GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
9 Dead Gay Guys
TLA Video, 2002
Starring: Glenn Mulhern, Brendan Mackey, Steven Berkoff, Vas Blackwood, Michael Praed, Fish
Unrated, 83 minutes
Ben and Arthur
Ariztical Enterainment Group, 2004
Starring: Sam Mraovich, Jamie Brett Gabel, Michael Haboush, Bill Hindley, Julie Belknap
Unrated, 85 minutes
It is often the habit of the Radical Right to condemn a film sight unseen. I am embarrassed to admit that I almost fell into this trap myself regarding a small British comedy with the seemingly odious title of 9 Dead Gay Guys. I was under the mistaken impression that it was about two guys who seduce, and then murder, nine old queens for their money. I blame a badly written website blurb for the confusion.
This is the tale of two London slackers who practice questionable methods to supplement their income. Kenny (Glenn Mulhern) has just arrived from Dublin because he has heard that the streets of London are "paved with gold." He looks up his old Dublin pal, Byron (Brendan Mackey), and is shocked to learn that Byron gives head to old gay men for quick cash. Byron insists that he is straight and that what he does is "legitimate lucrative work." Before long, his broke friend Kenny realises that it is an easy way to make money. He even discovers that he fancies it a bit. And, he agrees, it is "legitimate lucrative work."
So where do the nine men who have gone to join the choir invisible come in? As our tale opens, "the Queen," renowned for his unnatural size, is Dead Gay Guy No. 1. Rumors abound regarding Golders Green, an orthodox Jew who was the Queen's lover, and the small fortune allegedly hidden in his Olympian-sized bed. Kenny and Byron set out to find the Queen's killer; their only clue is that he has " a 3-1/2 inch willy."
But they aren't the only ones after the money and this is when the body count begins to rise. Amongst the casualties are a psychotic dwarf and a lesbian pub owner, known as "The Iron Lady," who appears to be the love child of Divine and the Terminator.
I have to be honest. Parts of the film are sophomoric, and I haven't seen queens this stereotypical since the 60s and 70s. Was it necessary for Byron's sugar daddy to look like Truman Capote? Actually the answer is yes, if we are to believe that he has to pay for sex - and if we are to feel Kenny's initial discomfort as he embarks on his new profession. Director/screenwriter Lab Ky Mo often goes for the cheap laugh, but his script really soars when he explores straight male sexual hangups. There is a charm to the relationship between our two mates that redeems the film's more offensive aspects. Whenever they think they might be enjoying their job too much, our boys constantly remind each other that what they do is only "legitimate lucrative work." Do these two strapping young men find Golders Green's loot? And do they eventually fall in love? Rent the film and find out.
Mix Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with Trainspotting, channel Stanley Kubrick's use of classical music in A Clockwork Orange, throw in some John Waters and a little South Park, and you have 9 Dead Gay Guys. You might sometimes roll your eyes, but you will also laugh your tail off.
My editor, Tim Moran, once remarked that some people should not be allowed near a video camera. Truer words were never spoken when one considers Sam Mraovich: the director, writer, editor, co-photographer, and star of Ben and Arthur.
Once upon a time, there were two men named Ben and Arthur who live in L.A. and want to get married. After much ado, they fly to Vermont and wed in a lovely outdoor ceremony. But Arthur's religious fanatic brother, Victor, won't stand for this blasphemy. Whether he's nailing a bottle of holy water to Ben and Arthur's apartment door, or shooting the lawyer who wants to try to get their marriage declared legal in California, Victor will stop at nothing to save these two heathen souls.
I think this was meant to be a satire about religious intolerance - instead we have a mess that outdoes anything by Ed Wood. For starters, how many religious zealots do you know with bleached hair and a slave tattoo around his bicep? Since when are there palm trees in Vermont? When is the last time you saw a priest give the phone number of a hit man to a parishioner? And how about those guns that looked like water pistols? Or Ben telling his wife - who he hasn't seen in three years - that he is gay and wants a divorce while she screams "Does this mean our marriage is a lie?" Oh, and did I mention the palm trees in Vermont?
I can overlook a low budget when the script and the acting is good. But Ben and Arthur is so terrible that it has awoken the dormant Bette Davis in me. It is so painfully bad that it wouldn't even make good fodder on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This just might possibly be the worst movie I have ever seen (although Visions of Sugarplums is a very close second). Unless you get a kick out of mocking bad films, avoid this one at all costs.