Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

Filtering by Category: Bad 70s Musicals

Repost - Gotta Strut!

(Another repost! Deal with it!)

I bet if I were to ask even the sharpest of movie freaks to compose a list of performers most closely associated with that glorious enterprise known as the Bad Seventies Musical it would take quite a long while for the name Sylvester Stallone to eventually come up, but the truth is that the Italian Stallion has not one, but two such memorable disasters hidden away amongst the many lunk-headed sequels, misguided comedies and action flops that dominate much of his filmography.  The second of these two, Rhinestone (in which he played a monosyllabic New York cab driver who Dolly Parton bets she can transform into a Country Music star) is the more obvious of the two, since he actually stars in it and is as horrifyingly bad as you would imagine, but the first is far more important since it is the film that marked the true turning point in his career.

Looking back with the gift of hindsight and the knowledge of all the truly terrible films to come (Rhinestone, Rocky IV, Cobra, Over the Top, Rocky V, Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot!, Judge Dread and Driven to name just the most purely wretched of a wretched bunch) it seems odd to read Roger Ebert describe the subject of today’s post as “…the first bad film [Stallone has] made,” but people forget that following his star-turning breakout in the Academy Award-winning megahit Rocky, there was a period where Stallone was actually considered a gifted actor and filmmaker (as incredible as it seems he not only had been nominated for Best Screenplay, but Best Actor as well).

After Rocky he co-wrote the screenplay (with the infamous Joe Eszterhas, who made his own contribution to the world of Bad Seventies Musicals with his screenplays for Flashdance and Showgirls) and starred in Norman Jewison’s union drama F*I*S*T, which wasn’t nearly as well received, but kept afloat his reputation as a serious actor and writer who had the potential to be one of the great talents of the decade. The same was true for the period wrestling drama Paradise Alley, which also marked his directorial debut.  Rocky II, which he also directed, proved to be a much bigger hit and though the general consensus was that it was inferior to the original, both critics and audiences seem to agree that it was still a well-made and entertaining film.  After that Rutger Hauer’s villain got most of the attention from Nighthawks and North America’s indifference to soccer kept Victory from being a hit, but the back-to-back smashes of Rocky III (which he wrote and directed) and First Blood (which he did not) truly made it seem like Stallone was a man with the Midas touch.  True, there were some rumblings that he had taken the Rocky franchise into a strangely cartoonish direction that seemed far removed from the sweet, realistic drama of the original, but even this could be deemed excusable when you considered that the first film was about a no-name boxer who dreamed of being the champ and the third was about a champ who had already gotten everything he had ever wanted.
It was a position Stallone could write about from personal experience, having gone from a bit-part actor struggling to pay his rent to a superstar who now had the professional freedom to do whatever he wanted.  And what he wanted to do in 1982 was make the transition towards becoming a pure filmmaker—one who could make the movies he wanted without having to star in them as well.

This was not as simple as it sounds.  Though by this time Clint Eastwood (an actor turned director whose reputation for minimalist performances and cheesy patriotic action movies was at one time almost identical to Stallone’s) had already directed nine films, he had only failed to star in one of them and it, Breezy, remains the most obscure film he has ever made.  Decades earlier, Gene Kelly made three films purely as a director, but the only one people remembered was Hello Dolly, an infamous financial fiasco.  And Jack Lemmon’s sole directorial effort, Kotch, told a tale not unlike the one found in Breezy—with just as memorable results.

At that time Robert Redford had been the only superstar actor to successfully make the transition to non-performing director with his debut Ordinary People.  But unlike Redford, who used his clout to get a downbeat and commercially questionable film made with the actors he wanted (rather than ones he thought would sell tickets), Stallone decided that for his first film completely behind the camera, he would instead craft a sequel to the huge 1977 hit film that had made John Travolta an overnight star and taught the world the glory of the discothèque.

I am, of course, talking about:
John Travolta as Tony
A Struggling Dancer
Cynthia Rhodes as Jackie
Another Struggling Dancer

Finola Hughes as Laura
A Successful Dancer
Sylvester Stallone as Random Asshole On the Street
A Random Asshole On the Street


Frank Stallone as Carl
A Rhythm Guitarist


Back in Brooklyn in 1977, Tony Manero was the king of the disco, but six years later he’s just another out of work dancer in Manhattan, making ends meet teaching classes to untalented wannabes and waiting tables at the kind of club he used to rule.  Thanks to his only slightly more successful friend and occasional bedmate Jackie, he meets Laura, a wealthy British dancer whose moves and “intelligent” accent instantly catches his interest.  When he is cast in the chorus of her new show, Satan’s Alley, he manages to spend half a night in her bed, but quickly learns that she has no interest in a man who can’t do anything for her or her career.  Torn between the bitch who won’t have him and the saintly girl who will, Tony risks ruining his first big break, but when the director decides to take a chance and have him replace the show's male lead, he learns who he really is and is finally able to decide who he really loves.


As a “behind the scenes” musical, Staying Alive eschews the traditional break-out-into-song-and-dance scenes in favour of the kind of musical montages popularized by the success of Flashdance, but best exemplified by the extraordinary “On Broadway” sequence in Bob’s Fosse’s All That Jazz.  That said, the following scenes certainly do qualify:






Assuming you merely scrolled down past the above list in a hurried attempt to get to this post's chewy, snarky center, I think it would behoove you to quickly look at it one more time and see if you notice an odd pattern forming.  While you take care of that, I'll just insert a jpeg of a magazine cover from this period that does little to downplay the long-held rumours of Travolta's closeted homosexualty:
Ready now?  Okay, then I'm sure you noticed that of the six musical numbers noted above, half feature songs performed by the director's infamously less-successful younger sibling, Frank.  What you probably didn't note--because it's the kind of information no sane person should actually know off the top of their heads--is that the remaining three numbers feature songs that were written by Frank Stallone as well.  This is not insignificant, as it is the clearest example of the level of hubris Stallone possessed as he worked on the project.
Lemme explain.
As iconic as Tony Manero's white suit was, it was three brothers from Australia who were truly responsible for turning a movie about an asshole who likes to dance into something much, much more.  It has become popular now to praise Saturday Night Fever the film as a classic example of how the 70s cinematic pursuit of verisimilitude was able to transform a typical teen dance movie into a major work of art--to the point that it more resembled a work of cultural anthropology than any mere trifling entertainment.  On the other hand, the popular opinion of Saturday Night Fever the record album is that it is one of the archetypal examples of the wretched tastelessness that defined the end of the lamentable me-decade--a craven musical sell out from a group once best known for folky pop songs with memorable harmonies.  What this clearly ignores is that while the film was a popular success, the album was a zeitgeist-changing uber-phenomenon.  By the time they got around to filming Staying Alive (which itself was named after the album's biggest hit) the soundtrack recorded by the brothers Gibb still held the record for best selling LP of all time, having gone platinum 15 times over since its release.  It wouldn't be until a year after Staying Alive bombed that Michael Jackson's Thriller would finally best the Bee-Gee's achievement.
What some folks might not realize is that this was not an accident.  Saturday Night Fever was produced by an Australian gentleman named Robert Stigwood, who at that time was best known as the manager of a group of singing brothers known as--you guessed it--The Bee-Gees.  It should come as no surprise then that his principal interest in the project wasn't in presenting an anthropological study of the social rituals of Brooklyn douchebags, but rather in crafting the perfect comeback vehicle for his biggest meal ticket.  Rather than the album being a fortuitous offshoot of the film, the film was made specifically to justify the creation of the album. 
But that had been over five years ago--a lifetime in the world of music--and The Bee-Gees had become the Celine Dion's of their time, a group no one with even the tiniest iota of taste and/or self-awareness could admit to enjoying.  Because of this Stallone recognized that the group's music would have to be featured in the film, but it could not be allowed to dominate.  Thanks to Stigwood's role as the film's producer, the group received prominent billing in its opening credits, but--with the exception of the use of the title song at the very end--the truth is that their contributions amount to little more than anonymous background filler.  Rather than rely on the music of the group that allowed for the first film's creation and massive cultural success, Stallone chose to ignore it in favour of the questionable efforts of his baby brother, who he also cast in the not-so-crucial role of the guitar player in Jackie's band.
I could spend a good long while discussing the reasons why he would choose to do something so obviously foolish, but in the end the only one that matters is the simplest--because he could.
As reasons justifying disastrous decisions go, "Because he could," is probably responsible for destroying more careers than any other in Hollywood.  As any proper student of cinematic failure can tell you, there are two distinct kinds of Hollywood flop--the corporate folly and the vanity project--and in most cases the ultimate blame for their failures can both be attributed to "Because he could," the only variable being just who the "he" in the equation is.  With the exception of perhaps Eddie Murphy, no other iconic 80s superstar suffered more as a result of his ability to make his decisions without having to justify them to the people signing his massive paychecks.  Unlike Bruce Willis, who could survive and thrive after a "Because he could" flop on the level of Hudson Hawk (a film I am proud to say I actually saw in the theater when it was released), once Stallone started failing, it became impossible for him to stop.  Given the freedom to do whatever he wanted with a project that had nothing to do with Rocky Balboa or John Rambo, he proved that his less-than-stellar vision would lead to him attempting to turn his brother into The Next Big Thing, regardless of whether or not Frank had the talent to justify it.
For this reason Staying Alive is important as the turning point in Stallone's career.  Despite his only appearing onscreen for a couple of seconds, its failure laid the groundwork for all of his other failures to come.
That said, I have to admit that the music provided by Frank Stallone does amount to being the high point of the film, for as cheesy as it may sound, it's downright revolutionary compared to the film's script.
What Stallone and Norman Wexler, Staying Alive's two credited writers, didn't seem to realize is that if you choose to forgo plot in favour of a more intimate character drama, you are then required to create interesting three-dimensional characters who are compelling enough on their own to make you forget the utter lack of story.  Instead they crafted a screenplay inhabited by cyphers whose actions are entirely dependent on what the director wanted to have happen in each scene, rather than what they would actually do in that situation.
But more than that, the screenplay fails because the director is never able to convince us that its logical conclusion is at all valid..  According to the script, we are supposed to come to believe that while Laura is initially compelling, her ambition and self-devotion make her unworthy of Tony's affection, while Jackie's ability to forgive his trespasses and love him for who he is makes her the deserved choice.
This may have flew in 1983, but 25 years later, it reeks of old-fashioned sexism.  Laura's faults are no different than Tony's, but because she's a woman they are deemed unseemly, while Jackie's strange willingness to be continually treated like a doormat is portrayed as her most noble quality, rather than the tragic weakness it is.  It doesn't help Stallone's cause that Finola Hughes is so much more interesting and charismatic than her blond counterpart, Cynthia Rhodes (whose greatest contribution to pop culture remains her performance as the girl whose botched abortion compels Baby to dance with Johnny in Dirty Dancing).  Perhaps Stallone wanted to make a point about how settling for mediocrity is the fate of everyone, even gifted dancers, but if so he does not properly sell this conclusion and instead leaves the viewer hating Tony even more than they already did for settling for someone as challenging as a People magazine crossword puzzle.
What then is there about Stallone's first major folly to make it worthy of the attention of the second Project Kinda-Gay post?  Well, as strange at it may seem, for all of his vanity and undeserved egomania, Stallone was a filmmaker who wanted to stretch beyond the limits of his comfort zone and the proof of this lies in Staying Alive's existence.  And though its failure doomed him to direct only the sequels and "reboots" of his two most profitable franchise, there is something honourable in the attempt--even considering how poorly that attempt ending up being.
Anyone can do what they're good at and continue to succeed, but it takes a brave soul (albeit a brave foolish soul) to try something different and risk embarrassing themselves in the process.  Stallone in this instance was that brave foolish soul and for that he derserves to strut:

