mopes around a lot while girl becomes superstar for no real good reason. Girl despairs of seeing him again, although she hasn’t actually attempted to do so. Bim turns out to be in league with the government somehow, but I’m not sure why. Hippies come to the rescue despite their apparent lack of a food source or any kind of spirit of resistance. Then the leader of the hippie guy becomes god, or something, and leads the hippies, including our folk duo, into the sky.

This movie brings to mind a lot of movies that are commonly cited as being not too good but actually are. Josie and the Pussycats is actually a slick, entertaining, and hypocritically honest portrayal of a very similar story. Phantom of the Paradise is a passionate, entertaining, and serio-comic treatment of similar themes. Shock Treatment is actually pretty bad, but had Richard O’Brien’s songs and Jessica Harper’s dancing to prop it up. This has nothing. Do not see this movie. Do not buy it like I did just because it was $2. For $2 you can buy a screwdriver to keep on hand in case someone makes you watch this movie and you need to gouge out your own eyes.

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