Cannon Fodder 7- THE APPLE and RAPPIN!!
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What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.
Cannon Fodder is an ongoing column that will re/visit the entire canon (ahem) of feature films produced by Cannon Films. Launching some of the biggest action careers in film history, such as Chuck Norris, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Cannon Films were the ultimate purveyors of mid-budget cheese throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s. Cannon Fodder will explore the entire filmography of this storied production company (in no particular order) and will do its best to prepare AICN readers for the upcoming release of Mark Hartley’s definitive Cannon Films Documentary; Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.
Although Cannon Films was not run for the entirety of its existence by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus, they are the power players that gambled big and eventually lost big with this prolific production house. Each edition of Cannon Fodder will briefly explore what level of involvement the loveable cousins had in each film. Because there are several dozen titles in the Cannon Canon, each installment of this column will cover multiple titles.
One of my earlier Cannon Fodder entries featured both BREAKIN’ and BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. And while I’m firmly committed to this column having next to no real order or logical progression beyond my own fancies, I wanted to crank out a couple more Cannon “musicals” before getting too far away from the BREAKIN’ films. So we are going to dive in to a film that attempted to capitalize on the success of BREAKIN’, this time called RAPPIN’. And then THE APPLE attempts to capitalize on the success of… disco? Or maybe cocaine? Either way, keep in mind that I don’t particularly like musicals or dance films on a base level. Sure, I can be convinced to watch them and even fall in love with them, like with maybe the greatest musical, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. I love that movie. But it was an uphill battle for me, because something about musicals just really isn’t my thing. I’m not making a judgment on an entire genre here, I’m just telling you where I am coming from. All musicals have to overcome my general dislike for the format and that is just how it is. Maybe someday that’ll change for me.
One of the main reasons I got going on the Cannon Fodder series is my love for obscure ‘70s and ‘80s action films. So while I plan to save some of the BEST Cannon series’ for later, such as the AMERICAN NINJA films, or the DEATH WISH sequels, I think I’m going to start diving in to some action obscura to rekindle my excitement for all things Golan/Globus. But don’t worry, if I can get my hands on their dramas, more musicals, horror titles, or whatever else, I’ll do my best to do my part. Now let’s get started.
Please note that I’m going to go into detailed spoilers on these ‘80s-era films.
I’ve always felt that what the world was really missing was a massive, chintz-tacular disco, dystopian 1994, Adam and Eve musical parable. But as it turns out, the world isn’t missing that at all. It has been right here with us all along, or at least since 1980. Seek this movie out, people, because it may very well contain within it that missing spark of life, the peace and love that you have been seeking. THE APPLE could change your life if you’ll just take a bite of one of the most insane feature films in existence.
What you really have here with THE APPLE is fascinating. Directed by Menahem Golan, it seems the goal with THE APPLE was to take a musical and infuse it with disco and a Cecille B. DeMille-style Biblical epic. Set in a “futuristic” 1994, the world is controlled by a pop-culture corporation run by Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Shaybal). On one hand, Boogalow is just a really shady record-company exec. But in the world of THE APPLE, he is also an all-powerful dictator, able to enforce laws and dictate pop culture. Oh, and he is also Satan, but we’ll get to that.
We are introduced to the world of THE APPLE through an American Idol-style competition show. First up is Boogalow’s biggest musical sensation, the diminutive British rock and roller with a mullet of gold, Dandi (Alan Love), with his hit “Do The BIM”. Next to take the stage are Alphie (George Gilmore) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart of NIGHT OF THE COMET fame). They appear to be a little behind the times as their music doesn’t even have a trace of disco in it, but is rather a folksy love song. As the audiences “excite-o-meters” begin to rise, their score surpasses that of Dandi’s. So Boogalow pulls some strings, ensures that his man wins, and sets up a meeting to sign Alphie and Bibi to his label.
