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Gates of Heaven (1978)

7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 3,202 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 44 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)

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Credited cast:
Lucille Billingsley ...
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Cal Harberts ...
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Dan Harberts ...
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Phil Harberts ...
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Scottie Harberts ...
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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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October 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gates of Heaven  »

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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

Floyd McClure: When I turn my back I don't know you, not truly, but I can turn my back on my little dog and I know that he's not going to jump on me or bite me. But human begings can't be that way.
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Referenced in Film Geek (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

 
slow and compelling and a meditation on the human condition
9 June 2006 | by (Lodz & California) – See all my reviews

The film starts with an man talking about his journey to achieve his dream of opening a pet cemetery in the south bay of San Francisco. We meet the people who help him: investors, friends, pet lovers. We also meet the guy against him, the guy who makes a living out of disposing of dead animals. This is the first part of the film. The second part of the film we meet a family that runs a successful pet cemetery, called the Bubbling Well Pet Cemetery. We meet the father, the head of the business, his wife, the moral supporter, for a lack of a better definition, and we meet the two sons involved in assisting in operations, one is a former insurance worker, the other is a business admin college grad. This is the basic outline of the film. And this sounds kind of boring, maybe. But boring it is not. If anything, slow at times. Thats because the camera is usually completely still and people are positioned in front of the camera, talking into it. What is interesting is how when these characters talk they let loose and go on tangents, exposing their world views, usually in the context of pets, and what we see is the humanity of these seemingly regular people, their musings on life and death, companionship, love, filial duty. For instance, the first man with the pet cemetery idea talks about how you can't trust people, how if you turn around they might stab you in the back, but his dog would never do this because you can trust your dog. The dead pet disposal guy rants about, and is surprised at the emotional connection people have with pets, as though it was something he just discovered in his line of work, and his line of work is treated by him as just a job, not anything controversial. And the sons of the successful pet cemetery owner, one is a motivational speaker. He talks about projecting ideas of success and refraining from using negative words with his little daughter, when she has done something wrong. And the other son talks about his musical aspirations and how he found out what love is in college and then found out about the hard break up afterwards. Erol Morris succeeds at exposing the layers of peoples in a real light, sometimes showing the contradictory and absurdness of peoples personalities and yet also showing the genuineness of people and their intentions. At times the film is comical, at times very serious, and other times sad. Morris is a keen observer of human behavior and this film illustrates this very well. For some local history from the southern SF bay area, for an interesting look at peoples views on very common human issues we can all relate with and of course on pets, see this nice movie. 8 out of 10.


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