You know how everyone thinks Cannon put out some completely crazy movies? If you haven’t seen The Apple (also known as Star Rock), you haven’t seen their full power. Directed by Menahem Golan, this slice of sheer madness is a movie I use to test the resolve of anyone brave enough to watch movies with me.
The genesis of this film begins in 1975. Israeli rock producer Coby Recht was signed to Barclay Records and began to feel distrustful of show business. He worked it into a story with his wife Iris Yotvat and brought it to the attention of his longtime friend Menahem. After hearing the demos for the songs, the producer/director instructed Recht to go to Los Angeles immediately. They were making the movie.
Yotvat said, “That was marvelous. That was just fantastic to think that it was going to be a movie all of the sudden. It was just amazing.”
It wasn’t going to stay that way.
Recht and Yotvat lived in a villa that Menahem provided, writing six screenplay drafts in three weeks. As those drafts progressed, the story became more comical and less Orwellian. Soon, things were getting corny, out of touch and out of date. If you’ve seen any of the movies that Golan was involved in, you can see how that might be true.
After auditioning thousands of hopefuls, Recht settled on Catherine Marie Stewart for the lead role of Bibi. Who is a singer. Not a dancer, like Stewart. He figured she could learn, but the producers decided to have her voice dubbed.
Tensions only got worse once filming began, as what started as a $4 million dollar movie turned into $10 million and then more. Editor Alain Jakubowicz claimed that Golan shot around a million feet of footage, with six cameras of coverage for every dance number, ending up with a four-hour rough cut.
The movie got way bigger than its scriptwriters intended. Shooting in West Berlin lasted forever, with a five-day shoot for the opening number, the song “Speed” being filmed at the Metropol nightclub (which held the world record for biggest indoor laser show) and some scenes were actually shot inside a gas chamber that had killed people during World War II.
Nigel Lythgoe, who later was a big part of American Idol, choreographed the film, saying that some days were “really, really depressing” and others “very, very stressful.” The cast and crew hated the script, but here they were, making the film.
Menahem and Recht’s battles soon got worse. The writer felt he should be in London mixing the songs (the sessions had more than 200 artists involved), but Menahem demanded that he show up at the shoot. The first day he was there, he witnessed the uncut version “Paradise Day” which featured fifteen dinosaurs and a tiger that broke free and escaped. This scene also contained elephants getting their trunks stuck in the set, actors collapsing while wearing a too hot brontosaurus costume and a set that made it near impossible for people to dance on and cameras to move around. Removing this scene makes the Biblical end of the movie come out of nowhere. That’s right. None of this is in the film.
Catherine Marie Stewart has stated that none of this rattled Menahem. In fact, he was convinced that The Apple was going to be embraced: “Menahem was very passionate about what he was doing. He had very lofty ideas about the project. He thought this was going to break him into the American film industry. It had, you know, all the elements that he thought were necessary at that time. It was the early eighties and there were a lot of musicals. And Menahem thought that was his ticket into the American film industry.”
So what happened?
The plot is basically Adam and Eve meets Faust. Bibi (Stewart) and Alphie (George Gilmour) are contestants in the 1994 Worldvision Song Festival. They’re talented but easily defeated by the machinations of Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal, Kronsteen in From Russian With Love) and BIM (Boogalow International Music).
The evil leader soon signs the duo but they soon fall victim to the darkness of show business. Bibi is caught up in the drugs and sex and glamour, while Alphie is beaten by cops and nearly dies to save her. He also lives with a woman who is either his mother or lover or landlady and no one ever explains it to us.
Eventually, they escape and live as hippies, having a child. Mr. Boogalow finds them and claims that Bibi owes him $10 million dollars, but soon God, known here as Mr. Topps (Joss Acklund, The House That Dripped Blood, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) takes them away in his Rolls Royce and the Rapture occurs.
There are numerous scenes where people put stickers, called BIM Marks, all over their faces. Everyone has camel toe. And the movie is nearly 100% disco.
The movie premiered at the 1980 Montreal World Film Festival. To say it did not go well is an understatement.
Attendees hated the film so much that they launched giveaway records of the soundtrack at the screen. Menahem was so devastated that he almost jumped off his hotel balcony before being saved by his business partner, Yoram Globus. A similar scene happened at its second premiere at the Paramount Theater in Hollywood.
The director said, “It’s impossible that I’m so wrong about it. I cannot be that wrong about the movie. They just don’t understand what I was trying to do.”
I get it, Menahem. You were just trying to get people to understand the power of love and music and being hippies a full decade after any of that mattered. You didn’t care if anyone else got it. You had a vision. And we’re not talking about any of those critics today. No, we’re talking about you. We’re talking about The Apple.
This is a movie that wears its heart messily all over its spandex crotch. The songs are ridiculous. The dancing is, at times, poor. The story makes no sense at all. You’re lucky to sit and witness it. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched it!
BONUS! You can hear Becca and me talk all about The Apple on our podcast.