God Told Me To (1976)

NOVEMBER 16, 2008


I’m about to kick the virtual asses of both Blockbuster and Netflix. I was all set to watch Argento's Cat O’Nine Tails today, but when I put the disc in (from Netflix) I discovered it was some full frame VHS transfer bootleg shit, despite the website’s promise that it was an anamorphic transfer of the 2.35:1 image. So I did what any man would do: took it out of the player and flung it at the nearest wall, and then put in Blockbuster’s copy of Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To (recommended by HMAD reader Brian - not me). And while it was at least letterboxed (but not anamorphic), it was NOT the special edition version that the site advertised. What the fuck?

But since the movies from the two days before had tracks I had yet to listen to, I guess I could use the break. On the other hand, I would have really liked to have heard Cohen’s thoughts on the film, since it gets so needlessly baffling as it goes on, and seemingly ends because the money ran out, not because the story (such as it is) had reached any sort of narrative endpoint. Oh well.

While certainly no disaster like Special Effects, the movie is still ultimately disappointing in the same way, because Cohen fails to capitalize on his terrific setup: a bunch of folks are killing people at random, and our hero - apparently the only cop in NY - discovers that they are all saying the same thing right before they die (in an amazing coincidence, they say the movie’s title!). Unlike Effects, it as at least interesting for the most part, but still, the final half hour of this film felt like it was missing every other scene, and by the time the movie got around to revealing that our hero is the result of a virgin birth and thus part alien, I actually thought I had fallen asleep and missed something.

Also, unlike the best Cohen films, there’s a complete lack of humor. An easy jab at the Irish is about the closest thing the movie offers to a joke, and even the social commentary seems to be presented without a sarcastic viewpoint.

Still, it’s worth a look, due to the utter batshittedness of it all. Plus, it’s fun to see future stars in bit roles. Sylvia Sidney, aka “the really old woman” in a ton of movies (Beetlejuice, for one) shows up, only somewhat old here. And Andy Kaufman plays a cop who falls under the alien/hippie thing’s spell. And the cult leader (an androgynous alien, obviously) looks exactly like the “White Gold” guy from the Milk ads, so that gave me a laugh.

Plus, while its never out and out horror, there are still a couple of unnerving sequences that stuck out, such as when the hero (I can’t remember his name for the life of me) is attacked on the stairs by a knife wielding woman. There’s also a really disturbing bit where he talks to a dad who just killed his whole family; the guy matter of factly describes how he tricked his daughter into coming out of hiding so he could blow her away. Creepy.

I also like how the movie has such a strong disdain for hippies. The cop begins describing a guy, and says “He had shoulder length hair...”, to which the witness immediately replies “Oh no, he wouldn’t hang around with anyone like that!” Since my hair is approaching said length (you know life is hectic when a trip to Supercuts has become a “rainy day” activity), I found this kind of amusing, and not just because it dated the movie.

Not sure what else the real DVD had for features, but this one has The Ghost on the other side. So I guess which version you seek depends on what you want: insight into the film itself, or a run of the mill Barbara Steele film?

What say you?

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