This is, of course, where the Adam and Even allegory rises to the forefront. And by allegory I mean direct visual representation
With the temptation of signing a contract with Mr. Boogalow, our first insane musical number involves Boogalow dressed as Satan, offering the innocent Bibi a sinful apple, all while the skeptical, loin-cloth clad Alphie watches on in horror. Just like in the Bible, it is totally the woman who gives in to the temptation. Because even in the corporate-ruled future 1994, we can’t imply that a MAN would be the tempted one.
At any rate, the first two-thirds of the film go on kind of like that. Musicals numbers punctuating Bibi’s rise to fame, Alphie’s struggles with being on the fringe, and Bibi slowly losing her soul to the Boogalow machine.
The art design and plot devices along the way are wacky and must be the product of insane genius. With ideas like the mandatory wearing of a “BIM Mark” which is just a triangle sticker that everyone in the world has to wear on their face.
They really commit to that one, to the point where all of our cast is wearing ridiculous looking glitter stickers on their faces for the bulk of the running time. Then there are the insane, massive, elaborate rock opera numbers that make it clear that no expense was spared to bring this film to completion. And apparently no expense WAS spared. I’ll come back to this later, but there are a few massive musical set pieces that were paid for and shot, but never made it into the final cut of the film. Those sequences would have prepared viewers for what has to be one of the most amazing and insane right turns for a third act in the history of movie musicals. And really, I’m not sure that the movie would be better if one WAS prepared for the final act. As it is, the movie ends in a gloriously left field way that is truly one for the record books.
By the end, Alphie is washed up and borderline homeless. And Bibi is beginning to long for her old flame and see through the cracks in her posh and corrupt world. So when Alphie stumbles across a leather-vest wearing, long-grey-haired homeless man (Joss Ackland from LETHAL WEAPON 2) under a bridge, he naturally follows him into the woods, only to discover a long lost tribe of HIPPIES camping out and hiding from The Man.
At one point Alphie asks Lead Homeless Dude, “Who are they?” And Homeless Joss Ackland replies, in full booming British accent, “Refugees from the ‘60s, commonly known as hippies.” I kid you not, it only gets better from there. When Bibi escapes she magically finds Alphie and the merry band of hippies. Then, we cut immediately to what can only be SEVERAL years later, because Alphie has long hair and a beard, and the couple suddenly have a child well into his toddler years.
Somehow Mr. Boogalow has let Bibi dwell in the woods for years before he comes looking for her. When Boogalow shows up, demanding Bibi come back to him, Alphie keeps mysteriously and confidently looking to the sky, as though he knows they will be okay. He indicates that he is waiting for “Mr. Topps”. Bibi asks, rightfully, “Who’s Mr. Topps?”. She asks this because the film has made ABSOLUTELY NO REFERENCE to a character named Mr. Topps up until this point. Then sure enough, a cleaned-up, white-suited, Rolls Royce-driving Joss Ackland appears from out of the sky.
He lays the smack down on Boogalow and leads a mass hippy rapture!
If I were in charge of a pop-culture corporation that ruled the world with an iron fist, I could see my first decree being that every movie ever must end with a massive hippy rapture, because that is obviously the greatest ending imaginable for a film and really no one should ever try to top it.
Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie
- Lead actor George Gilmore. The man has literally ONE credit on IMDB. I mean, it takes work to only have one single credit ever on IMDB. I have more credits than that.
- Said lead actor George Gilmore randomly feeling-up his wacky old “Jewish Mother” landlord played by longtime character actress Miriam Margolyes (whom I sadly recognized primarily from her role in END OF DAYS.)
How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?
This is the section of the column where I normally have to do a good bit of research and poking around the web to find any awesome anecdotes about The Cousins. How hands on were they on this project? What insane stunts did they pull? What juicy ’80-era gossip needs to be unearthed?