Repost - Attack of the Muses

(Hey, I'm BUSY! So, I'm reposting this "classic" from July of 2008. Like you're so great!)

As ridiculous as it may seem announcing a new House of Glib feature during a period where my output can justifiably be called “Pathetic,” I’m going to do so anyway, because that’s just the way this playa plays the game (holla!).  For the past little while I’ve been finding my attention increasingly diverted by what many would consider the worst and most lamentable films in the Bad Movie Pantheon, but in which I have started to find increasing amounts of comfort and solace.  Given the amount of time I’ve been spending with these films, it seems only right to start documenting them for the enjoyment of all of the Googler’s who’ve come here in search of “Superfriends Porn” or “Sophie Simmons Breasts” and since every House of Glib feature needs a slick, fancy name, I have decided to dub this latest venture:

Project Kinda-Gay

That’s right folks, these posts are all about musicals, but not any kind of musicals.  No, we’re talking about the most twisted, terrible, hilarious, wonderful, demented musicals of all time—Bad Seventies Musicals!  But before we can get started let me provide you with this helpful FAQ:

Q) What is a Bad Seventies Musical?

A) A bad musical made in the 1970s, duh.

Q) Is That It?

A) Well, no, it is more complicated than that.

Q) How So?

There’s a special kind of cheesiness that one must achieve to be considered a Bad Seventies Musical.  For example take Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York.  It was made in the seventies, is a musical and—to all but a few stubborn contrarians who refuse to accept that El Maestro has ever been capable of an obvious self-indulgent failure—isn’t very good.  Yet despite the fact that it is—technically speaking—a lowercase bad seventies musical it is not an uppercase Bad Seventies Musical, since Scorsese’s skill and natural sense of good taste keep it from achieving the level of pop-culture hilarity that is necessary for it to merit the proper capitalization.


Q) Is There Anything Else?

A) Of course there is.

Q) Like What?

A) To start off with, in order to be considered a Bad Seventies Musical, a movie doesn’t actually have to be bad or made in the 1970s.

Q) WTF?  Are You Crazy?  That Totally Contradicts Your Answer To The First Freaking Question!

A) No, it’s true.  Take Tommy for example.  It was nominated for a whole bunch of Oscars, got great reviews and is considered by many to be a classic, yet it can also be considered one of the best examples of the form.  No matter how well respected it is, any musical that features a scene of Ann-Margret writhing orgasmically in a sea of baked beans is the epitome of everything a Bad Seventies Musical represents.

Q) And What About Movies Not Made in the Seventies?

A) The term Bad Seventies Musical refers as much to a state of mind as it does to a specific period and by that standard there are many films produced in the 1980s that must be considered Bad Seventies Musicals.  In fact (and I haven’t checked this out, but it certainly seems true) there might actually have been more Bad Seventies Musicals made in the 80s than in the 1970s.

Q) Then Why Don’t You Call Them Bad Eighties Musicals?

A) Because that would be retarded.

Q) You Mentioned That These Movies Are All Inherently Cheesy.  Can You Go Into Any Better Detail Than That?

A) I could, but I think that after the first couple of entries, you’ll start noticing the overall pattern.  It’s probably best to just end this charade and start talking about the movie this post is supposed to be about.

Q) Which Is?

A) A 1980 (see, told ya!) roller disco classic starring the chick who put on tight, slutty leather pants to turn on a greaser, a young Warrior and some old guy who once starred in the greatest musicals ever made, but still somehow ended up in this.

Q) Oh God…You Don’t Mean—?

A) Yes!  It’s:

Michael Beck as Sonny Malone
A Struggling Artist
Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire
A Rich, Old Dude
A Roller-Skating Muse
Sonny, a struggling artist, is walking along Venice Beach when he is randomly kissed by a beautiful, blond, roller-skating muse named Kira.  During his attempts to find the beauty he runs into Danny McGuire, a rich, old dude who spends his time playing the clarinet on the beach, remembering the days when he was a big band leader at his own nightclub in the 1940s (where he too once received the attention of a beautiful, blond muse).  Wanting to relive his glory days, Danny decides to open a new nightclub and asks his new artistic friend to help him find the perfect building for it.  Drawn to a dilapidated old wrestling arena by the muse who kissed him earlier, Sonny convinces Danny it's the perfect place for the nightclub, while he also falls in love with the blond babe in wheeled shoes.  For the first time in her existence, Kira reciprocates an artist's love, even though she knows such feelings are forbidden by her father, Zeus.  Breaking Sonny's heart, she returns to her otherworldly home, where he manages to find her.  Forced back into the mortal realm by Zeus, Sonny arrives at the grand-opening of his and Danny's new roller disco palace, Xanadu, certain he will never know true love again, unaware that the gods work in oh-so mysterious ways.
While in the future there shall be films that test the boundaries of what can be truly considered a Bad Seventies Musical, Xanadu is definitely not one of them.  No, it truly is an archetypal example of the form and from it one can devise a handy checklist by which all other examples can (and will) be judged.
1) Insultingly Simple Plot:
I've gone on record many times as being one of the worst synopsizers in the history of humankind.  Once in an email to a friend, I actually took 750 words to describe a 725 word story I had written (which is actually a fairly admirable achievement if you think about it).  That said, the fact that I could accurately sum up all of the events in Xanadu in the one medium-sized paragraph found above shows you how little story the filmmakers felt they needed to justify this collection of songs and dance numbers.  This simplicity is an essential part of every Bad Seventies Musical--if you actually have to spend any time thinking about the plot, you are watching something else, no matter how bad, how musical or how seventies it may be.
2) Hilariously Tacky Production and Wardrobe Design:
The standard here is not to judge the film's overall design aesthetic by today's modern standards, but instead by the standards of good taste that existed when the film was actually being made.  Even though the 1970s is considered by most people to be the stylistic nadir of the 20th Century (followed closely by the one that came immediately after it), one should be careful not to assume that the tackiness on display in a Bad Seventies Musical was actually considered acceptable when it was produced.  This is especially true of Xanadu, whose crimes against design were just as heinous the day it opened as they are today.  One need only consider the scene where Gene Kelly and the gang go to a "modern" clothing store and his dignity takes such a beating one has to literally close their eyes, cover their ears and repeat "Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, An American in Paris and It's Always Fair Weather," over and over again until it finally ends.
3) Music That Makes You Question Your Own Judgment:
The score of a Bad Seventies Musical must walk a narrow line.  On the one hand, it must be memorable enough that you'll find yourself haunted by at least one of its songs until the day you die, while on the other hand it must be misguided enough that even its most ardent defender wouldn't go so far as to insist that it is genuinely good.  The music of a Bad Seventies Musical sounds as though it might have actually once been good, but has been made much less so as the result of the demands of the production.  Again, few films illustrate this with better clarity than Xanadu.  Days after watching the film, you'll find yourself unconsciously humming the tunes to "I'm Alive", "All Over the World", "The Fall" and "Xanadu" while at the same time wishing you could find Jeff Lynne and give him the ass-kicking your conscious mind tells you he deserves.
4) Annoying Retro Touches:
As a misguided attempt to mitigate its crimes against good taste, a Bad Seventies Musical will often look back to the past for touches of old school glamour.  But rather than elevate the production, these retro touches inevitably serve to only remind the viewer how much better the musicals of the past actually were.  No sequence in the history of the genre better illustrates this than Xanadu's "Dancin" number, in which the worst excesses of the 1940s and 70s are wedged together into a union that only serves to degrade and humiliate them both.  Some films choose to also reach for this nostalgic goodwill through the stunt-casting of celebrities whose best years are famously behind them.  Xanadu takes this approach to the highest possible level by casting one of the genre's two biggest legends (Fred Astaire at that point being too old to even credibly play an old, rich dude), with the result that younger viewers are left wondering why they have to watch Grandpa gliding around on roller skates, while older viewers are reminded that there are certain things a person should not be allowed to do once they've reached their declining years.
5) An Appalling Sense of Waste:
All of the best Bad Seventies Musicals leave the viewer with the impression that what they are watching led (justifiably or not) to the destruction of more than one show business career.  Whether it's a once-promising newcomer who never received the second-chance they deserved or an actual star who never recovered from the damage the film did to their reputation, there should at least be one person involved in the production for whom you feel a tremendous amount of pity, certain that they did not deserve to have their trajectory halted by "this."  In that vein, did you know that the only mainstream Hollywood feature film Olivia Newton-John starred in after Xanadu was the unfortunate John Travolta Grease-reunion project Two of a Kind, which despite featuring many of the key attributes of the genre, cannot be considered a Bad Seventies Musical due to its lack of music?
Now comes the section where I blatantly ignore everything I've previously written in this post, so I can argue that--despite what you may think--your life really isn't truly complete until you've sat down and watched this crappy movie starring the world's blondest faux-Australian (no, really, she was born in England.  Look it up if you don't believe me--I was just as shocked and devastated as any right-thinking person would be), one half of Houston Knights and the legend whose last few roles serve as textbook examples of why celebrities should just enjoy their retirement years like Johnny Carson did--playing tennis and slowly dying of smoking-related emphysema.
Having spent the last year closely dissecting the Roller Disco movie phenomenon that briefly threatened the world during the last throes of the "Me Decade" (that is to say I watched this and Roller Boogie, while dreaming of the day I could get my hands on a copy of Skatetown USA), I wish I could say that in them I have found some grand metaphor for existence that suggests a sub-textual profoundity that rises them above the level of faddish exploitation, but I can't.  Created only as a means to chase a quick buck (foolishly so in the case of Xanadu, which immediately went down in history as one of Hollywood's more infamous financial disasters, despite its spawning a hit soundtrack), these films were not designed to be of the ages, but rather to be immediately consumed and immediately forgotten.  Yet here we are, 28 years later, and we can't get the stupid things out of our heads.
Xanadu like all Bad Seventies Musicals is important because its failure is so impressive it resonates within us long after we have experienced it.   A mere mediocrity can be forever consigned to oblivion, but a true disaster can never really go away--it will always linger and the longer it does, the more we are able to forgive its brazen flaws and appreciate its subtle charms.  The lesson then is obvious--fail modestly and you'll vanish without notice, fail egregiously and you just might achieve cultural immortality.  Don't believe me?  Last year, some folks saw fit to mount a stage version of Xanadu, resulting in a hit Broadway show that was nominated for four Tony Awards and the release of the "Magical Music Edition" DVD that I purchased two weeks ago, spurring me to write this post. 
When Kira appears in mortal form at the film's end, her metamorphosis goes unexplained.  The filmmakers hope that we will  not question her inexplicable appearance because they are giving us the happy ending they correctly assume we desire, and as crass and lazy as this may be, this denouement serves as an ironic counterpoint to the film's ultimate fate.  In choosing love, Kira forgoes immortality and a life spent inspiring artists to create their greatest works, while the producers of Xanadu chose commerce (their every creative choice based not on what felt right, but rather on what they thought would sell) and unwittingly created a lasting work destined to inspire future creators.  And while I'm not necessarily sure this is a good thing, it does allow us the comfort of knowing that it is possible to someday see your past mistakes be, if not redeemed, then at least made to seem  a little less terrible.
In 1984 the film's director, Robert Greenwald, treated us to another infamous movie starring an iconic blond when he made the then-controversial TV movie The Burning Bed, which featured a battered Farrah Fawcett barbecuing an abusive Paul Le Mat on the titular piece of furniture.  Today he is better known as the liberal documentarian behind the muckraking features Outfoxed and Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices.
Choreographer Kenny Ortega gained fame as the man who made Swayze move in Dirty Dancing and parlayed this success into a seemingly mediocre directing career that has suddenly grown hot due to the success of his High School Musical franchise.
Producer Joel Silver went on to earn his fortune making Action Jackson, Road House, Hudson Hawk and Fair Game (as well as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Matrix and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and in so doing tied Robert Evans and Harvey Weinstein's records for most parodied and mocked film producers of all time.
Olivia Newton-John got "Physical" and made one more (previously mentioned above) bad movie before she accepted her destiny of being rediscovered every six years or so by young girls exposed to the questionable glories of Grease.
Michael Beck revisited his famous role of Swan in 2005's video game recreation of The Warriors.
And, finally, Gene Kelly did what all aging celebrities must eventually do--he died ten years after everyone had already assumed he was dead.

