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The Apple (1980)
Directed By: Menahem Golan
Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, Geourge Gilmour, Grace Kennedy
Run Time: 1h 30m
TMM Score: 3 Stars
Strengths: Campy, Weird, and Just How Poorly Done It Is
In the future of 1994, the world is dominated by celebrity, rock status, and the winner of an American Idol style battle of the bands where Mr. Boogaloo, the producer of the show and agent/manager for the winning band tugs the strings of everyone except Alphie, a folk singer who sees through his lies. Oh, it’s also a retelling of the story of Adam & Eve.
It’s hard to put my finger on why I like “The Apple.” It really doesn’t make any sense to like it. The plot is muddled when it isn’t ridiculous, the characters are almost nonexistent for how thinly veiled they are as metaphors, and the music is absolutely dreadful. Even the sound sync is maddeningly off so that your mind is constantly battling to comprehend the difference between what it sees and hears.
This is a film which fails on every level by which film is typically measured so how can it be that I can say that I genuinely like it and not on an ironic, 'look-how-bad-it-is level?
Well first, it doesn’t hurt that I do enjoy watching bad movies already. Many of the things that don’t work in this film also don’t work in “Suburban Sasquatch,” “Miami Connection,” or “The Room.” I like those movies too, but not quite in the same way that I like “The Apple.”
A big part of why I like this film is because it is obviously a film which the director cared about. You can read all day about Golan & Globus and their scammy exploitative way of making films but they were known for cheap as dirt, campy, action flicks with boobs, guns, and gore.
“The Apple” just isn’t like that. It’s basically a hippie condemnation of corporate art’s lack of soul. It’s hard not to watch it and see parallels to Warhol, American Idol, and, probably, how the director saw himself and his artistic partner, Yoram Globus. I don’t necessarily think that they saw themselves accurately in that regard but I’m pretty sure that was the mirror into which he was looking.
This idea of a “passion project” is a real rosetta stone for people who wonder how I, and others like me, can possibly enjoy watching a bad movie. Watching someone really swing for the fences, even if they hit it foul, is still impressive. I’ve made short films, worked on features, made most of a documentary and I know how hard it is to make anything at all.
I’m sure this movie is in no way the embodiment of what the director wanted it to be but it also is the product of genuine desire and sweat. I admire that and feel the same way about Menahem Golan as Tommy Wiseaux and Y.K. Kim. Sure the movies they made were bizarre, off-key, and unintentionally laughter inducing but at the end of the day I still respect them far more than the average online blogger who talks about all of the problems in the continuity but has never made anything more impressive than a few tweets that got retweeted by Buzzfeed.
“The Apple” is also a member of a subgenre of bad movie, which is certainly an acquired taste: the musical bad movie. I think the reason I love these kinds of films is that musicals are so complicated even wonderfully talented filmmakers can falter when it comes to harmoniously mixing a whimsical song and dance number with more conventional acting and dialogue. It should be no surprise when Menahem Golan tries to make a musical, a director who can barely manage to get a convincing prop gun into the hands of an underpaid centerfold/aspiring actress for a few fight sequences, the result is utter nonsense.
Films have rhythms and flow just like music does so if the two don’t compliment each other it blows up in a cacophony of boredom and bewilderment as your brain tries to make sense of what it is seeing. In “The Apple” this is further complicated by the fact that the music and the film as independent entities have no rhythm. The songs are half spoken and where it is sung, it is sung hard. Like, really hard.
This brings a level of failure to the film that is truly delightful. It is like being able to laugh at my own bad films. I’m not just laughing at the failure of a specific director. I’m laughing at my own highschool poetry. I am laughing at the movie I would probably make if I had the same combination of their budget and time.
The last reason I love this film is because of my friends. I have been blessed with an upbringing that included MST3K and then early Rifftrax so bad movies and jokes about them have been formative to my cinematic taste. As an adult, I have been blessed with some of the funniest people in the world as friends. Their commentary along with a film is a true delight and while I still enjoy a Rifftrax, when I see a bad movie, my first thought is not, “is there a rifftrax of this?” It’s, “can I get Seth, Chad, Karl, The Jareds, John, or Lucas to watch this with me?”
So, while for the average moviegoer the terrible quality of the movie may seem a flaw, for me, it is a feature. While the story may seem so simple and “boring,” it is exactly that quality that lets me look past it to imagine the shoot days, the writing process and all the fun I am having watching something so campy, earnest, and hilarious along with my best friends.
If that is a bad movie, then maybe “bad movie” is more of a genre than just a descriptor of the quality.
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