After reading a scathing review of the Hugh Jackman/Kate Beckinsale movie Van Helsing, which differed from my own experience more in reaction than in fact (mine was much closer to the experience excellently summarized by sekl—which makes sense, considering I was two seats away), I started thinking about just why I enjoyed the movie.
Because, to be honest, it was terrible.
But terrible in a strangely entertaining way.
While watching it, I thought—many times—that this is what happens when you put every cliché you can think of into one movie. (“Oh, of course the road goes along the edge of a cliff!”) Depending on your mood, it could be the most tedious or most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen. I also spent most of the movie trying to figure out whether or not it was intended to be a comedy.
And thinking back on that, it hit me. Van Helsing is the monster movie equivalent of The Eye of Argon.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Eye of Argon is reputed to be the worst fantasy story ever written. It’s the tale of the barbarian Grignr and his quest to steal the titular jewel, filled with cruel swordsmen, an evil wizard, disgusting creatures and a beautiful, captive princess, written with prose so purple it’s a wonder it doesn’t creep into the ultraviolet. And yet, reading it, you can never be sure whether it’s intentional parody or an earnest effort by someone who just didn’t realize how bad it was.
Traditionally, Eye of Argon is read as a group, each person trying to keep a straight face as long as possible and passing it on to the next once he or she bursts out laughing. Sometimes getting through a whole sentence about “livid wilderness lands” or “keen auditory organs” is a real challenge!
Read The Eye of Argon… if you dare!
Edited June 19: The the site I originally linked to has vanished, so I’ve re-linked to a copy that’s still up.
When Litguild had its reading, I had the misfortune to be stuck with the lines that made the least sense and sounded the dirtiest. I think I read about ten words over the course of the two hours. I’m just glad it wasn’t a drinking-game reading.
And you can’t forget the pre-MSTed version, for double the laughs.
His sagging flabs rolled like a tub of upset jelly, then compressed as he sucked in his gut in an attempt to conceal his softness.
Wow what a sentence! Did this ever win the Bulwer-Lytton award?
I loved one of the Van Helsing IMDB reviews, entitled “Contains one of the most logically bankrupt scenes in movie history.” The writer proceeds to figure out the tower arrangements in Dracula’s castle, something I think our heroes never did.
I don’t know if it ever won the contest, but it does seem to be listed in the sidebar on the Bulwer-Lytton website!
I checked out that review on IMDB, too… I remember mentally realigning my sense of where Anna and whatsherface were in relation to the bridge, and I remember thinking “What, swing him down?” But there was just so much that didn’t make sense that I had completely forgotten about it by the time we got out of the movie.
As near as I can tell, the cables were suspended from skyhooks halfway between the two towers, which would make it possible for the monster to swing down off the bridge, then back up to the tower and through the window.
“I couldnt suspend my disbelief for this if you got me drunk or hit me over the head with a hammer.”
I can’t get through the first paragraph. GAH!!!
The Eye of Argon is impossible to read, it is true. But it is at least bad in a funny way. Van Helsing was as painful as having an earhole cleaned out with a rusty nail.
I have a way to make Eye of Argon even funnier! Go to a translation site. Translate it to Korean. Translate it back to English. Translate it into Russian. Translate back to English. Repeat.
I know this is a little, well, a lot, late. I came across this while looking up “The Eye of Argon.” It was actually written by my uncle, Jim Theis, when he was 15 or 16. So, it was an earnest effort. But it’s still funny and thought of fondly by my family.