B-MOVIE BULLSH*T - Part Fifteen "No, Giorgio. No!"

B-Movie Bullsh*t

Part Fifteen

Yes, Giorgio



Giorgio Fini is the world’s greatest opera tenor, but the thought of returning to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House—the site of his most humiliating disaster—is enough to turn him mute before a public performance in Boston. His loyal manager, Henry, finds the city’s best ear, nose, and throat doctor, who just happens to be a gorgeous blond named Pamela Taylor. At first Fini refuses to be treated by a “nurse”, but submits when Henry makes up a story about a tenor he managed who lost his voice when he refused to be examined by a non-Italian doctor. Dr. Taylor quickly diagnoses that Fini’s laryngitis is psychosomatic and “cures” him by painfully stabbing him in the butt with a B-12 shot. Fini is so grateful he begins to court the beautiful doctor, even though he is a married man with two children. He eventually convinces her to join him in San Francisco, where they embark on a bittersweet love affair doomed from the moment of its conception. Having been convinced by Dr. Taylor to return to the Met, Fini deals with his heartbreak by giving the greatest performance of his life.


Okay, I know what you’re thinking—“What the fuck is Allan on? Does he have a fever? In what universe is a light mainstream romantic comedy about fucking opera anything even approaching a B-Movie?”

And here are my answers to all of those questions—“Mostly Nyquil. Yes, but it’s not as bad as it was yesterday, where it forced me to miss my family’s X-Mas celebration. This one.”

Y’see, despite being made by a major studio with a $19 million budget (which those of you who read my Megaforce entry know was a very significant amount of money at the time) and its classical music setting, Yes, Giorgio is as perfect an example I can name of one of my very favourite sub-genres of exploitation movies—the starsploitation flick.

It’s a very simple concept that dates back all the way to the silent era. Take a non-acting celebrity whose fame and name recognition is off the charts and throw them into the movie with the hope that their legion of adoring fans flock to the theater to see them. I’ve already mentioned the amazing Viva Knievel! on the blog, but other classic examples include such disasters as 1955’s Sincerely Yours (in which Liberace played a totally heterosexual concert performer whose sudden deafness compels him to stay at home and change the lives of the strangers he sees suffering outside his apartment window), 1980’s Can’t Stop the Music (in which The Village People play totally heterosexual dudes who come together to form a gay disco group called The Village People), 1980’s The Jazz Singer (in which Neil Diamond plays a wannabe rock star whose father, Laurence Olivier, is so over-the-top Jewish it actually borders on being anti-Semitic), and 2002’s Crossroads (in which Britney Spears did something with some people in a movie I’ve never seen).

That’s not to say that every starsploitation effort is a failure. A Hard Day’s Night is one of the greatest musical comedies of all time, despite starting out as a way to make a quick buck off of the Beatles’ “fad”; Jailhouse Rock led to Elvis Presley becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood; and 8 Mile gave us the wonderful sight of Barbra Streisand forced to announce Eminem’s name at the Oscars.

In fact, the world of starsploitation is so rich there are examples of the genre that actually starred genuine movie stars. For example, 1978’s Sextette was made to capitalize on the popularity of Mae West, despite the fact that anyone with eyes or ears could have told the producers that the film’s octogenarian star had no business returning to her role of alluring sexpot. And then there’s 2010’s The Expendables (and its upcoming 2012 sequel), whose whole raison d'etre is to excite action fans by giving them glimpses of their favourite movie tough guys on screen in one cinematic experience.

So, given this rich history of Hollywood trying to make a buck by exploiting a celebrity’s non-acting fame, it was probably inevitable that someone would try and turn Luciano Pavarotti into a movie star. He was, after all, the most famous opera tenor in the world—capable of selling out arena’s everywhere he went. Imagine how much money could be made if those same fans flocked to movie theaters to see him sing!

When Peter Fetterman, the producer of Yes, Giorgio, decided to approach Pavarotti his dream project was a bio-film about Enrico Caruso, but the great tenor had no interest in taking on a potentially difficult role for which he’d probably receive mostly negative comparisons. He insisted that he wanted to play a romantic lead, so Fetterman bought the rights to Anne Piper’s novel, which told the story of the love affair that developed between the world’s greatest tenor and the beautiful doctor who cures his vocal problems.

This decision led to some obvious problems. Pavarotti was known for his voice, but not his physical attractiveness. Would audiences balk at watching the large man romance a much more conventionally attractive actress? Plus, the native Italian speaker didn’t have the best grasp of the English language, and would end up having to recite many of his lines phonetically throughout filming.

To face these dilemmas Fetterman hired Norman Steinberg (then best known for his contribution to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles) to write the screenplay, and Franklin J. Schaffner, the Oscar-winning director of Patton, to oversee the production.

Schaffner was definitely an odd choice for the director’s seat. His reputation had been made as a serious director who tackled historical subjects (Papillion, Nicholas and Alexandra), politics (The Best Man) and intelligent science fiction (Planet of the Apes, The Boys From Brazil). Steinberg’s screenplay turned Piper’s novel into a lightly comic musical romance with a bittersweet ending, which made it unlike any movie project the talented director had tackled before. The best explanation for why he agreed to do it can be found in the previous year’s Sphinx, his expensive Egyptian-themed thriller that flopped mightily at the B.O. In all likelihood Schaffner bought into Fetterman’s assertion that Pavarotti’s millions of fans would flock to theaters in record numbers and help restore his Hollywood reputation.

For the role of the doctor who falls in love with the singer, the filmmaker’s hired Kathryn Harrold, a knockout blond best known for her role as Albert Brooks' on-again, off-again girlfriend in the classic comedy Modern Romance. In the end she would prove to be the film’s one saving grace.

Unfortunately for Schaffner and Fetterman, Yes, Giorgio didn’t cause Pavoratti’s admirers to run to movie theaters. The film only earned 1/10th of its budget back in domestic gross and was savaged by critics. Much of the blame rested on the fact that the audience most likely to appreciate its light hearted comedy were put off by the thought of lengthy opera sequences, while serious opera fans were put off by seeing their idol in such a flimsy vehicle.

Viewed today (or more accurately, yesterday—Christmas Day, 2011) Yes, Giorgio, lacks the misbegotten excess of such classic late 70s/early 80s musical disasters like The Apple, Xanadu, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (itself another classic example of starsploitation), which is ultimately to its detriment. Without the benefit of extreme bad taste to turn it into a guilty pleasure, the film forces us to take its characters seriously, which is a huge mistake, since—as written by Steinberg and portrayed by Pavarotti—its title character is an unlikable, sexist man-child whose cavalier attitude towards adultery makes him one of the screen’s least likely romantic comedy protagonists. With his boyish speaking voice and round body, Pavarotti’s Fini is less a romantic lead than a big enormous baby.

