Remember that glorious, electrifying moment from youth when you first stepped inside the gates of Disneyland? If hunting down movies is your idea of nirvana, Scarecrow Video might prompt the same heart-pumping rush that made hair stand up on the back of your neck upon entering the Magic Kingdom as a kid.

Arguably the nation’s greatest video rental outlet, Scarecrow is Seattle’s undisputed Grand Central Station of Cinema. A movie maven’s treasure trove, the store has steadily expanded since December 9, 1988, when founders George and Rebecca Latsios opened for business. Today, Scarecrow has grown leaps and bounds from those cramped, early days as a stuffy shoebox shop with 619 films on its shelves. Its current University District location, a sprawling, 8,600 foot juggernaut, is to movie addicts what Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is to candy lovers.

Want a vicarious tour of Scarecrow Video? Hold onto your popcorn and remote control, recline that home-theater chair, and close your eyes.

Imagine yourself wandering down the rain-soaked sidewalk alongside Seattle’s Roosevelt Way, Starbucks coffee in hand. You approach a high-roofed retail building with glass-paned doors and windows. A yellow and black neon sign sports the store’s logo – a strip of film and a swooping raven – with the telltale “Scarecrow” lettering inside.

Wanna peek through the window and get a taste of what’s within these walls? Fat chance. Layers of overlapping movie posters slather every square inch of the entryway, like a thick coating of paper mache. Today, there’s a huge ad for Kim Ki-Duk’s “Bad Guy,” displaying a nude woman sitting at a mirror. Nearby, a green, Xeroxed flyer announces an upcoming in-store appearance by Martin Scorsese’s respected film editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Taped on the opposite window is a yellow obituary for influential producer Debra Hill. Clearly, this isn’t just any video store.

Your trembling hand pushes open the door, and you’re overwhelmed by the pure perfection of what lies beyond. You feel like Richard Dreyfus in awestruck, sensory-overload stage as he’s entering the alien mother-ship from “Close Encounters.” Life is perfect. There’s a retail shelf to the right, stuffed with a gazillion different foreign versions of Kill Bill, most with region codes that prohibit buyers from viewing them on American DVD players. But what the hell. They’re cool anyway.

A few steps down, you hit the rental counter. There’s a checkout clerk sporting a tank-top shirt, a tattooed image of Quentin Tarantino’s “A Band Apart” logo visible across his right bicep. A second clerk is wearing a long-sleeved jersey emblazoned with the samurai hero from Versus, a bloodstained, Japanese zombie flick. Behind the counter, you notice Chow Yun Fat staring out from a blue “Hard-Boiled” promo poster, holding an infant in one hand and a shotgun in the other. The poster is signed by filmmaking action-god John Woo, who once stopped by to shop around. Tarantino’s been here, too. Bernardo Bertolucci and Roger Ebert have also marveled at its hallowed shelves. No question. This isn’t just any video store.

Overwhelmed, head jerking left and right like that of a curious bird, you behold the largest spread of home video ever seen. But wait! Something’s different. Sure, there’s the obligatory new release section plugged into the far end, but the most prominent category is Directors. Looking for the original “Scarface” or “Rio Bravo?” Hit the “H” section, and look under Howard Hawks. Mad about Takashi Miike? Check out the “M”’s, and find over two rows of the cult director’s films. But this is too easy. Does Scarecrow pay homage to a lesser-known filmmaker like, say, reliable genre guru William Witney? Sure enough – “The Bonnie Parker Story,” “Paratroop Command,” and other Witney staples crowd another corner. Tucked back behind this literal library of director’s work is a huge Foreign Films section.

The tour continues in part two of SCARECROW: THE WORLD’S GREATEST VIDEO STORE?>>>

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