WTFW: The Apple (1980)

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

WTFW: The Apple (1980)

The Apple (a.k.a. Star Rock) is a 1979 musical science fiction film starring Catherine Mary Stewart and directed by Menahem Golan.  It is a discoesque rock opera-styled feature, set in a futuristic 1994, dealing with themes of conformity versus rebellion and infused with Biblical allegories (namely the tale of Adam and Eve).

The film was a low budget attempt by the young Cannon studio to capitalize on the success of music-oriented films like Saturday Night Fever and Grease.  Set in America but filmed in Germany, it was released in West Germany as Star Rock in 1979.  The film was critically panned and a box office bomb when given an extremely limited U.S. release in the fall of 1980 under its current title.  It may have underperformed in theaters because of the waning popularity of disco music and its rather campy plotline.  However, in later years the film has gone on to enjoy a small cult following.


The Apple (1980)

  • Genre: Comedy – Fantasy – Musical – Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Menahem Golan
  • Produced:
    • Yoram Globus 
    • Menahem Golan
  • Written:
    • Coby Recht (Story)  
    • Iris Recht (Story)  
    • Menahem Golan (Screenplay)
  • Starring: Catherine Mary Stewart, George Gilmour, Grace Kennedy, Allan Love, Joss Ackland, Vladek Sheybal, Ray Shell, Miriam Margolyes, Derek Deadman, Michael Logan, George S. Clinton, Francesca Poston
  • Music: Coby Recht
  • Cinematography: David Gurfinkel
  • Editing: Alain Jakubowicz
  • Studio: NF Geria II Filmgesellschaft m.b.H.
  • Distributed:
    • Cannon Film Distributors  
    • Citadel Films  
    • Paragon Video Productions  
    • Star Video  
    • Columbia Broadcasting System  
    • MGM Home Entertainment  
    • Video Classics
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 21 November 1980 (USA)
  • Running Time: 90 minutes
  • Country:
    • USA 
    • West Germany
  • Language:
    • English 
    • French 
    • German 
    • Italian

Alphie and Bibi, two youths from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada, travel to America to take part in the 1994 Worldvision Song Festival.  Despite being the most talented performers, they are beaten by BIM (Boogalow International Music) and its leader, Mr. Boogalow, who use underhanded tactics to secure a victory.  The duo are approached by Mr. Boogalow to sign to his music label, but soon discover the darker side of the music industry.  Bibi is caught up in the wild lifestyle BIM offers, while Alphie risks his life to free her from the company's evil clutches.  He eventually convinces her to run away with him and the pair live as hippies for a year (and produce a child) before being tracked down by Mr. Boogalow who insists Bibi owes him ten million dollars.  However, the two are saved by the Rapture, and all good souls are taken away by Mr. Topps (aka God).

The film was originally conceived as a Hebrew stage musical by composers Coby and Iris Recht, but after meeting with movie mogul Menahem Golan, the Rechts agreed to prep the story for an English-language musical film.  Golan wrote the script, Coby composed the music, Iris wrote the lyrics and songwriter George S. Clinton was hired as an assistant to polish the lyrics, since the Rechts' English was minimal.

Cattle-call auditions for the film were held in London in 1979.  Catherine Mary Stewart was on her way to dance class when she encountered a few classmates heading in the opposite direction to audition for the film, so she tagged along.  "The director, Menahem Golan, was sitting by watching the proceedings and I noticed that he was doing that ‘frame thing’ with his hands and fingers and looking through towards ME," Stewart said.  Stewart planned to perform her own songs, but having no professional singing experience, the producers decided to switch her voice.  "Even though the coach I was working with thought I would be able to do the work, the producers got cold feet and hired Mary [Hylan], a professional singer, before we recorded anything."

Filming took place from September–December 1979 in West Berlin, West Germany.

In 2008 there was a mix-up booking the print for a screening at L.A.'s The Silent Movie Theatre, so MGM sent over uninspected reels marked "Screening Print."  Presumably this was an original preview print, as it included additional scenes that were cut out of the widely released version (including the complete Coming and Child of Love musical sequences which had been truncated in the final print), a simpler entrance for Mr. Topps at the end (instead of exiting from a Rolls Royce, he merely transforms from the previously seen hippie leader), and the closing credits were presented in a different font and layout.  This version was screened a few times at The Silent Movie Theatre, and it subsequently ran at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in August 2008.

I can attest that this film is much stranger than it seems in the trailer!

 

Sources:

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