Watching The Apple, a 1980 sci-fi disco opera, I couldn't help thinking of that brief period in the 1970s when porn films actually had a sliver of ambition. Some were entertaining enough that you wondered just how good they might be if the sex had been dropped entirely.
The Apple is the best porno musical ever made, without the porn. It's a movie that gives Can't Stop the Music a run for its money as Gayest Musical Ever--without having any Village People--and makes even Xanadu look like a pretty good idea. For the movie's writer-director, Menahem Golan, you wonder if it was the most elaborate tax dodge in history or, possibly more depressing, the realization of his life's dream.
Set in the glitzy, square-shouldered future of 1994, The Apple spins an Adam and Eve allegory about two naive young folkies from Moose Jaw, Canada, who in their pursuit of pop fame must struggle to save their souls from BIM, a world-dominating music corporation run by a Mr. Boogalow (who's really, you know, Satan). The future, we're shown, will include lots of triangular drinking glasses, star filters, face paint, and baggy silver tunics in a proto Duran Duran style, not to mention young men with pants so tight they actually sport cameltoes. (A gay friend informs me the technical term is "bull's knuckle.")
|Don't call me horny.|
Corporate seduction quickly ensues, as Bibi opts for a contract with the Devil while Alphie chooses his soul and a few overly literal fantasy sequences. Much hand-wringing and colorful disco numbers follow, along with an impromptu exercise break, random mincing, and plot points as arbitrary as the cast's accents (though set in America, the movie was shot in West Berlin). The songs, at times catchy in that queasy, late-'70s pop-operatic way, are so obvious you may start singing along on the first listen.
Bibi is played by a young Catherine Mary Stewart--who survived this to star in Night of the Comet and Weekend at Bernie's--and in the beginning she resembles a dazed Karen Carpenter. But through the magic of BIM's starmaker machinery she's soon transformed into an amazing likeness of Fergie, from the Black Eyed Peas. Only it's a slightly puffy Fergie, and her dancing and singing are so unremarkable you'll find yourself missing the original. You'll also be grateful the film's ability to see the future didn't include predicting 1994's actual music (thank you, Kurt Cobain).
When an attempt to rescue Bibi from Boogalow's clutches leads to a severe ass-kicking by a bald BIM thug with pointy bulldog teeth (who's called...wait for it...Bulldog), Alphie takes comfort in a sad song and a healing bowl of chicken soup from his Yiddisher landlady, who exudes a weirdly incestuous mother vibe. A second rescue attempt results in Alphie being raped by Pandi, a horny black chick who sings, "Feel me comin' for you!" (Apparently the word "subtle" had no direct Hebrew translation.) This leads Alphie to seek refuge with a brood of hippies left over from the '60s who now live "under the bridge." Like trolls, I guess.
|"I'm sorry, but we'll need you to be just a bit gayer."|
There's far more to behold, but I'll leave that for you to discover yourself. This is a movie best viewed with friends--preferably friends sharing some form of hallucinogen. If you choose to experience it alone, I don't recommend doing so drunk or high. The former will only fill you with disgust and self-loathing at your own easily explained, mundane existence, while the latter may cause severe drifting outside the body, with only a pink cloud of incomprehension and a tight feeling in the groin to keep you company.