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Heart of the Beholder (2005)


The cover (and title) of Heart of the Beholder indicate a much different experience: Bathed in fire, a sword with a crucifix on it erupts from the ball of flames. Another Left Behind, you’re thinking.

Sorry, folks, Kirk Carmeron is nowhere to be found: this is the true story about one of the first video rental shops in the country, and how the business was done in by fundamentalists, a corrupt district attorney, and a greedy businessman.

Video Library was founded in 1980 in St. Louis, and after the initial jitters wear off (as seen in a hysterical moment when a black man tries to rent 30 videos at once… and turns out to be Chuck Berry), things seem to be looking up. That is, until the local fundies get wind of the ‘pornography’ for rent there: Films like The Last Temptation of Christ (blasphemy), Splash (beastiality), and Mr. Mom (???).

Our heroes, the Howards, face down endless hardships and in the end we see their lives torn apart by lawsuits and protests — and only vaguely cobbled back together in the end.

I’m not sure how true to reality Beholder is (the names have been changed, at the very least), but if the story holds up, it’s an atrocious example of strongarm tactics prevalent in the last half-century. That we pulled through it OK is a miracle. That Ken Tipton has been able to turn it into an engaging, well-acted, and often delightful little movie, well that’s an even bigger one.

Down with Betamax, too!