Wednesday, July 25, 2007

God Told Me To (1976)

(Directed by Larry Cohen, 1976, USA)

"God Told Me To" is a good example of a neat B-movie thriller going off the cinematic rails into plot insanity after a good hour or so of murder and mayhem.
Tony Lo Bianco plays a detective investigating a series of murders wherein random, seemingly normal people start killing others for no reason except that God told them to. How can you go wrong with that?

A lot of ways, definitely. The opening shot (hehe) starts off with a visual bang representation of Andre Breton's surrealist dictum of the ultimate surrealist act: firing a revolver into a crowd. In this case it is a sniper on a watertower picking people off around mid 1970's Bloomingdale's. Our intrepid detective climbs up and talks to said sniper only to hear the reason why he's doing this: "God told me to".
There is a great setup here, and even better when the same occurence happens at the St. Patrick's Day NYC parade with an unknown (yes, it's really him) Andy Kaufman going nuts, picking people off in police uniform. And God told him to of course.

The movie starts to combine different elements: the love life of Detective Lo Bianco involving a girlfriend Deborah Raffin and an ex-wife played by the late great Sandy Dennis, alien abduction, a Sylvia Sydney cameo, scary sci-fi elements, a short journey into blaxploitation territory and a weird quasi-early David Cronenborgish finale. As an ambitious B-movie, all of these said plot elements do not cohere together competently. On the Internet Movie Database page for this movie, I did feel happy that a lot of viewers didn't understand what was happening in the ultimate scene. I guess you can chalk it up to an ambitious director's screenplay trying to cover everything: for me, it was nice to see Lo Bianco in a lead role, NYC in the 1970's,the weird religion-gone-wrong vibe. It's admittedly a cult film, but the first part doesn't match the second part. I give props to Larry Cohen, thirty-plus years later after this low-budget film was released, it is still being argued about.
For a good hour, it's really good, but ultimately sinks under the weight of its ambition. Fun ride though!

No comments: