As we head into Oscar weekend, with promises of Oscar-gold for the critically acclaimed Milk, we thought we’d head to the other end of the spectrum and introduce you to the worst gay movie of all time, 2002’s Ben & Arthur. This isn’t some random opinion of ours like we usually foist on you; B&A consistently ranks as the Worst Movie of All Time on IMDB (it’s hovering at number 19 right now, right above 1975’s Track of the Moon Beast) and is the only gay film to make the bottom 100 list. Fortunately, it’s terrible in all the best possible ways, and even more fortunately, the disaster is now available on YouTube.
So, let’s start you off easy. Here’s the trailer:
See Sam Mraovich’s name much? If you watch the opening credits, you’ll learn that he’s not just the director and star of the film, but also its cinematographer, editor, music editor, casting director, producer, executive producer and screenwriter. Each of these get their own separate title card. Did we mention this is an actual movie that you can rent at Blockbuster?
So, a brief synopsis: We meet shlubby Arthur (Mraovich) while he’s sleeping in bed (with his shoes on, naturally) and his sort-of-hunky boyfriend Ben (Jamie Brett Gabel, in his only screen role ever) calls him up and asks him if he’s “heard the news, yet?” Arthur complains they have no budget to afford a shot of the TV and turns on the radio instead, where he finds out that, “Hurray! Gay marriage has been legalized in Hawaii!”
And then after a ten minute long, “We’re packing for Hawaii” sequence, they get a newspaper that tells them that gay marriage isn’t happening in Hawaii after all. This leads to some speechifying on Arthur’s part and Ben’s revelation that he’s still married to a woman, though they’ve been together for three years.
Ben then goes to his wife, who berates him for being gay, or at least tries to when she remembers her lines.
And that’s sort of as far as the movie gets before becoming unintelligible. Ben works as a dishwasher at a coffee shop, which he gave up his nursing career to do. Arthur goes on interviews in Bermuda shorts and then meets his brother (Mraovich in a blond wig and a Bible in hand) and asks him for cash, which he says he’ll give (himself?) if he agrees to bring Ben over to the apartment and “respects this apartment, respect my cat and respect the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ben & Arthur then fly into Vermont by Alaska Airlines and somehow Vermont now has palm trees. In any event, they get married. Hurray!
Then there’s some more stuff about gay marriage and Ben & Arthur talk to their lawyer and then Arthur’s blond brother starts looking for Ben and then finds their lawyer and then shoots the lawyer, then Tammy, the ex-wife shows up at Ben’s apartment with a gun and tries to kill Ben for being gay and this part is actually sort of fun, so just watch:
There’s a break-in in the garage of the apartment they live in and Ben goes down to the garage, with car keys in hand, stares at an unseen parking space and returns to the apartment and tells Arthur, “Our bike is gone!”
And then he beats up Arthur. Then Crazy Religious brother sends the couple an anti-gay potion and it doesn’t work, which is a big problem because he belongs to a sect of Catholicism that expels anyone whose related to a gay person. He doesn’t take it so well and decides he has to kill his brother:
Fortunately, the local priest happens to have the number of a good assassin. Anyway, Ben winds up killed, there’s like twenty minutes of police investigation bullshit and then finally, Arthur starts to get his revenge. First by knocking out the priest with nail polish remover and setting the church, with its cardboard crucifix, on fire. And then Ben’s back alive! Maybe we missed the part where he survived being shot in the head, you know?
But no matter, soon Ben is dead again, at the hands of Crazy Religious Brother, who then tries to make his brother straight with a forced baptism at gunpoint, leading to the film’s ultimate, final, tragic (though for the viewer, merciful) end:
The End. In its own way, there’s a sort of sweet nobility to Ben & Arthur. It’s a labor of love born out of the frustrations that gay people have that they can’t get married, but—oh, who are we kidding? Worst. Movie. Ever.