Which is a huge problem for Kathryn Harrold, who is faced with the insurmountable challenge of making us believe her smart, funny, likable character would so much as touch Fini with a 50 foot pole, much less declare her love for him in one of the more painful scenes the genre has ever produced. The film ends with her running out of the Met, supposedly unable to face the heartbreak of seeing him give his career-defining performance, but for the viewer it feels instead like a sudden spark of sanity—as if she’s suddenly realized what’s going on and decides to get the fuck out of Dodge.

But, ironically, the thing that hurts the film the most is its reliance on Pavarotti’s famous voice. He sings a lot in Yes, Giorgio, but there’s a cheesy “greatest hits” aspect to the opera scenes (“Hey,” you say to yourself, “that’s the one from that Bugs Bunny cartoon!”), and his brief attempt at a pop standard like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” only serves to highlight his inability to perform outside of his wheelhouse. I try my best to never fast forward through a movie I plan on giving a B-Movie Bullsh*t analysis, but during the final 1/3 of the film I gave in and sped through all but the very last of the musical sequences. Truth is, I probably would have done so sooner if I wasn’t already doped up on cough medicine.

I admit it probably takes a fever and the calming narcotics of green Nyquil (it tastes like Sambuca!) to truly consider a $19 million dollar movie about opera an exploitation B-Movie, but the truth is that it isn’t all about sex, violence, monsters, and car crashes. Sometimes it truly is about fat, bearded opera singers speaking a language they don’t understand in a movie whose limitations were set in stone by their own ego.

Okay, okay, next week I promise

I’ll review something really trashy.

The ABCs of B-Movie Bullsh*t -- M is for Music


is for Music 

Yes, I know, M is for Monster. It doesn’t get more obvious than that, but Vanity Fear isn’t about the obvious. We’re all about the mofoin’ oblique bitches!


As important as Monsters are to B-Movies, I would argue that Music is just as important. Not only can Music turn a good B-Movie into a GREAT B-Movie (see my go-to-favourite example Halloween), but in many cases great B-Movies ONLY EXIST because of the Music they contained.

Y’see kids, there once was a time when people bought things called records. Records were collections of songs assembled together with the intention that they be listened to in the same order, each and every time! In most cases, records featured the work of ust one band or artist, which could often be boring and repetitive. It didn’t take long for smart folks to figure out that money could be made assembling records made out of random songs by different artists, but such are the rational, gotta-have-a-reason ways of this world, these folks had to think of ways to justify these random assemblages beyond the fact that they made shitloads of money.

So they made movies out of them!

Sure, they’d tell folks that they made the movies first and the records just sorta happened by accident, but we’re all grown ups.

We know the truth.

Ever seen a terrible B-Movie where the song licensing obviously cost more than the actual production (The Last American Virgin)? Ever seen a terrible B-Movie based on a dance craze that was forgotten before its first screening ended (Thank God It’s Friday)? Ever seen the greatest movie ever made that some assholes think is stupid because they’re retarded morons (The Apple)? Then you know what I’m talking about.

In some cases having too awesome a soundtrack could prove to be a double-edged sword. It is widely speculated that the reason Patrick Swayze’s “lost” classic Skatetown U.S.A. has never been officially released in ANY home video format is due to the fact that the cost to relicense songs by Earth, Wind & Fire, The Rolling Stones and The Jacksons simply makes it more expensive than the investment is worht. Of course this could be total bullshit (it’s not like other movies haven’t simply replaced expensive songs with cheaper alternatives for home video releases), but it feels true and Vanity Fear is all about the feeling, not the reality.


is for Music




Monsters can suck it

Repost - The Apple

I went to an elementary school whose student population included kids with severe mental and physical disabilities, and though they were kept segregated—for the most part—from us in separate classrooms, every effort was always made to include them in all the regular school events and projects.  This meant that they always got the chance to perform at the annual Christmas concerts—both the one that was held for the parents at night and the one held for the students during the day—and though I cannot say how people reacted during the night concert, I do know that their performances always elicited two different reactions from the students during the day show.  The first reaction was the one chosen by the crueler, more cold-hearted kids—snide mockery.  They would laugh and make fun of how badly those retards sang their songs and scoff with disbelief whenever one of the kids forgot the words to their solo or just plain froze with stage fright.  They could not believe that anyone would have anything kind to say about such a pathetic display. 

Thankfully the other reaction was much more kind.  The more empathetic souls amongst us were willing to ignore the obvious faults in the “special” kids’ performance, because a) we knew they were trying their hardest and b) they were obviously having a lot of fun, so when we applauded them we did so with genuine enthusiasm and not with the sarcastic rhythm of our unenlightened peers.

This brings us to the subject at hand—What Were They Thinking Movies (to be referred to here and in the rest of these posts as WWTTM from henceforth).  Like the special needs kids at those Christmas concerts you can choose to watch them with a sense of arrogant superiority and derision or you can instead decide to watch them with a more gentle and forgiving eye and allow yourself to be entertained by the misbegotten spectacle of it all. 

You should know by now which of these two options I prefer.

The paradox of being a fan of movies like these is that often you find yourself in the weird position of knowing they are awful but unable to bear it when someone actually criticizes them for their faults.  The problem usually is the tone of these criticisms, which is invariably the same one the mean kids used when making fun of the disabled kids’ botched rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.  By pointing out all of the obvious flaws of these films, these unkind critics fail to appreciate their sincerity and joie de vive.   Of course they suck, but they suck in fun, original ways that make them a blast to watch over and over again.  To not get that means that either you take the world far too seriously for your own good or you’re just a major asshole.

The subject of this post’s discussion is a bad movie—I don’t deny it.  Like all WWTTM I can’t believe its producers actually thought it could ever be successful, but having said that, when I tell you that I love this movie I don’t mean it in any sort of hip ironic way.  I genuinely love this movie not despite its faults, but because of them—because it is completely true to itself and utterly sincere, even during those moments that are so ridiculous they flirt with unintended self-parody.

I am, of course, talking about:

Our humble little movie starts at the WorldVision Song Festival in the year 1994, where the audience is being thrilled to the unheard of degree of 150 heartbeats (don’t ask me to explain what that means, the movie never bothers to tell us) by the biracial duo of Dandi and Pandi, who are on stage performing their hit song “Bim”. 

Dandi's the dude and Pandi's not.

It’s an anthemic number that includes such memorable lyrics as:

There ain’t no good!
There ain’t no bad!

There ain’t no happiness!
There ain’t no tears!

There ain’t no love!
There ain’t no hate!

There’s only power!
Bim is the power!

Hey, hey, hey!
Bim’s on the way!


"Hey, hey, hey, Bim's on the way!"

The crowd loves it and who can blame them?  Clearly Dandi and Pandi are evil, but damn if the song isn’t one catchy number!  As it continues we are introduced to their manager, a thin European-accented gentleman named Mr. Boogalow:

No fair guessing who he really turns out to be!

 As well as his number two man, Shake:

"Hi there!  I'm flamboyantly homosexual henchman number one!"

Mr. Boogalow informs his posse that Dandi and Pandi are “magnifique” and that he is going “to turn them into the two biggest stars of the decade”—a statement he makes with such confidence that it suggests it really is only a matter of his desire to do so and not any kind of wishful thinking.  But as he and his crew celebrate his belief that the “Bim” song is going to “Take this competition by storm—a-woo-woo-woo!” (No really, he actually says “a-woo-woo-woo“), another duo is introduced onto the stage.

A duo so wholesome they make The Carpenters look like an anorexic nutjob and a self-hating closet-case.

Their names are Alphie and Bibi and they are—as Shake disbelievingly informs his boss—“a couple of kids from Moose Jaw.” 

“Moose where?” asks Boogalow.

“I think it’s in Canada,” answers the flunky.

The song these two plucky kids from Saskatchewan choose to perform is a number Alphie wrote entitled “Love Is the Universal Melody”.  This surprises the “Bim” folks because everyone knows that love songs are old news.  At first it would seem that they are right, as the crowd of teenagers proves initially hostile to the song, but as the wholesome looking duo soldier on the crowd is quieted by lyrics such as:


We belong to one another
We share each other’s destiny
United by our love
We are all children of
The Universal Family


And we are everybody’s brother
And we share the birthright to be free
And deep within your heart
There beats the song of the ages


The song is the universal melody!

It’s all so beautiful that some in the audience are moved to tears.

"I guess it is better than the crap you hear on American Idol."

Despite their inexplicably winning over the crowd (inexplicable being the only way to describe it considering a) how bad the song is and b) how unconvincing the crowd’s sudden change of heart really is) Shake insists to his boss that there is no way they can reach Dandi and Pandi’s record of 150 heartbeats, but as he says it, they hit 151.  Mr. Boogalow realizes that “Bim” is in danger of losing the competition so he tells Shake to use the red tape.  Shake hands the tape over to the engineer and tells him that if anyone sees him use it then he’s “dead, very dead.”  The engineer takes the tape and plays it over Alphie and Bibi’s performance.  The sounds the tape produces causes the once happy crowd to boo and jeer at the young duo, causing Bibi to break into tears and run off of the stage before the song is over.

Let's start tallying her faults right now.  First, she's a crybaby.

The contest now sewn up and in the bag, Mr. Boogalow is interviewed by reporters from all around the world, whose questions he answers fluently in their native languages.  When he finally gets to the reporter from America, a man named Joe Pittman, he is displeased to hear the reporter suggest that the contest was rigged and that it was almost won by another song.  Mr. Boogalow takes Pittman aside and tells him that if he reports what he just said, he’ll find himself in the unemployment line.  “Joe Pittman,” he tells Shake, “remember that name.”

Playing the part of Joe Pittman is the movie's co-lyricist George S. Clinton, who shouldn't be confused with this guy.

Now that the media has been dealt with, everyone returns to Mr. Boogalow’s mansion to celebrate the “Bim” song’s victory.

No seriously, it will totally ruin it if you guess who he really is.

And as Boogalow toasts Dandi and Pandi’s achievement, Alphie and Bibi are shown leaving the concert hall, where she is attempting to convince him to accept Boogalow’s invitation to the party now in progress.  Alphie doesn’t want to have anything to do with the man, but Bibi—whose dreams of stardom are much more ambitious than her partner’s—insists he could help make them famous and get their songs heard by millions. 

