The basics of this movie: Fire-and-brimstone preacher Estus W. Pirkle gives a sermon to his followers, explaining what Heaven looks like.
Yeah, that’s kind of what it’s about, but that’s like me saying Edwige Fenech is a girl. The Believer’s Heaven is the kind of insane cinema that secular filmmakers could only dream of conceiving.
Pirkle made three movies — If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? and The Burning Hell are the first two parts of the trilogy — and all three of them have stuck in my mind way longer than any blockbuster I will see this year. Or any other year.
To get his gospel into the world, he relied on a former sinner. Ron Ormond started his entertainment career as stage magician Rahn Ormond, married a vaudeville dancer named June Carr, wrote books about psychic surgery and then made a string of movies that are just as odd as these movies, including Please Don’t Touch Me, Girl from Tobacco Road and the astoundingly unhinged The Exotic Ones, which is also known as The Monster and the Stripper. It took multiple near death experiences for Ron to find the Lord, but once he did, he started making the same kind of grab you by the balls cinema that he did for weirdos like you and me, but now he was doing it to save our souls.
This film isn’t filled with the brutality of the first two films but is just as odd and that’s a blessing. From views of a decidely science fiction heaven to moments where Pirkle’s congregation and Ormond’s family act out psychodrama to an ending where those not whole on Earth — like three children with leprosy — are brought Tod Browning style center screen to sing.
“Don’t you get so tired and worn out sometimes? The work hours are so long and the night’s rest is so short, the labor is so strenuous that you don’t feel like you can take it much longer. Or perhaps sickness and suffering have so weakened your body that you even long to die. Have you not wrestled with sin and temptation so long that you welcomed relief? Thank God that there is a place where the Saints of God shall rest from their labors.” So says this film, but man, when you have Pirkle basically berate you for an hour, do you worry that maybe you might spend eternity with him? Man, I hope so. That would be my Heaven, getting to make a fourth movie with Ormond and the reverend.
I’m beaten down by life some days, but when nothing else would do, this movie lifted me.
You can watch this on byNWR.