Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To is the sort of late-1970s horror thriller that flopped upon initial release — Roger Ebert gave it one star — but has since grown a large and ardent cult following. It’s one I’ve wanted to watch for years. Cohen weaves together horror, sci-fi and procedural genres to tell a story with a truly bizarre theological perspective. The hero, Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) is an NYPD cop investigating a series of murders, all committed by maniacs whose last words are “God told me to.” Nicholas is a devout Catholic in a world where everything seems to be falling apart. His faith is more of a liability than anything else, a crumbling port in a ceaseless storm of shit. His wife and coworkers think this makes him unable to weather the world, and maybe they’re right. Is a man who truly believes in God the right man to investigate crimes committed in his name?
Cohen’s film is not for everyone. It gets pretty fucking weird. But for audiences who connect with Cohen’s mercilessly downbeat vibe, it’s the sort of distressing existential horror that rarely finds its way to the screen anymore. It reminded me of The Exorcist III, a similarly atmospheric film about a detective whose faith is tested and which has also enjoyed recent reappraisal. Of course, Gold Told Me To marches to its own drum, building to a climax that subverts holy ideas in a fascinating, sacrilegious fashion.
Blue Underground — the boutique Blu-ray label owned by cult filmmaker William Lustig — has been doing a great job in recent months with its new 4K releases of previously hard-to-find genre films. Their 4K release of The Toolbox Murders last year was one of my favorite purchases, for instance, and their work on the Maniac Cop sequels? Talk about polishing flawed work. The new 4K edition of God Told Me To is up to the same standards as Blue Underground’s previous releases, giving old fans a new artifact for their love and new fans an opportunity to experience a strange, unique film in as sterling condition as possible.
For current owners of the existing Blu-ray edition, it’s worth noting that the 4K upgrade is the primary reason to double-down on this release. The only new feature is a commentary with film historians Steve Mitchell and Troy Howarth. Although informative, it’s not as essential as the preexisting commentary with Cohen. Otherwise, the features from past versions still remain and are all included on the Blu-ray disc, including the aforementioned commentary with Cohen, an interview with Lo Bianco, an interview with special effects artist Steve Neill and two Q&A sessions with Cohen. Also included are trailers, TV spots and a gallery of stills.