Wednesday, 28 May 2014



Whatever you're doing, stop it right his minute and go and watch The Apple: a 1980 hippie musical very vaguely based around the book of Genesis, from the director of The Delta Force, and which honestly deserves to be far better known. For at least twenty minutes afterwards I could barely form any coherent statement beyond "What the hell was that?"; I watched it shortly after Konga, the endearingly silly British monster movie in which mad scientist Michael Gough turns a chimpanzee into a (sub-Godzilla man-in-a-rubber-suit) gorilla to kill off his enemies, and even that didn't prepare me for the astonishing lunacy of Menahem Golan's futuristic comedy musical full of fantasy sequences, wildly extravagant disco dance routines, and costumes that make the 1980 Flash Gordon look like a particularly drab edition of Newsnight.

In the future (1994, anyway), the world is pretty much ruled by the Boogalow International Music corporation, run by Satan in the guise of music agent Mr Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal, probably best known as the evil mastermind in From Russia With Love). In contrast to his regime of slick but empty pop numbers, he encounters a duo singing simple but heartfelt love songs: Alphie (George Gilmour in his only screen appearance) wants no part of it but his partner and girlfriend Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart!) is immediately trapped in the business and becomes the new face of BIM. In a world where it's compulsory to wear BIM stickers on your face and to stop work for BIM-approved exercise routines (even if you're halfway through open heart surgery or putting out a raging fire), can the young lovers get back together and thwart the evil record company?

Much of this is conveyed through a series of slick dance numbers choreographed by Nigel Lythgoe, now best known for rubbishy TV shows like Popstars, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, and they're really the best thing on show given that, as is usual for such things, the romantic leads are wet as cold tripe. Every ten minutes or so everyone starts leaping about in (at least to my dancephobic eyes) immaculately synchronised routines: one has BIM's principal hunk in a spangly jockstrap tempting Bibi with an apple the size of a bowling ball in a fantasy Hell. Another features Grace Kennedy (!) attempting to seduce Alphie through a song called "I'm Coming", with gyrating couples in bed behind them apparently enacting Busby Berkeley's version of Cafe Flesh. Why is this film not better known?

If it's somehow not enough that Vladek Sheybal has a reggae number "How To Be A Master" (he even has a similar goatee to Roger Delgado), Miriam Margolyes turns up out of nowhere as a stereotypical Yiddish momma who not only says the word "meshuggar" at one point but also makes chicken soup. Towards the end, Joss Ackland appears as the leader of a hippie commune hiding under a bridge and then as God, who takes all the hippies away in his flying car. And then it stops and you spend the next half hour trying to work out if your brain still works and just what the hell you just watched.

Generally, I hate musicals and if I never see South Pacific or Mamma Mia that'll be just fine with me. But boy, is this one a blinder. Don't get me wrong, The Apple is terrible: part-Phantom Of The Paradise, part-Eurovision Song Contest, all-nonsense. But I love that it exists and Menahem Golan was able to do it his way without the studio interfering all the time - he was the studio. It's a one-off and we shall not see its like again. Absolutely unbelievable. Now go and find it.


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