The Film (4/5)
Larry Cohen may be my favorite of the classic American exploitation directors. His films whether just written or directed by have a tendency to blend multiple genres that from the outside might not flow logically into one another, and make it feel seamless. His Q: The Winged Serpent blends elements of crime films with creature features to create something truly unique. The Maniac Cop films he would write for director William Lustig masterfully combined the detective thriller, the slasher film, elements of classic creatures, and more. Aside from the intricate blending of genres, he adds elements of social subtext that even all these years on still give the films relevancy to modern audiences.
The films of Larry Cohen have been slow to the Blu-ray format with the Cohen scripted Maniac Cop films and Uncle Sam seeing release through Synapse Films and Blue Underground. About a year back Scream Factory released the Cohen directed Q: The Winged Serpent in a no-frills Blu-ray edition. We finally get a second Larry Cohen directed film to Region A Blu-ray, and it’s one of his finest, God Told Me To, released by Blue Underground, and the wait has certainly been worth it in this case.
Picking a favorite Larry Cohen film is a very difficult task for me, but I will say that God Told Me To is certainly among the top of the bunch. As with his best films it's an intricate genre blend mixing elements of the police procedural, conspiracy thriller with science fiction, and he does so flawlessly. The film runs a typical 90 minutes, but feels much shorter due to Cohen's direction and the narrative flow of the script that keeps new and strange elements coming to the viewer all the time.
The performances all around are excellent, as Cohen in his heyday seemingly had the ability to assembled excellent cast for his films. God Told Me To is anchored by a fantastic lead performance by Tony Lo Bianco as Detective Nicholas whose character is a devout Catholic, who has spent his life feeling as if something was off with his spiritual existence, and uses the murder investigation that is the film’s primary narrative drive as almost a way to dig deeper into his own personal spirituality. Lo Bianco manages to bring a certain depth, and emotional conflict to the character that may not have existed with another actor. The rest of the cast is fantastic with special mention of Deborah Raffin as his long suffering mistress. There is also an appearance by Andy Kaufman in his first film role as the killer police officer during the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
God Told Me To opens with a gunman shooting and killing over a dozen people from atop a water tower in New York City. Police Detective Peter Nicholas scales the tower to communicate with the killer who reveals during a very suspenseful conversation scene, that the murders are occurring, because God told him to kill. After this admission the gunman throws himself from the water tower, to his death. The gunman's confession leaves Detective Nicholas disturbed, and he becomes obsessed with the occurrence, it becomes more of an obsession when other killers begin to strike the city each declaring that God told them to kill. Nicholas becomes the chief investigator of the crimes, which lead him to a messiah like figure Bernard Phillips (Richard Lynch), whose origins connect with the Detective himself, and of an alien abduction of a woman decades past. Nicholas must then track down Phillips and stop him to end the killings permanently.
Blue Underground are continuing their recent streak of A/V excellence with their release of Larry Cohen's God Told Me To. The film is presented in a spectacular 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio. The Blu-ray looks very natural without looking overly faded or washed out (see the recent Blu of Q to see an example of this). The film has stable natural colors, excellent fine detail, solid black, and a healthy grain structure permeating the transfer that gives off a nice filmlike ambiance.
Blue Underground have presented God Told Me To with a splendid 7.1 DTS-HD MA track in English with Optional subtitles. The dialogue, score, and music are nicely audible, and I did not detect instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Blue Underground have loaded up their Blu-ray release of Gold Told Me To. They have the Cohen-Lustig commentary track ported over from the 2003 DVD release, we also get a series of on camera interviews with various members of the cast and crew including Tony Lo Bianco and effects artist Steve Neill. The disc is rounded off with trailers, TV spots, and a poster/still gallery.
One of Larry Cohen's finest directorial efforts finally gets a Blu-ray release, and it's a spectacular one from Blue Underground. The A/V restoration looks and sounds fabulous, and the extras offer a lot of extra insight into the film itself. I would be mad if I did not HIGHLY RECOMMEND this title.