You can now add whiny and craven for stardom to the list. 

Meanwhile at the party, Ashley—Boogalow’s merchandising mastermind—introduces his latest invention, the “Bim” mark—a blue triangular sticker that can be worn anywhere on a person’s body.

"Hi there!  I'm flamboyantly homosexual henchman number two!"

Boogalow is so impressed with this invention he stops the party and tells everyone that—from that moment on—they all have to wear the sticker all of the time to show their devotion to “Bim”.

You're guessing right now, aren't you?

Not long after this announcement, Bibi and a very reluctant Alphie arrive at the party.  Boogalow quickly separates them, handing Bibi over to Dandi and Alphie over to Pandi.  Boogalow offers Alphie a drink, but the young singer refuses it, amusing the guests with the news that he does not drink alcohol.  Bibi, however, is more than willing to accept any intoxicant handed her way.  This is made clear when Dandi takes her upstairs and offers her a pill, which she—after some coaxing—takes and swallows down.

Write down 'easily corrupted' under 'craven for stardom'.

They then talk for a couple of minutes before Dandi kisses her:

I think that would qualify as 'skanky ho'.

And then informs her in song:

You were made for me
Created for me
And I am your man
You were made for me
It’s fated to be
And you’ll be my woooooo-man!

And though Bibi has known Dandi for less than five minutes and in that time he’s been nothing but an incredible jerk, she finds herself singing back:

How do you do this to me?
Tell me why
The touch of your hand
Has me trembling inside

I don’t understand
This magic I feel
Are you a fantasy
Or are you for real?

"Explain to me again why I'm singing this song to someone I just met?"

By the time they are finished singing, they are kissing once again, but this time Alphie sees them and puts a stop to this betrayal.

Dude, let her go.  She's a--let's check what we have so far--crybaby, whiny, craven for stardom, easily corrupted, skanky ho.  Now, aren't you glad we made that list?

Despite having his girl almost stolen from him at the party, Alphie joins Bibi the next day as she goes to meet with Boogalow at his business headquarters.  Instead of suggesting that she stop being such a whiny, pill-popping skanky ho, the only thing he says is that they need a lawyer if they are going to consider signing a deal with Boogalow. 

“He’s just an agent—he doesn’t own us," Bibi disagrees, before adding, "he’s only taking fifty percent.” 

Even when faced with this remarkable logic, Alphie remains unconvinced and the Canadian in him comes out.

“Have you ever seen an American contract?” he asks her.  “It’s filled with hundreds of pages of doubletalk—he’ll destroy us!”

“Or make us,” Bibi answers back defiantly.

Since Boogalow is the biggest and most important agent in the world, his lobby is filled with acts desperate to be signed by him.  Not limited to musical acts, Boogalow apparently is more than willing to consider taking on clowns, magicians and really cheesy dance acts if the people waiting to see him are any indication.

Don't worry.  He's smiling on the inside.

Eventually the man everyone is waiting for arrives, just in time to sing a song about his own personal philosophy:

No, he's not really an alien.  Now stop guessing!

Like a puppet on a string
Like a monkey on a swing
Man is clinging to the ropes
Of the fantasies and hopes
We are dang-a-ling

He’s so eager to believe
And so easily deceived
Like a baby watching magic
He’s so gullible it is tragic
In a word—naïve

I'm beginning to think he chooses henchmen on their ability to make him look butch in comparison.

He then goes on, with the help of sequined dancers, a clown, a midget, his bodyguards and Shake (all of whom are bedecked with feathered boas) to tell us that:

Life is nothing but show business in 1994!

Ha!  Fooled Ya!  He's definitely not Jesus.  Oh shit, that may be a hint.  Stop guessing!

While some would hear these lyrics and assume that Boogalow is not exactly someone you would be smart to trust, Alphie (who is still very suspicious) and Bibi (who is pretty much willing to give hand jobs to lepers for a record deal at this point) meet with the man in his office, where he offers them both separate contracts to sign.

"I may just be a smalltown Canadian boy, but I'm not much impressed with your big city American ways."

Alphie is brazen enough to ask that they be allowed to read the documents before they sign them, only to learn that—even though they haven’t actually recorded it yet—Boogalow has already started selling their first album.  “First you sell it,” Shake tells them.  “Then you make it,” continues Ashley.  “That’s marketing,” the young duo is informed.

I swear she would willingly blow every guy in that room if they told her to do it.  Luckily for her these guys aren't interested in that sort of thing--If you know what I mean.  (Hint: they're all gay)

Bibi doesn’t have to hear anymore and eagerly signs the contract.  As she does, Alphie watches her and imagines the building starting to shake due to a powerful earthquake.  With everyone looking at him like he’s crazy, he reluctantly starts signing the contract, but then he imagines the lights in the room going on and off plunging them into darkness.  Someone is sending him a sign and soon Alphie finds himself dreaming that he is in hell, where he and Bibi are dressed as Adam and Eve, while Boogalow is dressed like the Devil and Shake is now a snake.

Dude, that's a pretty impressive fig leaf you got there.

Bibi/Eve (rather typically) loves the place, but Alphie/Adam hates it.  Boogalow/Devil ignores A/A and focuses all of his attention on the much more receptive B/E.  He transforms her fig leaves into a seductive red dress and introduces her to his son Dandi/Anti-Christ.  B/D then calls out to Shake/Snake to bring out his “special hors d’oeuvre—the Apple!” 

Remember this is only a dream sequence, so anything you see here isn't a clue!

Given the Apple (which appears to be half Red Macintosh and half Granny Delicious) Boogalow then offers it to B/E.  “Don’t be afraid,” he tells her in a hushed voice, “taste it.”  A/A tries to stop her, but Pandi/Pandi (they apparently couldn’t figure out an analogous biblical character for her) calls out to him and he cannot resist her temptations (Delilah maybe?)  The denizens of hell call out to B/E to taste the Apple and are then inspired to break out into another musical number as D/A sings to her:

Magic apple
Mystery apple
Take a little ride
Let me be your guide
Through the Apple paradise!

It's both a cheap metaphor and a big piece of fruit!

True to his word he then takes her on a tour of Hell (aka “the Apple paradise”), where he tells her that wanting to try the Apple is:

A natural, natural desire

and then he introduces her to:

Because vampire rhymes with desire!

An actual, actual vampire!

before urging her to:

Let the Apple set your soul on fire, fire, fire!


You’ll be hypnotized
And you’ll be demonized
And you’ll be paralyzed
So you’ll be victimized

And while Bibi is either too ambitious or stupid (I’m guessing the later) to actually get the message of the song (good things don’t happen to people who taste the Apple), Alphie hears it loud and clear and the dream sequence ends, returning him back to Boogalow’s office where he refuses to sign the contract. 

"I may be a smalltown Canadian boy with a vaguely European accent, but I know a bad deal when I see one!"

Mr. Boogalow allows Alphie to leave, but when Bibi tries to follow him, she is stopped by Dandi and Pandi who tell her that Alphie is not her master and that she is free to pursue stardom with them.

Guess who she goes with?

(Sorry, I had to get that out of my system)

But if she has freed herself from Alphie, the song Mr. Boogalow sings over the course of her “stardom-makeover” montage makes it clear that all she has done is turned herself over to another master:

Here Bibi is breaking Allan's First Commandment of Cosmotology--Thou Shalt Not Get Thy Hair Styled By Someone With A Bad Haircut.

Reaching the top
Is such a long hard climb
Millions of people stand and wait in line
Do you think I got there
Being patient and kind?
Yes, I know how to be a master

One really does get the sense that Bibi would have saved everyone a lot of trouble if she just bothered to listen to the lyrics of these songs, but instead she just enjoys the pretty melodies and ignores all the stuff about lying, cheating and stealing to get ahead, not to mention the line about Mr.Boogalow buying souls (could this be a hint towards her agent's true identity?  She doesn’t know, because she was too busy getting her hair done to listen!).

My memories of 1994 are hazy, but I'm pretty certain this wasn't very fashionable.

Her transformation complete, she is introduced to the press who ask her what it’s like for “A girl from nowhere to become America’s number one “Bim” star?”  She answers them by saying “It’s frightening, but I put all of my faith in Mr. Boogalow.” 

Faith?  What a peculiar and highly specific word to use in that sentence.

Finally, after 39 minutes of whining and being altogether skanky, Bibi gets to perform for the whole world, singing a new “Bim” song called “Speed”, which is an upbeat rockin’ ode to America’s devotion to amphetamines:

This particular frame has nothing to do with the plot, but it does feature back-up dancer Finola Hughes, who would go on to co-star in an even worse WWTTM musical.

America the land of the free
Is shooting up with pure energy!
And everyday she has to take more

America the home of the brave
Is popping pills to keep up the pace!
And everyday she cries out for more

From New York out to L.A.
Everybody does it her way!
Poppin’ power
By the hour

I won't lie to you.  This outfit works for me.

We then cut six months later to a middle-aged Jewish woman who is stopped by a policeman and fined for not wearing a visible “Bim” mark.  Apparently in the time that has passed Mr. Boogalow and his “Bim” brand has become so powerful that he now controls the government and is able to enact laws that force everyone in the country to show devotion to him.  If you were a suspicious person you might conclude that this “Bim” mark might be more than a tacky fashion accessory but something much more sinister!  It turns out that this walking stereotype of all things Semitic is Alphie’s landlady who is constantly reminding him how behind he is in paying his rent, even though—despite her constant nagging—it is clear that she really cares about him and wants him to succeed in show business on his own terms.

"I may just be a smalltown boy from up north, but I know how to give an older woman a cheap thrill."

Unfortunately, the kinds of songs he writes (sucky love songs) just aren’t what the record companies want, which is all “Bim” all of the time.”  Frustrated by his inability to break into the business without selling his soul, he takes time to sit and reflect in a public park, where he is fined for not wearing a “Bim” mark.  He tears the ticket up, just as the public address system announces that it is four o’clock, which means—as part of the government’s national fitness program—all citizens are required to stop whatever they are doing and perform the “Bim” dance, an
edict that includes both doctors and patients:

That's what I call a hardcore exercise ethic.

