March 14, 2012 by abbyo
Portraying the future is a tricky business in film. Technology moves so fast these days that you risk your movie being outdated by the time it’s released—for example, we haven’t reached 2054 yet, but the touch-screen computing of “Minority Report” already exists. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to overshoot your vision, and create a future that’s not far off, but hasn’t yet come to pass—we’re three years away from “Back to the Future II,” and still no hoverboards.
So, what’s a creative, forward-thinking filmmaker to do? Well, there’s a third option we haven’t yet explored, and it’s for a special class of movies, made by a special class of people. These are the filmmakers that just say “screw it,” and throw as much body paint, sequins and glitter at the wall as possible, and see what sticks. These movies, like this week’s pick, the movie-musical “The Apple,” are flamboyant, WTF cinema at its lowest, and they are glorious to behold.
Set in the distant future of 1994, “The Apple” tells the story of a dystopian future in which the world is apparently governed by a large multinational corporation called BIM. It’s run by a prancing vampire-like character named Mr. Boogalow, who determines what the public wears, eats, watches and (most importantly) listens to. And because this movie came out in 1980, and this is hell, everyone listens to disco. Lots and lots of disco. Into this scenario wanders a pair of wide-eyed kids from Moose Jaw, Alphie and Bibi, with nothing but a pocket full of dreams and an acoustic guitar. As you can probably guess, this nasty big-city world isn’t too kind to our heroes. Bibi is tempted into a soul-sucking contract with Boogalow, while Alphie stays true to his morals, trying to rescue his beloved from the jaws of evil.
The look of the film isn’t so much futuristic as it is 1975 on steroids (or a lot of cocaine). “The Apple” envisions a future in which we elected Studio 54 as President of the United States. Everyone dresses like glittering drugged-out spacemen. Cars are made of gold. One character wears loads of silver eye shadow, low-cut shirts and fake nails as long as your arm, and keeps company with a gaggle of transvestites…and he’s straight (it’s that last one that pushes him over the believability mark). And while I know that prophetic plausibility isn’t supposed to be the point of a movie like this, you can’t help but put it in context while you’re watching it, and wonder what could have possibly made the filmmakers think Earth would resemble anything near this 14 years on. However, I will say that I think I’d have liked my family’s car better if we’d driven a futuristic golden pimpmobile instead of a green Saturn station wagon. That much, at least, would’ve been cool.
As a musical, “The Apple” tries to combine the music of Grease, the flamboyance and sexual liberation of “Rocky Horror,” and the hippie gospel of “Godspell” into one movie, with all of the mess and contradiction that a combination of those things might imply. There’s also no subtlety whatsoever. Mr. Boogalow is clearly meant to be Satan, as illustrated in this fantastic sequence here:
Later on, Alphie descends into Boogalow’s den of sin determined to find Bibi, but instead is drugged and loved up by a female BIM lackey named Pandi, who sings a nasty little number called “Coming for You” that is way too inappropriate to embed here. Brave folks can click the link. Suffice it to say that if you think that title sounds like an innuendo…well, you’d be right.
Boogalow himself, however, doesn’t resemble the devil so much as a super-effeminate Dracula. Vladek Sheybal, the actor who plays him, also isn’t able to sing, which gets a bit tricky during his musical numbers. He tries to go the Rex Harrison talk-sing route, but ends up sounding more like the Count from Sesame Street, as you can see in this clip:
“The Apple” isn’t an uncompromising vision of the future, nor is it a searing commentary on the nature of our times. It’s just a giant turd, complete with golden pimpmobiles and terrible songs. But “The Apple” isn’t just a turd, it’s a golden turd, and golden turds are the reason this column exists. it’s the kind of movie that’s so jaw-droppingly weird that “awful” isn’t even a term you can accurately use to describe it. The only possible reaction to a shiny, glittery, nonsensical train wrecks like this is to glorify its flaws, and for that, I am immensely thankful.
“The Apple” has plenty of standout musical numbers, but the opener is probably my favorite. It sets the tone for what to expect later on:
There’s also a counterpoint character to Sheybal’s Mr. Boogalow, a mystical godlike figure named Mr. Topps, who leads a group of homeless hippies who split their time between public parks and a cave under a bridge.
Best line of the movie: “Use your imagination! It’s 1994!”