Ben and Arthur

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Ben and Arthur
Directed by Sam Mraovich
Produced by Sam Mraovich
Written by Sam Mraovich
Starring Louis Matta
Sam Mraovich
Jamie Brett Gabel
Michael Haboush
Bill Hindley
Julie Belknap
Gina Aguilar
Music by Phil Garcia
Michael Haboush
Chris Mraovich
Robert Mraovich
Sam Mraovich
Cinematography Michael Haboush
Sam Mraovich
Edited by Chris Mraovich
Sam Mraovich
Distributed by Ariztical Entertainment
Release date
September 9, 2002
Running time
85 min
Country United States
Language English
Box office $40,000

Ben and Arthur is a 2002 American romantic drama film[1] written, directed, produced, edited, scored by and starring Sam Mraovich, distributed by Ariztical Entertainment. The film concerns a recently married gay couple who face opposition from one of the partners' brother, who plots to murder them after being ostracized by his church. The film was a box office bomb, having earned only $40,000 as of 2011.[2] It is considered by some to be one of the worst movies ever made.

Plot[edit]

Ben (Jamie Brett Gabel) and Arthur (Sam Mraovich) are a gay couple eagerly awaiting the legalization of gay marriage in Hawaii so that they may travel there for their dream wedding. After a news bulletin that a judge has made a ruling that will allow gay marriages to take place, the men purchase plane tickets and prepare to depart; however, before they leave, they discover that a challenge to the judge's ruling has resulted in a suspension of gay marriage in Hawaii, pending further judicial review. Ben takes advantage of the delay to inform Arthur that he is actually already married to a woman named Tammy (Julie Belknap), whom he wed out of societal pressure before he came to terms with his homosexuality and from whom he has been separated since before he and Arthur met. Arthur becomes angry, but decides to stay with Ben anyway. Shortly thereafter, Ben contacts Tammy, finally comes out to her, and asks her for a divorce.

After the disappointment of their near-wedding, Ben and Arthur resume their daily life, working in a small diner in Los Angeles, where Ben is a dishwasher and Arthur is a waiter. Although Ben—a former nurse who quit to pursue a music career—enjoys the manual labor and hours, Arthur has grown impatient with servitude and putting up with needy customers. One night, Arthur decides to quit and go back to college, so that he can earn an MBA and open up his own sex shop. Although the loss of income to the household means that Ben will have to quit and return to being a nurse, he agrees to do so in order to help Arthur pursue his dream.

To finance his education, Arthur tracks down his estranged brother, Victor (Michael Haboush), whom he hasn't spoken to for seven years. Victor is a religious fanatic who believes that Arthur's homosexuality is a sign of demonic possession, although Victor himself appears to be flamboyantly gay—even greeting Arthur in a pink, feathered bathrobe. Although Victor lashes out at Arthur for his failure to turn straight, he nonetheless offers to give Arthur money for college if he will bring Ben by the apartment and allow him to evangelize.

While Arthur considers Victor's offer, he and Ben hire an attorney (Gina Aguilar) to consult for advice on getting married. Despite Ben's still being legally married to Tammy, the attorney counsels them to travel to Vermont, be wed in a civil union, and then return to California and attempt to be recognized as members of a domestic partnership. The two take her advice, and are wed in a private ceremony in Vermont.

Suspicious of Arthur's lack of response to his monetary offer, Victor hires a private investigator to tail Ben and Arthur. The PI tells Victor about the men's marriage and their attempts to get their union recognized in California. In response, Victor follows the attorney home one evening and shoots her to death in her apartment's parking garage. At the same time, Tammy arrives at Arthur's apartment and tries to force Ben to take her back at gunpoint, but Ben successfully disarms her and throws her out.

Following their attorney's death, Ben and Arthur agree to come to Victor's apartment. Rather than evangelize, Victor and another congregant from his church, Stan (Richard Hitchcock), lash out at the couple with homophobic insults and slurs. When Ben and Arthur leave, Victor and Stan start making plans to exorcise the couple by feeding them Holy Water that Stan has cooked in his kitchen. The plot fails, and Ben and Arthur leave town to enjoy a honeymoon in Hawaii and allow the tension with Victor to blow over. In Ben and Arthur's absence, Victor is summoned to church by his priest, Father Rabin (Bill Hindley). Rabin informs him that he is being excommunicated because the congregation does not want the relative of a gay person attending church services, fearful that he will bring them bad karma and negative energy. A dejected Victor reaches out to Stan for help, who helps Victor come to an agreement with Father Rabin that Victor will be permitted to rejoin the church if he successfully murders Ben and Arthur. To this end, they hire a hitman named Scott (Nick Bennet), whom Father Rabin has apparently used to kill gay people in the past.