As well as firefighters, the elderly and even--most dastardly of all--nuns:

Is it wrong that this really turns me on?

And in the end we discover it is Bibi herself who is singing the song everyone is legally required to dance to.

"We are so evil!  So evil, evil, evil!"

Alphie happens to be close to the concert hall where Bibi performed the song for the masses, so he is able to watch as his former partner is swarmed by her fans when she leaves to get into her car.  Alphie calls out to her and—recognizing his voice--she calls out his name, but before they can reunite, Alphie is grabbed by her bodyguards, who then proceed to smack him around like a little bitch. 

"I may just be a smalltown boy from up beyond the 49th parallel but I still bleed like everyone else."

Seeing Alphie seemingly does something to both Bibi and Pandi.  Pandi, now out of the spotlight, seems to have grown tired of the “Bim” lifestyle and Bibi wonders in song just what she gave up when she chose Mr. Boogalow over her hometown boyfriend:

Even skanks have feelings.  Who knew?

Where are you now?
Will I ever see your face again?
You tried to set me free
Knowing all along that your love
Was no match for their evil
You came after me

And because their souls are connected (or something like that) Alphie hears her musical lament and joins her in song as he walks, bruised and battered through the rainy streets on his way back home:

Can you hear me now?
They got me with my back against the wall
There’s no place left to turn
Should I go on living for the memory of your love
Or should I end it all?

I may be just a stupid hick from another country, but I know enough about clever choreography to put my back to a wall when I sing 'They got me with my back against the wall'.

He continues:

Cry for me
If there are really angels to hear
Cry for me
Let the heavens rain down
With your tears
Where has all the pity gone?
I sing my song
To deafened ears

Severely weakened by his injuries, Alphie loses consciousness and only awakes several days later to the sight of his worried landlady, who serves him her homemade chicken soup.  As she spoon feeds him, she convinces him that if he still loves Bibi he has to try and find her and win her back.  He’s reluctant at first, but finally he decides to go to Mr. Boogalow’s mansion and fight for his love.  But the “Bim” folks are wily beasts, so instead of beating him up again, they welcome him into the house where Shake hooks him up with Pandi, who—for the moment at least—seems to be back on track with her peeps.

"I may just be an asshole from Moose Jaw, but I likes that hot chocolate flavour!"

The former teetotaler accepts a drink this time, shocked to see that his waiter is Joe Pittman, the reporter who once asked Mr. Boogalow an uncomfortable question—“Bim” now apparently controls the media as well!

"This is my punishment for writing the words you keep singing."

It turns out that this is the wrong time for non-drinker Alphie to get on the alcohol train, since his beverage is apparently laced with some sort of drug that first causes him to see his host as the Devil:

Fuck it.  If you haven't guessed who he is by now, you're better off watching less complicated movies starring Pauly Shore.

And then to see the rest of the guests distorted into a cheap camera effect:

"I may just be a guy who never appeared in another movie, but this is some funky trip!"

Having gotten Alphie into this disoriented state Pandi seduces him with a song:

I’m coming
Coming for you
Now, I’m coming
Coming for you

Let me tempt you
And tease you
And hold you
And squeeze you
And feel every inch of your love
Let me show you
Things you have never dreamed of


"I may just be--mmmphmphmmmmmmmphhhhhhhhh."

Not even aware of where he is, Alphie does the nasty-nasty with Pandi as he hallucinates a dance sequence featuring couples performing choreographed routines of coitus:

I should have gone into dance instead of doing this stupid writing thing.

Pandi is still tumescent as Alphie finally figures out what is happening to him.  He escapes from his bed and looks into another bedroom only to find Bibi in bed with Dandi. 


“Who are you?” she asks him coldly. 

“Bibi!” he cries out to her. 

“What do you want?” she asks disdainfully before telling him to “Go away.” 

Dandi is so delighted by the spectacle that he gets out of bed to watch as Alphie flees the mansion, his heart broken.

Hey Carmen, am I crazy or does this guy kinda look like Mark if Mark had a bad 80s haircut?

Apparently some time before he could get home, Alphie passed out in the middle of the park, where he is awakened by a guy who looks an awfully lot like god:

Charleton Heston can go fuck himself.

But who is really just the leader of a group of hippies (and by hippies I don’t mean a bunch of folks who believe in peace and love, grow beards and listen to the Grateful Dead, but actual flower children who somehow managed to survive unchanged over the past two decades).  Hippie Leader (as he is named in the credits) offers to adopt Alphie into his fold and Alphie, being only a beard and change of outfit from being a hippie himself, accepts.

If hippies who looked like this were extinct in 1980--when this movie was made--where did they come from in 1994?

Meanwhile back at “Bim” Manor, Bibi wakes up and is horrified to find out that her vision of Alphie from the night before had not been a dream.  Pandi, once again back to her rebellious ways, convinces Bibi that if she really loves Alphie, she should leave her “Bim” stardom behind and find him.

"Girl, I totally scammed your man last night.  Holler!"

At first Shake tries to stop her, but he relents and allows her to leave, arrogantly assuming that the power of “Bim” is so strong she will not be able to escape its grasp no matter where she goes.

As Bibi leaves, Pandi goes upstairs and explains to us through song the reason for her sudden change of heart:

"I swear this sudden turn of character makes sense and it isn't just an awkard plot device!"

Something’s happened to me
Suddenly I’m not the same
I was caught in a maze
So blinded and dazed
I couldn’t remember my name

It’s Pandi.  Rhymes with Dandi.  She continues:

I was so empty
And numb inside
Now I’m full of feeling again!
I’m laughin’
I’m cryin’
I’m finally alive
I see the light
I feel it all around me
Healing me
Revealing me
I thought that I had died

Looking for Alphie, Bibi first tries his apartment, but his landlady tells her that he doesn’t live there anymore and is now hanging out under a bridge with “all those old bums.”

“Go find him,” the landlady urges her, “he needs ya.”

As she makes her way to the bridge the old bums live under, Bibi joins Pandi in a chorus of the I’m-not-the-skanky-ho-I-used-to-be song, and comes across a guy who looks an awful lot like god, but who is really just one of the old bums the landlady was talking about.

"You're Bibi?  Wow, I guess I wasn't expecting such a skank."

The man knows who she is and takes her to meet the man she is searching for.  He takes her to the caves where all of the hippies live and there—at long last—Alphie and Bibi, those two crazy kids from Moose Jaw, are reunited.  As they stare into each other’s eyes, Alphie removes her “Bim” mark, symbolically freeing her from Boogalow, and they hold each other lovingly as the Hippie Leader sings:

Child of love
Child of laaa-haya-ove!

This scene did not make me cry!  Something just got into my eye and made it water.

Cut to a year later and the Hippie Leader is still singing, but he is now joined by everyone else, including a bearded Alphie, a flower-powered Bibi and their small child, but before it can even really begin their sing-a-long is interrupted by the po-po.

"I may just be an unconvincing actor in a bad musical, but even I deserve a more realistic looking fake beard than this!"

It has taken a year, but Mr. Boogalow has finally found Bibi and wants her arrested for owing him the $10 million he lost in potential earnings when she walked out on her contract.  As the police arrest all of the dirty hippies and start taking them away, both Alphie and the Hippie Leader look up to the sky, as if they are expecting someone to arrive.

“It’s going to be all right,” Alphie assures Bibi, “I know he’s coming.”

“Who’s coming?” she asks him.

“Mr. Topps,” he answers cryptically.

“Who’s Mr. Topps?”

“Don’t worry, just trust me.  I know he’s coming,” Alphie insists.

And his faith proves warranted when everyone turns to see a golden Cadillac flying in the sky:

You know what?  Even in 1980 this would have been considered a crappy special effect.

The car stops in mid-air and out walks a man with long blond hair dressed in a white tuxedo:

I think the white suit pretty much gives it away.

“Who the hell are you?” shouts out a belligerent police officer.

“They call me Mr. Topps,” the man answers him confidently. 

The officer orders another officer to arrest the man, but before the guy can make his move he finds himself frozen in place and paralyzed from the waist down.  Mr. Topps then tells Alphie and Bibi to come with him:

"I'll tell you how I knew about this Mr. Topps guy--who I weirdly never mentioned before--when the movie is over."

But before he starts walking. Mr. Topps is interrupted by Mr. Boogalow.

“Hey, Topps, what do you think you are doing?” asks the sinister agent.

“I’ve had enough of you,” Topps answers him.  Boogalow’s lawyers then insist that they have a warrant for Bibi's arrest, but Topps makes it vanish with a snap of his fingers.  He then invites all of the hippies to join him and en masse they start following Alphie and Bibi on the invisible stairway to the great gold Cadillac in the sky as a heavenly choir sings “Love is the Universal Melody”. 

Despite the fact that she apparently has stayed with the “Bim” folks for the past year, Pandi is sufficiently reformed enough to be allowed to join the hippies, while the rest of her wicked compatriots can only watch with disbelief.

Shouldn't she at least take off that "Bim" thing first?"

“…Where do you think you’re taking them?” Boogalow asks his golden-haired counterpart.

I want to get a wig that looks like that.  I think I could really pull it off quite nicely.

“I don’t know yet,” Topps admits.  “I’m looking for a new place.”

“A new planet?” wonders Boogalow.

“If I can find one free from your pollution,” answers Topps.

I have no snark left that would properly match the cheesiness of this image.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to start all over again,” Boogalow says snidely.

“Yes,” Topps answers sincerely, “but this time without you.”

The battle of good and evil, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you and good night.

“Without me?”  Boogalow can’t believe his ears.  “But my dear Topps you know that is impossible.  The world simply cannot exist without me.”

The world can’t exist without another sleazy music agent?  Oh wait, I get it!  Mr. Boogalow's the devil! 

I never saw that one coming!

“Let’s give it a try,” says Topps before he joins the others on their journey to a place without sin.