Well, it doesn’t get much more Golan/Globus than THE APPLE. As a matter of fact, the film is written, directed, and produced by Menahem Golan himself. Yoram Globus was Producer. THE APPLE is perhaps one of the great peeks we can get directly into Menahem Golan’s soul. And I have to tell you, I could probably live inside Golan’s soul if the opportunity arose.
But this time around in the “Tablespoons” section, I need only guide you to one of the greatest pieces of entertainment and information about THE APPLE that exist, and that is an episode of the podcast THE PROJECTION BOOTH. Seriously, check that podcast out. (Hat Tip to my friend David for pointing me in their direction.)They tracked down just about EVERYONE involved in this movie, interviewed them, and have a treasure trove of content lovingly edited and assembled for your listening pleasure. What was star Catherine Mary Stewart’s experience on the film? She’ll tell you. Want to hear Joss Ackland jokingly recount his bizarre experiences on the set?
The Projection Booth has got you covered. What was the creative process like between the music’s writers and Golan himself? Go find out! There are lawsuit dramas in abundance, and some real human drama as well.
The one anecdote I do want to highlight, which comes straight from that podcast that you need to check out, is the perspective of Golan himself. The film premiered at some prestigious film festival (I want to say Cannes), and was so poorly received that Golan literally went back to his hotel room and considered suicide! But as the film has continued to find new life amongst cult film fans, Golan’s pride in the film he created begins to shine through. It is actually quite touching to hear.
Okay, I’ll mention one other thing as well. The film originally had other large-scale, Biblical sequences that would have made the bizarre ending feel a little less left field. There are apparently even prints of the film in existence that include a large creation set piece with Mr. Topps being properly introduced and establishing the world with various animatronic and puppet animals and disco-era Garden of Eden imagery. I guess a Cannon fan can only dream of someday seeing the original, Golan-infused, disco-Bible epic as it was intended to be seen.
How Can You See THE APPLE?
Believe it or not, THE APPLE is actually available on Netflix Watch Instant as of this writing. I highly recommend checking that out. If you are already a huge fan or know after listening to that Projection Booth Podcast that you will be an enormous fan of the film, you can buy it on DVD from Amazon right here, and a small portion of that purchase will help support this column! Unfortunately, there is not a Blu-ray of THE APPLE as of this writing.
From what I understand, Cannon’s BREAKIN’ (1984) is the film that netted them their highest amount of profit versus expenses. So it was a natural progression to immediately release a sequel that very same year. And after that, why not break out into another one of the four fundamental elements of hip hop and cover RAPPIN’ as well? I know that if I were wealthy Israeli film producers, that would make perfect sense to me. And since we are at it, why don’t we make sure that the story is almost entirely identical to the BREAKIN’ films, make sure that it ALSO features a fresh faced Ice-T in the background doing his thing, only this time, instead of casting performers who are insanely talented at their craft, we’ll cast the dreamy Mario Van Peebles! Oh, and let’s bring back the director of BREAKIN’, Joel Silberg, so that he can essentially remake that film before he goes on direct LAMBADA.
RAPPIN’ is actually quite a bit of fun if you blind yourself to the fact that it is a blatant cash-in on the success of BREAKIN’, and if you can look past the total inability of many of the cast members (Van Peebles tantamount among them) to actually, you know… Rap. But that sounds awfully snarky of me. I honestly had a blast watching this movie.
Mario Van Peebles’ character is named John “Rappin’” Hood, and we meet him as he is just coming back into the city from a stint in jail.
His sentencing had something to do with gang-like activity, or fighting, or something like that. But he returns home a reformed man. He is ready to be a good example to his younger brother, be a good grandson to his hilarious Grandmother, and reconnect with all of his fun-loving crew (which includes a baby-faced Eriq La Salle and Kadeem Hardison.) But some things are amiss in the ‘hood, and “Rappin’” Hood and his merry men have some adventures ahead of them if they are going to take the power back! It seems there are some greedy land developers who are eager to kick out John and all his neighbors, AND a pesky alpha male has taken over the streets with a new gang in John’s absence and old Duane (Charles Grant) just can’t seem to let John do his thing until they can have a penis-size fight street fight.
