BEST VIDEO RENTAL (1999)
The best video store in the Twin Cities doesn't earn the distinction through user-friendliness: Discount's defiantly unalphabetized holdings (including 12,500 titles at last check) are arranged in such subgeneric categories as "Gang Action" (e.g., Mean Streets), "Epic Action" (The Crow), "Crime Action" (Pulp Fiction), and "Spy Action" (Mission: Impossible)--which maybe make sense but hardly help the nonbrowser to find what she's looking for. And to be honest, we've noticed an intimidating, near-sadomasochistic dynamic between clerk and client at work here, one that rewards or punishes the customer for her degree of adherence to the most stringent rules, which are as follows: Do not ask for specific titles; do consult the master list or Web site for the reference number of each tape (e.g., Bound and Gagged: A Love Story equals "3247"), which can then be presented to the employee to check for availability; do include your copy of the receipt with rental returns (under the clear plastic flap atop the tape box, please); do wait until the clerk has checked to see that each tape is rewound and in its properly numbered box; and, if all of the above conditions are met, do come again. Pricewise, they don't give 'em away at Discount: To rent a tape for a single day costs $2.95 and requires the purchase of a $19.95 membership, which then allows other privileges such as two-for-one rentals once a month and the continuous "super special" of five tapes for five days for $9.95 ("new additions" not included). That's hardly enough to lure the Blockbuster and Hollywood set, but, thankfully, this isn't Blockbuster or Hollywood, which is to say that the aforementioned drill routine is a reasonable price to pay in the context of Discount's abundant esoterica, the motherlode of which is a pair of shelves devoted to "Cult Movies" that one would be very hard-pressed to find anywhere else in town. So long as Discount keeps the likes of The Last Movie, The Beyond, The Spook Who Sat by the Door, anthologies of works by Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren, some 20-odd "Bosomania" films by Russ Meyer, and The Best of the New York Erotic Film Festival in stock, we shall forever remain its loyal servants.