And, in case you forgot, this has been:

Well that was The Apple.  Since this post turned out to be far longer than I thought it was going to be, I’m going to end it here for today and go into my analysis of the film tomorrow.  So, until then:


Not God

Getting to the Core of The Apple

Why It Sucks As Hard As It Does

Like most WWTTM, The Apple fails largely because it attempts to combine two elements that wiser folks would have determined worked to each other’s detriment.  It wants to be a cult midnight movie in the same vein as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and to that end features a tale full of sex, drugs and rock & roll, along with a large dollop of gay camp aesthetic, but it also wants to be a moralistic allegory about the Biblical event known as the Rapture, in which only those who reject the path of sin know the glory of eternal righteousness. 
It’s a lethal combination since it is precisely this kind of condescending moralizing that kept midnight movie audiences away from the work of mainstream Hollywood.  It also hurts the film since it ultimately suggests that there is something sinful about the camp sensibility the film embraces to tell its story.  Even though Rocky Horror’s chief sexual transgressor, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, is killed at the end of the film, it is obvious that he is not dying for any crimes of sexuality, especially when you consider that at least one of his executors is just as much a transvestite as he is. But in The Apple the characters whose behavior implies that they are homosexual (the film is actually too tame to make these implications explicit) are clearly on the side of evil—allied as they are to Mr. Boogalow, who is supposed to represent mankind at its evil and most decadent.  The result of this is an extremely schizophrenic film in which the audience is expected to be entertained by musical sequences that the film itself denounces as corrupt and sinful.

That’s not to say that this approach could not work in more talented hands.  Bob Fosse’s Cabaret for example skillfully played with the audience’s emotions by presenting us with musical sequences that were—on their face—quite charming, but that were, beneath their surface, full of unpleasant subtext about human greed, jealousy, nationalism and bigotry.  But in the case of The Apple writer/director Menahem Golan and lyricists George S. Clinton and Iris Recht seemingly lack the talent or sophistication required to make this approach work.  

Another factor in the film's failure is its running time, which at 86 minutes is extremely short for a musical that features 12 songs.  The result is a structure similar to many operettas, where the major narrative thrust of the film is told in song.  In the hands of a Gilbert and Sullivan this can work marvelously, but here the structure only succeeds in highlighting the film’s complete lack of character development and logical motivation.  Rather than present a situation where Bibi is seduced by Dandi and finds herself attracted to him, the film merely puts them together for two minutes and has Bibi wondering in song how the touch of his hand can make her tremble.  And were it not for the song Pandi sings after she helps Bibi escape from Boogalow, we would have no idea why she suddenly decided to rebel against her manager, and even then the song never actually explains her change of heart, it only tells us that it happened.

In that same vein, we are presented with a villain who is supposed to represent the Devil and, as such, the personification of evil, but whose actions never rise to the level of malevolence most would associate with the Prince of Darkness.  In his songs Boogalow comes across more cynical than evil and we never actually see him do anything that we wouldn’t expect a music mogul at his level of success to do.  Though the film implies that he has taken over the government, the only evidence we see of him taking advantage of this power is through his forcing everyone to wear bim marks and requiring that they dance in the street everyday at 4 PM.  This first act is obviously nothing more than a clumsy analogy to the Bible’s “Mark of the Beast” and the second is just an excuse to work in another musical number.  It doesn’t help that Vladek Sheybal’s performance in the role exudes far more charm than menace.  Even in the end, when he is talking to Mr. Topps, his eternal antagonist, he comes across more like an old friend who can’t believe his pal is taking such a tiny slight so seriously than someone confronting his greatest enemy in the universe.

But, as mentioned before, the film’s chief flaw is the way it embraces the camp aesthetic for its musical numbers in order to facilitate a story whose moral is a direct repudiation of that very same aesthetic.  What really makes this hurt the film is that the few numbers specifically designed to reject this aesthetic are easily the worst and least entertaining in the movie.  By far the worst song in the film is “Love is the Universal Melody”, which in any other movie would serve as a parody of the worst lyrical excesses of self-satisfied new age poseurs, but here is meant to prove the purity of Alphie’s heart and his connection to Mr. Topps.  Alphie is presented as trying to fight to get his songs heard in a cruel, corrupt world that no longer considers the values of love and devotion to be marketable, but the problem with attempting to make this struggle seem heroic is that his songs suck so badly in comparison to such cheesily entertaining numbers as “Bim”, “Life is Nothing But Show Business” and “Speed”.  That’s not to say that those songs could accurately be described as good, but they at least have the benefit of not being meant to be taken seriously.  

One must assume that Golan knew that the film's supposedly “evil” characters were much more compelling than his “good” ones due to the scant amount of screen time these “good” characters receive.  Even in 1980 the idea of presenting Hippies as a symbol of purity and freedom was a laughable one and it is easy to suspect that Golan chose them more because it would be easier to costume a bunch of extras as flower children than to come up with an original alternative.  Still, as lame as they are, it is surprising that they are not given the benefit of a single genuine musical number.  Beyond enjoying a quickly interrupted sing-along near the end of the film, the entire group remains mute in the picture, with only the Hippie Leader being given anything to say.  We are meant to accept that theirs is a purer, better way of life not because of anything we are shown, but simply because it is not connected to the outside world, which—beyond the lame 4 PM dancing thing—appears to be far more fun and interesting than living with a bunch of dirty folks in a cave.

And then there’s Mr. Topps or, as I like to think of him, Mr. Deus Ex Machina.  Truly this is a case of God out of the machine at its most literal and clumsiest.  I would have to watch the movie again to be 100% sure, but I’m fairly certain that there is not one reference to this character before Alphie starts looking for him up in the sky, expecting him to appear.  Perhaps Golan wanted us to be surprised by this ending, but the only result this sudden appearance by God to give the movie a happy conclusion inspires is embarrassed disbelief.  Again it doesn’t help the film that Topps is so intent on finding a world without Boogalow’s “pollution” when that pollution doesn’t look that unbearable.  In The Apple Golan has produced a film about the coming of Armageddon (which is the event that follows directly after the Rapture) in which neither the End of Days or its eventual aftermath seem all that bad or—at the very least—seems infinitely preferable to the alternative.

Uh and did I mention that the movie is really tacky?

Okay, so that’s why The Apple sucks. Before we consider why it's awesome, let us once again remember what it's all about:



Which one would you choose?
Why The Apple Is Awesome

In my last post on The Apple I discussed why it has to be considered an artistic failure and I didn’t even bother to mention such noticeable flaws as the fact that Alphie speaks with an obviously European accent, despite the fact that he is supposed to be from Moose Jaw or that the supposedly futuristic limo that shuffles Mr. Boogalow around the city is a dead ringer for Homer Simpson’s dream car. 

The Apple (1980)

The Simpsons "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" (1990)

There is no doubt that it is a bad movie, so why then do I have enough genuine affection for it that it has inspired me to spend this much time discussing it on my blog?

Because it Rocks! 

Not just musically, but spiritually as well.  And what do I mean when I say it Rocks?  Let’s just say that you’ll not find my definition of the term in your standard Oxford Dictionary.  No, it is an entirely personal definition.  One that is best explained by example rather than words.


Alice Cooper

Does Not Rock

The Eagles


Pat Benatar

Does Not Rock

Olivia Newton-John


Rock 'n' Roll High School

Does Not Rock

Roller Boogie

While these examples obviously speak for themselves, I feel dutybound to explain myself further--the old fashioned way.  Y'know...With words....

What all of these examples in both catagories have in common is an essential cheesiness that is evident throughout their achievements, but what makes some of them Rock, while the others Do Not Rock, is a willingness to embrace that cheesiness with an enormous deathgrip bearhug so powerful that it actually becomes what makes them cool.  By accepting their own cheesiness, they transcend it, while those that Do Not Rock try to pretend that their innate cheesiness does not exist, which only serves to highlight how truly lame they are.  The Apple Rocks because it is never--not for one moment--ashamed of what it is.  Rather than let itself be brought down by its absurd tackiness, it defines itself by it.  Despite the mixed signals of its ultimate theme, it is a movie that takes the rebel stance required to so brazenly choose an aesthetic that ultimately dooms it to failure.  It is the spiritual equivalent of a drag queen who goes to a straight Country & Western Bar; it knows it is going to get its assed kick, but it goes anyway--with its knee length boots on.  And so, like Alice Cooper, Pat Benatar and Rock 'n' Roll High School, The Apple Rocks because it understands this fundamental truth; you can only feel shame if you think you have something to be ashamed about.

And though this is the major reason I love this movie, I would be remiss if I didn't point out a few of the smaller things that I enjoy about this film.

1) Catherine Mary Stewart

Though in my very long breakdown of the movie I made it extremely explicit that I did not have fond feelings for the character of Bibi, that antipathy does not transcend over to the actress who played her.  Out of all the young actors for whom The Apple was their big break, only she managed to have anything that approached a career (in fact the film marked George Gilmour's--aka Alphie--sole screen credit) and it is easy to see why, as she is absolutely adorable in a way you seldom see in movies in today (maybe Amanda Bynes, but that's pretty much it).  Sure it helps that I'm automatically pulling for her since she's a hometown girl (she's from Edmonton), but she undeniably exudes a quality of likability without which Bibi would have been truly unbearable.  Her career following The Apple wasn't hugely impressive, but it did feature some memorable roles in some under-rated films, most notably The Last Starfighter and a film that should be a much bigger cult classic than it currently is, Night of the Comet (in which she plays a valley girl who, with her friend, takes the apocalypse in stride and uses it as an excuse to go to the mall and take all of the free clothes she wants).

2) Mr. Boogalow and Mr. Topps

Vladek Shebal and Joss Ackland were both character actors who had long, well-established careers before The Apple and it is easy to see why.  Though Shebal exudes no real menace as Boogalow, he is constantly fun to watch and plays his role with a droll charm that never wavers no matter how absurd the circumstance.  While I have little good to say about Ackland's role as Hippie Leader (a fact which has more to do with my dislike for the character than his perfomance itself), his take on Mr. Topps manages to add a genuine sense of pathos and victory to an absurdly stupid ending.  He even manages to make the blond wig work (which, despite 'Mato's comment to the contrary, I still insist I could pull off with aplomb).