The whole thing culminates in a somewhat amazing sequence that is even more far-fetched than break dancers performing an incredible dance number that somehow defeats greedy land developers. See, this time around, Hood and his merry men RAP their way into a town hall meeting and convince the board members that their cause is righteous. I’m pretty sure the flustered land developer even crumples up his hat and throws it on the ground in frustration as he twirls his evil mustache. It is that awesome.
So yeah, what you’ve got here is a mid-‘80s, hip hop musical Robin Hood story starring the doe-eyed Mario Van Peebles. If that sounds as amazing to you as it did to me, then you’ll probably love RAPPIN’. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, go ahead and avoid this thing like the plague. Because if you aren’t charmed by a good-natured, musical-number-always-on-the-tip-of-his-tongue Van Peebles, this thing will hit you in the face like a blunt instrument and be equally as enjoyable. I myself was charmed throughout. There are some highlight moments, like when the Merry Men pull one over on a teamster and fill up the whole block’s gas tanks after the greedy landlord had cut off all their heat. It felt like a clever little modern urban update on the types of “rob from the rich, give to the poor” adventures that the classical Robin Hood would’ve undergone. And the entire final act of the film, with the street fight and the aforementioned hip-hop infused board meeting, is just amazing. “Can’t stop / won’t stop / climbing that mountain till we reach the top!” But then, after that phenomenal climax, the story actually wraps up with a closing musical number that sums up the entire plot of the movie and has “Rappin’” Hood walking through town encountering the whole cast and giving them all little moments of hip hop glory. Seriously, the Chinese shop owner even gets a couple rhymes in. And if that ain’t a picture of heaven, I don’t know what is.
Sure, RAPPIN’ is derivative, simple, and an often painful attempt to grasp at some kind of hip hop relevance. And where the bad acting in BREAKIN’ was counteracted by AMAZING dancing, RAPPIN’ just has really bad acting accompanied by generally bad rapping. But I can’t say that somehow, that Mario Van Peebles and his merry men didn’t charm me.
Things You Will Only Ever See In THIS Movie
- Eriq La Salle, throwing down on an inner city street in the most obvious way possible: with a bull whip.
- Mario Van Peebles rocking a leather jacket that would make Ryan Gosling’s Driver from DRIVE mucho-jealous.
- A Chinese shop owner from an inner city drama busting some fresh lyrics right to your ear holes.
How Many Tablespoons of Golan/Globus Are Added?
This whole feature has Golan/Globus all over it. Written, produced, and directed entirely by white people, you get the sense that Cannon was all business when it came to their urban musical fare such as the BREAKIN’ films and RAPPIN’. There is a “can do” simplicity to the whole thing which is somewhat endearing, unless you spend 5 minutes thinking about the actual complexity of urban poverty and gang violence. As much as I’d like to think break dancing and rhyme spinning can tackle greed and poverty, my sense is that reality is a little more complicated.
But aside from all that seriousness, it doesn’t appear that RAPPIN’ was a big financial success and Cannon did not go on to produce any of the other fundamental elements of hip hop. Although I’d pay good money today to see Cannon’s SPINNIN’ and SPRAYIN’. Actually… that sounds amazing. Someone PLEASE make those movies, and go ahead and set them in 1986 and 1987 respectively.
Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus are simply credited as Producers here.
How Can You See RAPPIN’?
When I checked the film out, I had to rent the disc on Netflix. But, as with almost all Cannon titles I have looked into seeing, it appears that MGM are the distributors of the DVD edition of the film, which you can buy on Amazon right here. Sadly, the hip hop masterpiece that is RAPPIN’ has yet to warrant a Blu-ray release.
And I’m Out.
Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis
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