Wednesday, February 4, 2015

GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)

GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) 

Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: February 24th, 2015
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; DTS-HD Mono with Optional
English SDH, French, Spanish Subtitles
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Larry Cohen 
Cast: Tony Lo Bianco, Sandy Dennis, Deborah Raffin, Sylvia Sidney, Richard Lynch, Andy Kaufman

A sniper perched atop a water tower guns down fourteen pedestrians on the streets of New York City. Detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) is on scene and risks his life to climb to the top of the tower in an effort to talk the sniper down. When asked why he would do what he has done the sniper calmly says "God told me to" before leaping to his death. Detective Nicholas is next on the scene shortly after a father kills his family, and again when one of NYPD's own goes on a killing spree during a parade. Of note, the murderous  officer have no clear motive and the perpetrators are good, honest people with no reason to have committed such acts of violence, when asked why they did what they did each reply that they were compelled to do so by God. 


The Detective is devout Catholic and deeply unsettled by these acts of murder in the name of God.  He sets off in search of answers which lead him to a mysterious figure named Bernard Philips (Richard Lynch), a long-haired messianic cult leader conceived from a virgin birth and who just might be the spawn of alien insemination. His scenes are bathed in gold light and his robes seem to glow, he definitely has an otherworldly quality about him. 

It's certainly a strange movie but damn entertaining watch straight from the start when the sniper starts knocking off pedestrians, and it rarely lets up from there. Once this one sinks it's teeth into you it does not let go, no matter how damn weird it gets. The murder spree at the parade is another great scenario, plenty of onscreen violence to keep the blood flowing and an equal amount of intrigue to keep the mind occupied. I found it quite chilling when the Detective questions the father who just moments earlier murdered his wife and young children with a shotgun, the guy seems so at peace with what he has done. 

Tony Lo Bianco is fine as the detective, he certainly anchors the film with his resolute pursuit of the truth, but watch out for appearances from Sylvia Sidney from MARS ATTACKS as an alien rape victim and Mike Kellin, the shady camp director from SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Plus we have the awesome Richard Lynch as the androgynous alien messiah with a vagina is a weird place. 

GOD TOLD ME TO is quite an ambitious slice of b-movie making and even more so when we realize just what the fuck is actually happening, just what is this alien messiah up to? When all is reveled it's pretty laughable but also a tiny bit genius. Larry Cohen's sense of humor and social commentary is intact and it makes for quite an entertaining watch right up till the quirky end, no one made 'em quite like Larry Cohen did, before or after, wish the guy was still cranking out films and stealing shots on the streets of New York, the world would be a better place for it. 

There are some fun special effect shots in the film too, not the least of which is Richard Lynch's vagina, but also a great science fiction flashback scene as Sylvia Sidney recounts her character's alien abduction to the Detective. It's a small scene but touching scene and the low budget effects are full of b-movie awesomeness. 

Blu-ray: The brand-new 4K High Definition transfer from the original uncensored negative looks fantastic with a consistent layer of film grain that looks very natural. Colors are vivid, the brightness is pleasing and the black levels look fine. There are three audio options,  7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and for the purists the DTS-HD Mono. I was surprised how effective the 7.1 turned out to be, this is a dialogue front-loaded film but there are a few scenes where they made the most of the surround, notably the sniper and parade sequences. There are options for English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles available. 

Extras kick-off with the audio commentary from the 2003 DVD featuring director Larry Cohen and Blue Underground's William Lustig, Cohen is a great commentator and is never one to run short of words which make for an informative and entertaining commentary. Onto the new stuff we have three new featurettes produced by Red Shirt Pictures beginning with an 11-minute interview with star Tony Lo Bianco who reminisces about getting the role and Cohen's penchant for stealing shots around New York City and a disagreement he had with the director over a rubber vagina. The interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Neill is pretty cool as he sits in front of a large scale model of the S.S. Enterprise with working lights, very cool. He speaks about meeting Larry Cohen through Rick Baker who had worked on IT'S ALIVE for the director. Neill would go onto to begin working with Cohen on this film and subsequently on THE STUFF, Q THE WINGED SERPENT and A RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT before they drifted apart as Neill's plate became more full with other work. He notes that while Cohen can be difficult to work for he always paid on time, and he would love to collaborate with him again at some point. 


There are also two Q+A sessions recorded before screenings of the film, one from a recent showing at the New Beverly in L.A. and an older one from the Lincoln Center in NYC back in 2002. Cohen is his usual talkative self with loads of great anecdotes about making the film, including the fact that Robert Forster (ALLIGATOR) was fired from the lead role when he would not stop chewing gum in character! Additionally there are theatrical trailers, TV spots and a poster and still gallery including marketing materials under the alternate title of DEMON!


About the only thing I don't love about this film is the original theatrical poster art used for the Blu-ray release, but even that is better than the silly bullet hole riddled bible from the 2003 DVD. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen
- Heaven and Hell On Earth - Interview with Star Tony Lo Bianco (11 Minutes)
- Bloody Good Times - Interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Neill (9 Minutes)
- God Told Me To Bone - New Beverly Q+A with Larry Cohen (21 Minutes)
- Lincoln Center Q+A with Larry Cohen (8 Minutes)
- Theatrical Trailers (2 Minutes)
- TV Spots (4 Minutes)
- Poster and Still Gallery (44 Images) 


Verdict: GOD TOLD ME TO is sort of the ultimate drive-in film, a mondo combo of police procedural and screwy science fiction horror feature with a decent amount of blasphemy blended together into a b-movie mixture as only Larry Cohen could have gotten away with. The new HD transfer from Blue Underground is top notch and the extras are a wonderful value-add, this is an easy high recommend for b-movie and drive-in horror fans.  


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