Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paradise Lost: THE APPLE

In my youth, I took a shine to bad movies.  God help me, I love 'em. When a particularly inept line of dialogue somehow makes it past the hundreds of people who approve these things to get all the way to the screen, my heart leaps for joy a little. When I see an expensive train wreck like Battlefield Earth or Ishtar, it reignites my sense of wonder - anything is possible! Plus there's the schadenfreude.

Even though it was released in 1980, the peak years of this obsession, I had never seen The Apple. Despite the distributing muscle of Canon Pictures, I can only assume that this movie never made it to Santa Cruz. And then was largely ignored by video stores. And frankly I'm amazed that Canon didn't buy up and destroy all the copies, but it's available from Netflix now, or it will be in a couple of days when I mail it back.

It has a reputation as the worst movie ever made, though it is not. The thing that makes The Apple so bad is, in fact, that balance between the moments of genuine inspiration and jaw-dropping stupidity. Seriously. The movie is pretty well-cast for example, if you don't count the romantic leads. The "futuristic" set design is mostly awful but sometimes clever, and the staging of the numbers shows a canny understanding of the role of the camera in cinematography.

Rather than explain what it's about, let's just say it's a musical allegory about the devil and the music business, and it doesn't really work anyway. As you watch, I defy you to keep your jaw from dropping less than once every 3 minutes. You will never be more compelled to mutter "what were they THINKING" to yourself more than when you watch this movie.

And indeed, Menahem Golan never showed any particular affinity for musicals, especially this one. My guess is that he and Yorum Globus decided that they could make a bundle in ancillary soundtrack album sales. If this was the strategy, it backfired - reportedly at the premiere angry audience members chucked their souvenir cassettes at the screen, causing extensive damage.

I just read another blogger who described the movie this way:
If you took Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Ken Russell’s Lisztomania (1975) and Milos Forman’s Hair (1979) and boiled them down, carefully distilling everything that made them good, then threw that distillation away, you might get something very like The Apple from the dregs.
I'm not going to top that.

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