Crime, Demons, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Thriller

God Told Me To (1976)

Comments Off on God Told Me To (1976) 21 August 2015

God Told Me To coverStudio: Blue Underground

Theatrical Release: November, 1976

Blu-Ray Release: February 24th, 2015

Rating: R

Directed by Larry Cohen

Review by Craig Sorensen

Larry Cohen’s bizarre genre mishmash God Told Me To must have been bewildering to ‘70s audiences.  A little bit of horror, a little bit of science fiction, part cop-drama and blaxploitation, with a large helping of heresy thrown in, the film is certainly one of the most outlandish cult films of the decade (and that’s saying something).  Thankfully the film has managed to find an audience and has had multiple home video releases over the years, helping to elevate it’s status.  The latest of these releases is the new Blu-Ray from Blue Underground.

God Told Me To 03There is a seemingly random rash of mass murders and violent crimes plaguing New York.  The only thing that connects these tragic events: the perpetrators all claim that ‘God Told Me To’.  Enter guilty catholic cop Peter (Tony Lo Bianco from The Honeymoon Killers), the only one on the force to take the connection seriously.  He begins to dig a little and discovers that all the suspects had met with a young, barefoot man with shoulder length hair shortly before their killing sprees.  For some odd reason, none of the witnesses can seem to remember what the young man’s face looked like though.  As Peter digs further, he uncovers a large conspiracy of rich business owners and a tragic event in the past that connects him to this mysterious young man.

God Told Me To 02

I don’t want to spoil the surprises here for people that might not have seen the film but, there are some surprising revelations about certain truths that a lot of people hold self-evident.  It might not be too much of a surprise if you’re a fan of Cohen’s films however.  He’s always had a very strong liberal bent in his stories, from It’s Alive’s views on industrial chemicals and pollution to The Stuff’s views on consumerism and corporate culture.  If I had to point to God Told Me To’s main fault (I do enjoy the film a lot so it’s a minor complaint to be sure) it’s that it’s trying to bite off more than it can chew.  Sometimes it seems like there’s just too much going on.  Maybe we could do without the subplot dealing with corrupt cops and drug-dealing pimps.  The corporate conspiracy also seems like a little too much.  Maybe a little streamlining would help the film out a bit.  Just focus on the religious aspects of the film, which is where the film is at it’s strongest.  Anyway, like I said, it’s a minor complaint for me.  And I guess part of the film’s charm is it’s overstuffed nature. 

God Told Me To 04

Of course, this being a Larry Cohen film, the film is filled with good performances and an eclectic cast that you wouldn’t expect to see in a film such as this.  Tony Lo Bianco had a healthy career as heavies and cops throughout his career.  Nothing too out of the ordinary for an Italian actor.  So the Catholic cop part of his part here isn’t too far off the beaten path for him.  The later turns though (no, I’m not going to spoil it damn it) are certainly odd and the film does stand out in his oeuvre.  Peter’s estranged wife is played by the underrated Sandy Dennis from films like Elia Kazan’s Splendor in the Grass and Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  You also get cameos from Sylvia Sidney (Fury, Violent Saturday, Mars Attacks!), Sam Levene (The Killers, Brute Force, Sweet Smell of Success), Mike Kellin (Hell is for Heroes, Freebie and the Bean, Midnight Express) and Richard Lynch (The Seven-Ups, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Invasion U.S.A.).  I’m sure part of the reason that Cohen is able to attract that kind of talent is his propensity for casting against type.  Allowing the actors to do things that they normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to do must be incredibly liberating.

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So, Blue Underground’s Blu-Ray edition looks very nice.  It’s a substantial upgrade from the DVD in my opinion.  The framing is roughly the same but is a bit brighter and detail is improved across the board while maintaining a nice grain texture.  If you’re a fan of the film then this is a must buy.  Audio comes in 7.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound mixes as well as the film’s original mono mix for purists.  You also get two new featurettes.  Heaven & Hell on Earth is a short conversation with star Lo Bianco.  He talks a bit about getting the part (Cohen saw him in Honeymoon Killers) and his memories of his co-stars and his reaction to the film upon it’s release.  Next you get “Bloody Good Times” with special effects artist Steve Neill.  He talks about his work on not only this film but also other films by Cohen like The Stuff and Return to Salem’s Lot.  Other featurettes include “God Told Me To Bone” (a Q & A at the New Beverly theater filmed during a double feature of this film and Bone) and a short talk at the Lincoln Center.  The film’s advertising is split in two, one section for the film under it’s original title and one for the film under it’s re-release title of “Demon”

Rating: ★★★★☆

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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