3) I Love Musicals with Singers Who Can't Sing

As someone who grew up loving singers like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed, I have long believed that a voice that exhibits genuine character and emotion is always more interesting than anything that comes out of the vocal chords of the classically trained.  That's why I've always had a fondness for musicals that feature songs performed by actors with non-traditional singing voices.  When I read James Robert Parish's book Fiasco the moment he truly lost me was when he insisted that the reason Lee Marvin's rendition of "Wandrin' Star" from Paint Your Wagon became a minor hit on the charts was because of its "hilarious awfulness".  This annoyed me, because I find Marvin's performance of the song, as it appears in the film, genuinely moving.  I also adore the moment in Everyone Says I Love You when Woody Allen sings "I'm Through With Love" in his thin, Woody Allen voice and I consider the moment when he and Goldie Hawn dance together besides the Seine to be one of the most magical scenes in film history.  This is why I love "Life is Nothing But Show Business in 1994" and "I Know How to be a Master" as they are performed by Shebal.  Though he is clearly not a singer (as neither was Catherine Mary Stewart, whose songs were performed by a singer named Mary Hylan) he still manages to make his numbers work as well as their relative quality would allow.

4) Colour!

Damn if this isn't a big bright rainbow of a movie!

5) Most Other People Hate It

Which is a virtue to a natural contrarian like myself.

So that, in and out and around a nutshell is why The Apple Rocks and why it is a WWTTM I am going to keep watching and enjoying for the rest of my life.

'Nuff said.

Repost - Let Me Take You Down, Cuz I'm Going To....

I have a confession to make....

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
But then who doesn't, right?  It's widely considered to be one of the most revolutionary and important musical works of all time, so professing your love for it is hardly controversial.  Except, of course, I'm NOT talking about the record album.
No, I'm talking about
And this DEFINITELY puts me in the minority, as the general consensus seems to be that this 1978 musical is a) a terrible sacrilege to the musical legacy of the men who composed the songs that define its existence, b) a tacky example of the worst show business excesses of its era and c) just an enormous piece of shit altogether.  I'll admit that this response does not strike me as being terribly unreasonable.  This is not a movie for the literal minded or for those who take ANYTHING at all seriously.  In order to appreciate this Robert Stigwood production, one must be possessed of a special, whimsical soul that is capable of being delighted by that which most others will invariably dismiss as "stupid" or "silly".  Now, I'm not saying that the grand majority who lack the ability to enjoy the odd pleasures of this film are cold, gray, soulless automatons who go through life never knowing what the sensation of joy feels like, but I am willing to suggest it.  Does my liking this film make me a better person than those who don't?  Probably, but it does seem a tad arrogant to say so with complete certainty.
Chances are many of you reading this have never seen the film and thus do not know on which side of this uneven divide you fall.  Here then is the quickest test to find out for sure, a brief clip of George Burns (as Mr. Kite) singing his own version of Fixing A Hole:


Personally, I find this clip to be incredibly sweet and charming--a perfect example of a form of pure showmanship that is largely extinct in today's cultural arena.  So used are we to charmless celebrities whose fame has nothing to do with any discernible talent, but rather their ability to sell tabloids to nosy womenfolk, that we forget there was a time when performers like Mr. Burns were expected to be able to do it all--sing, dance and act.  True, they weren't expected to be good at all three, but in most cases their natural charisma allowed you to ignore the kind of defects that might take down a less affable entertainer.  That said, I suspect that there are many people who will view this clip, roll their eyes and dismiss it as the apotheosis of lameness, largely because it features a performer who was considered old-fashioned before their parents were born.  Now, I'm not saying these snide folks are guilty of the kind of disturbing ageism that some of us had hoped had gone the way of the Dodo, but it is an accusation I find hard to resist.  Does not liking this clip mean that you hate old people?  Probably, but chances are your grandmother knows better than I do.
But then the presence of Mr. Burns as the film's narrator (an important role in a film otherwise completely devoid of dialogue--Sgt. Pepper being that most 70s of all projects, a rock opera) is not the major reason so many people seem to dislike it.  No, that burden is placed squarely on three hairy brothers from down under:


By the time the movie was made the Brothers Gibb were already well on their way to becoming the Celine Dions of their day.  That is to say, the more popular they became with the masses the more the cultural commentators of this world lamented their existence, essentially insisting that no one who took their music even the slightest bit seriously could enjoy listening to Staying Alive if only because it was so successful there was no way it could be any good.  Hip people hew closely to the principle that a project is only worthy of their attention if no one else in the world has noticed it, which makes them pretentious bastards.  Now, I'm not saying that an inability to appreciate the musical stylings of the Bee-Gees automatically makes you a pretentious bastard.  Does not liking them indicate that you're an elitest snob who clearly deserves a major beating?  Probably, but I'd leave that up to Barry and Robin to decide (Maurice, unfortunately, being far too dead at this point to offer up a relevant opinion).
But more than their essential uncoolness, what irked many people about the appearance of the Bee-Gees in the film was the genre of music for which the trio had become most famous.  Despite their being around since the mid-sixties, it was their disco soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever that catapulted them into superstar status and even at the ultimate height of its heyday, many people dismissed disco out of hand as a genre unworthy of their attention.  Though they would claim that it was the essential frivolity of the music that they disdained, the truth was that the major reason so many music fans adamantly insisted that "Disco Suck[ed]!" was because of its popularity with gay men.  The Village People serve as the clearest example of disco as a gay phenomenon, but the rise of divas such as Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor, as well as the overt glam of such otherwise hetero acts as Earth, Wind & Fire (who also appear in Sgt. Pepper) and the images of clearly homosexual men dancing to the music in popular nightclubs such as "Studio 54", were more than enough to frighten uptight rocker dudes into thinking that approving of anything related to the genre would put an automatic question mark on their masculinity.  Now, I'm not saying that disapproving of the Bee-Gees meant that a person was a rabid homophobe.  Does not liking joyful dance music always indicate that a person is more likely to commit a violent hate crime?  Probably, but I'll leave it to your gay cousin to decide (and if you don't have a gay cousin, then that either means you're someone else's gay cousin or have some serious soul-searching to do sometime in your future).
Some of you cleverer folks, however, will have noticed that there is a fourth, non-Gibb member of the group shown in the above clip.  He, of course, is Peter Frampton.  Watch this to get a better look at him:


It is entirely acceptable to hate Peter Frampton.  I don't, but in this case at least, I can forgive those who do.
Moving on, some people apparently take issue with the performance of Miss Sandy Farina as Strawberry Fields--arguing that since it marked both her first and last significant film role that she clearly did not deserve to be showcased in an effort of this magnitude.  I'll let you decide for yourself by offering up this clip of her performing the song from which her character received her exotic name:


I don't see what these folks are talking about.  Miss Farina was clearly a talented singer and an attractive young woman and it wasn't like the film demanded strong thespic skills from her.  No, my guess is that the antipathy she received was the result of Beatles' fans automatic distrust of any women who came close to the music of their idols.  In much the same way many of them took to thinking of Yoko Ono as the devil, while they also demonized Linda McCartney for being in Wings, so too did they curse this lovely young woman for having the nerve to perform music she should know was above her station.  Now, I'm not saying that people who don't like her performance are all evil misogynists.  Does not liking Sandy Farina serve as proof of an unconscious hatred towards the entire female gender?  Probably, but I'll leave it to Gloria Steinem to tell you why.
Another reason so many people seem to hate the film is that in order to reach a happy conclusion it resorts to that oldest of all possible theatrical cliches--the deus ex machina:
Call me overly PC if you want, but I cannot help but worry that the reason so many folks are disturbed by this conclusion is because in this case the "God in the Machine" is a black man (Billy Preston to be exact).  Compound this with the fact that the film was directed by Michael Schultz, whose previous hits Cooley High, Car Wash and Which Way Is Up? had made him the most successful African-American filmmaker to make his mark in Hollywood up to that time and it is hard not to suspect that an undercurrent of bigotry informs many people's dislike of the film.  Now, I'm not saying hating Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band means you're a despicable racist.  Actually, I am.  Deal with it.
Finally the film ends, some would say infamously, with a lip-syncing chorus of late 70s era c-list celebrities, including: Peter Allen, Keith Allison, George Benson, Elvin Bishop, Stephen Bishop, Jack Bruce, Keith Carradine, Carol Channing, Charlotte Crossley, Sharon Redd, Ula Hedwig, Jim Dandy, Sarah Dash, Rick Derringer, Barbara Dickson, Donovon, Randy Edelman, Yvonne Elliman, Jose Feliciano, Leif Garrett, Geraldine Granger, Adrian Gurvitz, Billy Harper, Eddie Harris, Heart (aka Ann and Nancy Wilson), Nona Hendryx, Barry Humphries, Etta James, Dr. John, Bruce Jonston, D.C. LaRue, Jo Leb, Marcella Detroit, Mark Lindsay, Nils Lofgren, Jackie Lomax, John Mayall, Curtis Mayfield, 'Cousin Brucie' Morrow, Peter Noone, Alan O'Day, Lee Oskar, The Paley Brothers, Robert Palmer, Wilson Pickett, Anita Pointer, Bonnie Raitt, Helen Reddy, Minnie Riperton, Chita Rivera, Johnny Rivers, Monti Rock III, Danielle Rowe, Sha-Na-Na, Del Shannon, Joe Simon, Jim Seals, Dash Croft, Connie Stevens, Al Stewart, John Stewart (presumably a different John Stewart), Tina Turner, Frankie Valli, Gwen Verdon, Diane Vincent, Grover Washington Jr, Hank Williams Jr, Johnny Winter, Wolfman Jack, Bobby Womack, Alan White, Lenny White and Margaret Whiting (note: those in bold indicate people I've actually heard of):


This, I am willing to concede, is every bit as terrible as most people think it is, but I would argue that it is the single flaw that otherwise highlights the perfection of everything that has preceded it.
Now, I'm sure that those of you who keep up on your recent films are aware that just last year another film, Across the Universe, attempted to turn the Beatles' songbook into a full-fledged musical and I suspect you're assuming this is where I tear that effort apart as a cheap imitator and pathetic also-ran, but I simply cannot do it.  As imagined and directed by Julie Taymor, the film is a flat-out, no-bullshit, jump-for-joy artistic triumph.  As much as I love Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (and I DO love it, even more so every time I see it), Across the Universe is clearly in a different league altogether.  Whereas the first film is a silly little piece of fluff you have to be a serious asshole to hate, the latter film dances on the edge of being something wholly profound, so much so that a person's decision not to embrace it indicates as much a failure of the intellect as well as the soul.  It is a film I will never forget, if only for how it transformed "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" from a simple declaration of love into a moving lament of forbidden longing: