Clean scenes

A video watchdog in Utah edits out all the nasty stuff for his Mormon customers.

Published January 11, 2001 8:01PM (EST)

Mormons in Utah hoping to rent a Hollywood film without sex, violence or profanity have found their savior. His name is Ray Lines, and he doesn't merely preach against the heathens of hell. Lines is a man of action. The one-time sportscaster operates two CleanFlicks video stores in the greater Salt Lake City area, and spends much of his time editing the videos to remove bare breasts, sex scenes, gun battles and unfortunate dialogue like "fuck" and "goddamn it."

The large local membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides an ideal customer base for Lines and his Carry Nation crusade against video filth. Since his stores opened a few months ago, he has attracted a steady stream of well-scrubbed film fans who don't mind paying up to $17 to rent a Mormon-friendly version of "Titanic" or "Saving Private Ryan."

"This is the best thing since the invention of the VCR," customer Mike Eisenstat told the Salt Lake Tribune. "There are a lot of great movies out there, but there is no way I could see them or allow them in my home unless they were edited. They have too much filth and language."

Eisenstat will never enjoy the robust movies of Quentin Tarentino and his ilk, however. According to Lines, some R-rated films just aren't worth the trouble to snip the sex and violence.

"No matter how you edit ["Pretty Woman"], Julia Roberts is still a prostitute and spends a week living with Richard Gere," said Lines, who has clearly seen the film. "You can't edit that out of a movie."

The CleanFlicks empire offers both a Web site and two stores, where customers can pay a monthly fee to become a member of a filth-free co-op. The sterilized videos can be checked out indefinitely, with no late fees. Lines claims 200 members so far, with more joining up every day.

But an important question remains: Is it legal to cut up and then rent the Oscar-winning efforts of hundreds of people -- films that took months or even years to produce?

Lines' attorney asserts that his client is not doing anything wrong. Each video is purchased and edited individually. The filmmakers are getting paid for each video, because no copies are made. Sex and violence are merely excised to conform to the strict Mormon code of clean living.

Hollywood studios are looking into the legality of such editing, but have not yet taken any legal action, perhaps because the phenomenon is confined to Utah, and because any extra publicity might encourage others to follow Lines in his unique crusade.

Lines edits more than 50 videos a week and envisions his schoolmarmish scheme expanding worldwide -- wherever Mormons congregate to enjoy high-quality entertainment without nasty reminders of the real world. Whether he is allowed to continue or gets sued and shut down, one thing is certain: After Lines is done editing movies like "Scarface," "Pulp Fiction" and "9 1/2 Weeks," there's likely to be little demand for copies -- how many people would want to rent a 13-minute movie?

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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