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God Told Me To (Blu-ray Review)

God-Told-Me-ToThis is the critically acclaimed cult classic written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen that remains one of the most disturbing and though-provoking horror films of our time: God Told Me To.  Larry Cohen, who got his start being a fine Blaxploitation director (Kicking off Fred Williamson’s era of dominance in Hell Up In Harlem and Black Caesar…which would make for nice Blu-rays), and wound up being known for some top tier B-grade films that have gone onto become A-List cult classics.  In addition to God Told Me To, he’s done films like The Stuff, Q: The Winged Serpent and the It’s Alive series.  Blue Underground has gone alllllll the hell out on this God release, giving it a boost with new interviews, a 7.1 surround track and a 4K restoration for a transfer.  All this for God Told Me To.  Makes the big league studios look like chumps.  Let’s dive right into this beauty, shall we?

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Film 

A rooftop sniper guns down 14 pedestrians on the streets of New York City. A mild-mannered dad takes a shotgun and blows away his wife and children. A cop goes on a sudden shooting spree at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And each of these unlikely killers makes the same dying confession: “God told me to.” Now a repressed Catholic NYPD detective must uncover a netherworld of deranged faith, alien insemination and his own unholy connection to a homicidal messiah with a perverse plan for the soul of mankind.

I did not know of God Told Me To until within the last year.  My friend Cullen had told me of this weird 70s movie where people committed mass shootings and killings but said God told them to do it.  And, that it had Andy Kaufman in it.  He had it on some super cheap indie company DVD (Double featured even), but we only popped it in for a couple seconds to take a look at Andy Kaufman’s brief appearance in the film (His screen debut).  His only line was “Gold Told Me To” spouted out twice (But, thanks to this Blu-ray, I found its not actually his voice by Larry Cohen dubbing it over).  My point of all this is that this movie had the quality of a snuff film.  Looked kinda garbage-y but potentially was weird enough to be enjoyable.

Fast forward ahead to this Blu-ray.  And holy crap what a world’s difference this movie is with the transfer Blue Underground did to it.  This movie actually looked pretty competent and almost like a poor man’s Scorsese film.  I was taking the content a lot more seriously and was following it much better.  It helps when it looks gorgeous I suppose.  The film is still strange and plenty weird (In good ways), but it wasn’t quite the “garbage” I once thought of it as when I saw the DVD my friend had.  Also, I wasn’t aware that this was a Larry Cohen film, and once that became apparent, I “got” this film just a little bit more.

The film has some crazy violence sequences and weird character interactions that fuel the entertainment.  You’ll never guess the culprit of everything, which is just so out there that it makes the reveal fully worth it.  This is a true New York movie through and through and the heart of all that is our lead played by Tony Lo Bianco.  I guess people working with him thought he’d be the next Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro.  While he did get steady work in his career, looking back this wound up being one of his biggest movies.  And he’s definitely really solid here, giving credence to some of the strange happenings in the film.

God Told Me To is nothing Brandon is going to tell you to watch.  Its for a certain crowd for sure.  If you’re into Larry Cohen, go for it.  I’d say most of the midnight movie crowd would definitely dig into it.  The film has had some revival screenings with the new 4K print that seem to have found an audience.  If you’re into the cult films, grindhouse 70s and films that just take bizarre unseen directions and “go there” with some of the things presented, then I’d definitely say to dig up this old gem.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Will this film ever look any better than this?  Its had a pretty damn good 4K restoration done to it.  As I mentioned above, when I first saw some of this film the footage was of snuff film quality.  Here is a whole new experience and had me taking this film in a lot different when I could see it so clear and detailed.  It looks like a a 70s Martin Scorsese film now with this outstanding transfer.  Seriously, some of the sepia-toned flashbacks look like they were shot a month ago.

Depth:  Here’s where this one really impresses.  Some of these older film can look great still not have a loose feel when it comes to the objects in their environment.  God Told Me To is incredibly 3-dimensional and everything is clear, clean and loosely moving around seamlessly.

Black Levels: Blacks look pretty good an accurate.  No detail is hidden at all.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are accurately represented and look absolutely gorgeous.  Greens and yellows look really good.

Flesh Tones:  There are a few light flickers that happen between scene fades, but that’s really it.  Detail is jaw-droppingly high on facial features at any distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Man…there’s a nice light layer of grain and maybe a spec or so, but this movie looks gorgeous.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, English Mono DTS-HD

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  While 7.1 is a bit dramatic here for a movie of this caliber, it still sounds really nice.  You’re also provided with the original mono track in lossless (which I personally think is the way to go).  Both of these tracks are very clean, and have no hisses, pops or any sorts of source distortion to be heard.

Low Frequency Extension:  No, God Told Me To isn’t going to be shaking your couch any time soon, but it has a nice healthy light output from the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some light ambiance, and at a couple times I heard some creepy creeks and cracks.  Some gunshots during shooting sequences can be heard on the side and back channels.  The front channels accurately portray movement and action on screen.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, clean, loud and clear.

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Extras 

The cover insert has a chapter listing and image on the reverse side.

Audio Commentary

  • With Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen

Featurettes

  • Heaven & Hell On Earth (HD, 11:27) – An interview with leading actor Tony Lo Bianco.  He goes over how he got the part in the film and his relationship with Larry Cohen going back to his work on the stage.
  • Bloody Good Times (HD, 9:09) – Interview with special effects artist Steve Neill.
  • Gold Told Me To Bone (SD, 21:14) – New Beverly Q&A with Larry Cohen.  One interesting takeaway from this is that he started shooting with Robert Forster but wound up letting him go over gum chewing.
  • Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen (SD, 8:06) – This one ends up repeating a lot of stuff from the other Q&A.

God Told Me To Advertising (HD, 3:42) – Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot #1 – #5

Demon Advertising (HD, 2:09) – Theatrical Trailer and 2 TV Spots for advertising for the film under an alternate title.

Poster & Still Gallery –  42 images of posters, lobby cards, VHS boxes and behind the scenes stills.

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Summary 

Blue Underground delivers one of the best catalog titles of the year in God Told Me To.  You will not believe how damn good this video presentation is.  There is great audio on display here too, but its overshadowed by the 4K transfer.  It amazes me the work and love these cult classics get, yet while other loved films get just the bare minimum.  This sort of thing keeps me happy and a big time collector.  To wit, there are also a mixture of really good old and new extras that rival that of Synapse Films and Scream Factory’s output.  This is easily a must have for collectors, even if you’re not the biggest fan of the film.  A high quality product in all technical facets.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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