When Ben and Arthur return from Hawaii, Ben is gay bashed by Victor and Scott; the attack fails to kill him, and Ben is hospitalized. Suspecting his brother's involvement, Arthur breaks into Victor's apartment and taps his phone. After intercepting a call implicating Victor and Father Rabin, Arthur goes to Victor's church, chloroforms Father Rabin, and then murders him by burning the church down with him still inside.

After Ben has sufficiently recovered, Arthur takes him back home to their apartment. Deciding that the next attempt on the men's lives must be more drastic, Victor and Scott go Ben and Arthur's apartment with guns; at the last minute, Victor tells Scott that he wants to kill them himself and sends him away. Victor rings the apartment's doorbell, and when Ben answers, he fatally shoots him. He then forces Arthur to strip naked at gunpoint and performs an impromptu baptism in the bathtub.

While Victor contemplates what he's done, Arthur slips away and gets the gun that Ben had earlier confiscated from Tammy. Dressed in a bathrobe and briefs, a hysterical Arthur—reenacting one of the final scenes of Scarface—propositions Victor while holding him at gunpoint, accusing him of lashing out to try to combat his own repressed homosexuality. When Arthur fires a warning shot, Victor pulls out his own gun and shoots Arthur in the chest and back several times. In turn, Arthur manages to fire off a single shot which hits Victor in the forehead and instantly kills him, before Arthur dies of his own wounds.

Production and release[edit]

Sam Mraovich assumed most of the film's production and creative duties; in addition to writing, directing, and starring in the film, he also handled cinematography duties, scored the film, and edited it. Aside from Mraovich's compositions, the film also contains public domain recordings of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D, which play over the opening and closing credits, respectively.[3]

The original script featured a female antagonist named Victoria, as opposed to a male antagonist named Victor. Some of Victor's lines are still listed as belonging to "Victoria" in the film's final shooting script, although any references as to her relationship with Arthur have been excised.[4] Following the film's release, Sam Mraovich received numerous complaints that, although ostensibly a homophobe, the character of Victor is not only played by a gay actor but is portrayed as flamboyantly gay in the film (Michael Haboush, who plays Victor, is in fact openly gay and a veteran of gay pornography).[5] Mraovich responded saying that the casting and direction were intentional, and meant to convey that Victor is a self-loathing gay man in the vein of James McGreevy:

James McGreevey could not deny it. Gov. James McGreevey was totally against gay marriage and didn't even support civil unions or domestic partnerships. Also, look at Mayor Jim West, he's totally gay yet against gay rights and says bad things about us but privately he was giving his gay lovers jobs... the bottom line is the character in my movie, Victor, is an example of a gay man who hates himself for being gay."[6]

The film premiered at the Sunset 5 theater in West Hollywood. It was released on Region 1 DVD in the United States in early 2003. As of 2011, the film has only earned $40,000, making it a box office bomb.[7]

Reception[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes' editorial staff ranked it #15 on their list of "Films So Bad They're Unmissable", stating "If Tommy Wiseau's The Room is the over-wrought, melodramatic and self-pitying heterosexual camp classic of choice, then Sam Mraovich's Ben & Arthur is its gay equivalent." Rotten Tomatoes went on to cite the poor production values and Arthur's "hissy fits", concluding that the quality of the film was so poor that "Mraovich might as well have shot his story of gay persecution and fightback on a cell phone".[8] Pop culture review site insert-disc likewise compared it to The Room, stating "The Room was better than this. The acting, special effects, music, and writing are bad even compared to 'The Room.'[9] Total Film included Ben and Arthur in their list of the 66 worst films of all time.[10]

The film also took particularly criticism from the gay community: The gay pop culture site Queerty called it "the worst gay movie ever", only to later retract the "gay" qualifier and simply declare it "worst. movie. ever."[11] The gay movie review site Cinemaqueer likewise indicated that it was the worst film to have ever been featured on the site, suggesting that the film was too bad to even be parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000.[12]

References[edit]

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