Monday, March 22, 2010

Larry Cohen Week: God Told Me To

Larry Cohen has never been the biggest name in horror and science-fiction, but that suits him just fine.  The man has never tried to be a go-to director for big hits and commercial series'.  In fact, the man really only has two series' to his name (three if you count Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem as a series): Maniac Cop (for writing only) and It's Alive.  I'll get to the latter one tomorrow, but let's focus on one of his first big hits in the sci-fi/horror genre: God Told Me To.  The film is all about a series of seemingly-random murders that begin to take place in New York City.  Is there a connection?  Well, this would be a really dull film if there wasn't, but you won't believe what it is.  This is...
The film begins with a man shooting people from a rooftop.  Fun fact: this movie was released about 10 years after Charles Whitman did just that in Texas.  Anyhow, he is taken down by the police and, when asked why he did it, he had only one reply: 'God told me to.'  Naturally, this is a case that baffles the police and leaves them wondering what the hell is going on.  Well, at least that's the end of...
Another seemingly random crime takes place as a man kills his girlfriend in his apartment.  When asked why he did it, he says 'Gold told me to.'  Okay, this is getting weird now...
During the St. Patrick's Day Parade, a random cop (Andy Kauffman!!!) opens fire and starts shooting his brethren.  All you Dark Knight fanboys (myself included), take note of this scene as inspiration.  Sadly, this film failed to gross $1 billion dollars too, nor will it ever...since it's in Public Domain.  While all this is going on, our hero is having some issues...
You see, our main hero is a detective who is investigation the murders.  He is having some issues at home with his lady (a common Cohen motif) and has a sort of crisis of faith.  It doesn't help that he is Catholic (another Cohen motif) and they're just all messed up to begin with.  What?!?  They'd tell you the same thing.  As he searches for the source of this crime, a pimp actually tries to exploit this by killing a cop who was going to out him and writing 'Gold Told Me To' on the wall in his blood.  Was he crazy?  Like a fox!  It would have been even better for him if it had worked.
Our hero eventually learns some odd facts about his past from his mother (Sylvia Sidney aka the lady killed by crows in The Omen II).  To start with, he learns that he was actually adopted and has to track down this woman.  Oh and it only gets worse.  You see, before he was born, she was abducted by aliens and claims to have gotten pregnant after that!  Um, what?
The movie only gets weirder from here as there seems to be common thread amongst the killings: a cult leader (Scanner Cop's Richard Lynch).  He confronts him in the basement of a building, but finds him to be kind-of glowing and such.  This all leads to...yeah, I won't spoil it.  It may seem silly to do this for a 33 year-old film, but this film is nothing without it's explanation.  If you haven't seen it, do so.  Given that it's Public Domain, it's not hard.
This movie is extremely-weird and only gets more so as it begins to explain itself.  Given the odd premise, you would not think that they could wrap it up in a succinct way, but they do.  Mind you, that's a relative term, since the explanation is still a bit screwy.  All I can say is this: it involves abductions, Jesus and a lady's nether regions.  As for the film itself, it flows well and has some pretty natural dialogue.  If you are just in it for the killing, most of it happens in the early parts to establish the atmosphere of terror and confusion.  After the first forty minutes or so, the story is purely focused on our hero and the film's freaky plot.  It really has to be seen to be believed and shows just how far out there Cohen is willing to go.  This is a fitting start for a week about his wacky work, if I do say so myself.
Next up, the sequel to his big break-out hit: It's Alive.  The plot involves more babies, more death and...marital strife.  Stay tuned...


  1. Ive put this one off for years, still kinda interested but I havent given it priority over.. anything? Ever? Where does this fall overall on the Need-to-see-o-meter?

  2. In terms of actual storytelling and action, it's decent.

    In terms of pure WTF value when it comes to explaining everything, it's one you don't want to miss.