Midnight Movie, Fairy Tale: Apple Pie (1975)
I think we have all watched a movie and by the film's end we ask the TV, "What the hell was that?" Howard Goldberg's Apple Pie is a film that you start asking that question about fifteen minutes in and never stop.
We meet gangster Jacques "The Ace" Blinbaum (Tony Azito), who enters an apartment building with his entourage. Maybe. Maybe it's an apartment building, maybe it's a hotel. They look the same to me.
And maybe Jacques is a gangster. He comes across as a gangster type in his pinstripe suit and finely cut fake beard, but he could be a guy fantasizing about being a gangster.
Yes, he has an entourage. A woman laughs like she's five women. An impossibly young Calvert DeForest may be a hitman for Jacques, but he's more interested in playing the board game Clue than whacking wise guys. (If that name sounds familiar, you probably know DeForest from his appearances decades ago on Late Night with David Letterman, as Larry "Bud" Melman.)
There's a lot of indistinguishable chit-chat. Multiple conversations are going on. The only thing we don't have is a story or plot. Then the focus is on Jacques and he recalls when he first started his life of crime.
For this flashback, Jacques removes his fake beard so he can play the seventeen-year-old version of himself (?). Here we see how he involves a couple criminal types to help him stage a fake kidnapping so he can snag two hundred thousand bucks from his parents.
His father is played by Brother Theodore (Theodore Gottlieb) and he plays the part like an angry German Archie Bunker.
Jacques then starts a life of crime that leads him to the picture's climactic song and dance number, blazing across the streets of NYC. Hey, is that Irene Cara? (Why, yes. Yes it is. This was her first screen credit, as a dancer in the big dance finale number.)
I know I'm not really describing the film, I'm just telling you what it is. There's a difference. This film defies description. It's also a film that is hard to forget. When you watch it, your mind may try to wander, but it is constantly pulled back by something on screen.
I have found that days later, a part of the movie I did not find particularly amusing when I was watching suddenly pops into my head and I have a weird chuckle. I keep trying to put it all together in a more linear fashion but I can't.
It's sort of like an anthology. The closest I can compare it to would be Ken Shapiro's brilliant comedy anthology The Groove Tube (1974), particularly "The Dealers" segment. The comparison is made by the wacky, anything goes style of the vignettes, and they have that same gritty '70s look and feel, but they are two very different films.
The music for the climactic dance number is courtesy the Darryl Hall/ John Oates Band. The rest of the score is performed by Brad Fiedel.
I don't think these vignettes were created for the comedic effect of watching it on TV at home, but rather for the communal effect of watching it with a crowd of raucous moviegoers at midnight, when night is only getting started for some.
Info on this flick is sparse. It did receive a VHS release and maybe a DVD release, but again, if it wasn't watched in the presence of a group, I wonder how effective it was. It seems perfect for a midnight movie crowd, and maybe the first weekend it wouldn't be that popular, but by the second weekend more people would attend. By the third weekend, I imagine more people would show up, along with viewers clocking a second viewing. After a while, I see the entire audience dressing as gangsters and then whipping off their fake beards for the second story, culminating in everyone dancing up and down the aisles during the scene.
But what is it?
It is weird. It is unique. It is not like anything else you have seen. It's like an art film crossed with a drive-in comedy anthology. A train wreck between film and stage. A melding of cringe humor and slapstick.
I kind of want to watch it again.
If you know anything about this flick, especially if it ever played U.S. theaters, let us know. This film should not be forgotten. (It's easily accessible on Tubi.)
(Goldberg went on to write the script for Tobe Hooper's Spontaneous Combustion (1990). It is easy to see the same man wrote both movies.)
Dancing in the streets.