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Gates of Heaven (1978)

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Reviews: 24 user | 45 critic

A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.

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Title: Gates of Heaven (1978)

Gates of Heaven (1978) on IMDb 7.5/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Lucille Billingsley ...
Herself
Zella Graham ...
Herself
Cal Harberts ...
Himself
Dan Harberts ...
Himself
Phil Harberts ...
Himself
Scottie Harberts ...
Himself
Mike Koewler ...
Himself
Floyd McClure ...
Himself
Ed Quye ...
Himself
Florence Rasmussen ...
Herself
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Storyline

The men who run a pet cemetery, and the men and women who bury their pets, become the subject of this documentary. We first meet Floyd McClure, a paraplegic with a dream to create a pet cemetery. One inspiration is the death of his collie years before; and the other is the local rendering plant, which turns animals into glue. He realizes his dream, only to see it fail. Then we visit a successful pet cemetery, run by a father and his two sons. One is a frustrated musician, nursing a broken heart. The other is joining the family business after selling insurance in Salt Lake City. Throughout, we also meet the people who have buried their pets. Written by J. Spurlin

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Documentary

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October 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A mennyország kapui  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

German film director Werner Herzog had made a bet with fledgling director (and current film student) Errol Morris that if Morris made a film about pet cemeteries, Herzog would eat his shoe. Morris went on to make this film, so Herzog kept his promise. The meal is documented in the film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980). See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Harberts: Surely at the gates of heaven an all-compassionate God is not going to say, "Well, you're walking in on two legs, you can go in. You're walking in four legs, we can't take you."
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Connections

Featured in A Brief History of Errol Morris (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Painful and unforgettable, like a car wreck
24 November 1998 | by (Durham, North Carolina) – See all my reviews

This is the movie over which Werner Herzog ate his footwear.

The story goes that Errol Morris had no money to finance a film and Herzog's advice to him was to do it anyway. (Herzog is not known for his restraint, fiscal and otherwise.) Morris hadn't made a film before and had no options for financing. Herzog promised him that if Morris indeed made a film, Herzog would come to the premiere and eat his shoe.

As they say, the rest is history. Herzog flew in from Germany for the California premiere carrying the same shoes he had on when he made the promise. He boiled them with vegetables and stood in front of the audience as the film was being readied and, as good as his word, ate one entire shoe, clipping off bits with metal shears. He did leave the soles and the eyelets.

Gates of Heaven is a one-camera job, lots of nice stationary shots, some interminable interview footage with owners of pet cemeteries and developers looking to make a quick dollar out of lonely-hearts' grief and one too honest renderer whose willingness to talk casts him in a rather bad light. About ten minutes in you begin to wish that Morris had earlier discovered Philip Glass, as he would for The Thin Blue Line, to help this quirky story along. It shows little of the promise that would be fulfilled in Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control; but for all that, Morris has a style right from the outset, and what's lacking in technical expertise is compensated for by his shrewd eye for human nature. It sticks with you. The Morris catalog would be incomplete without it. It's a good companion rental to balance out the emptiness of a Judge Dredd or Last Man Standing.


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