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God Told Me To (Blue Underground) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • God Told Me To (Blue Underground) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: July 19th, 2022.
    Director: Larry Cohen
    Cast: Tony Lo Bianco, Sandy Dennis
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Amazon

    God Told Me To – Movie Review:

    "Warning: This film contains scenes of violence and intense horror!" How can you resist?

    Larry Cohen's 1976 feature God Told Me To (also known as Demon) follows a New York City citizen named Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco), an NYPD detective and practicing Catholic married to his wife, Martha (Sandy Dennis). His marriage has seen better days - she's got some mental issues and he's fed up enough to start looking for love in all the wrong places, the most obvious being a fine young filly named Casey Forster (Deborah Raffin).

    If his personal life weren't complicated enough, there's his professional life. It's not easy working as a cop in the big city and it gets even worse when he's asked to look into a rash of murders happening across New York. There doesn't appear to be anything linking the cases at all except for one thing - the killers each say the words 'God told me to' before doing the deed. As Peter starts working the case and digging his way deeper into connecting the dots, he comes up with a possible suspect in the form of a man named Bernard Phillips (Richard Lynch), a man who may or may not be the offspring of a case of alien/human rape! Peters soon learns that nothing about Phillips is what it seems. This case may be more than just another average murder story, it may have to do with the birth of religion and the origins of evil itself!

    Absolutely every bit as strange as that intentionally vague synopsis makes it sound, God Told Me To is Larry Cohen at his most unhinged. While on the surface it seems to be a horror film it mashes genres left, right and center and winds up something all its own. It's a swirling combination of conspiracy theories, religious lunacy, horror and sci-fi trappings and some genuinely chilly, sometimes almost prophetic, scenes of mass shootings and chaos in the most densely populated part of America. The opening scene, in which a man with a sniper rifle perched atop a water tower in Manhattan starts picking off passersby at random is freaky enough, but the scene in which the fuzz question a man who has just murdered his family and seems completely at peace with what he's just done is even creepier. There are moments like these scattered throughout the first hour or so of the movie and they're incredibly effective.

    Lo Bianco is really good in the lead here, playing his morally and theologically conflicted Catholic cop with some appreciable conviction. As he gets deeper into the mire that is this case he's believable in the way that he portrays both his confusion and his character's increasing stress level. Sandy Dennis and Deborah Raffin as the two very different women in his life do decent work here too while Richard Lynch is great as the possible reason behind all of this insanity. He tends to steal a few scenes in the movie, using his unorthodox appearance well to create a genuinely strange character. Also be on the lookout for an interesting cameo from none other than Andy Kaufman who appears in the film as one of those affected by... whatever it is that's happening here.

    God Told Me To – UHD Review:

    God Told Me To arrives on UHD from Blue Underground on a 100GB disc in a 4k transfer of the original 35mm negative framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. Restored in 4k from the film’s original 35mm negative, the color grading on this new release is quite a bit different than past editions, and things definitely lean hot, with blues now looking sometimes teal and yellows and whites sometimes leaping off the screen. With this hotter color grading, some fine detail seems to get gobbled up in a few pots but thankfully this is an exception rather than a rule as the vast majority of the image looks fantastic. There are definite improvements in detail when compared to the older Blu-ray as well as better depth and texture. In some scenes the colors do look a little hot (the finale being an obvious example, though it's meant to look hot so keep that in mind) but most of the time they too look perfect. Black levels are always reference quality, but skin can look a little pink in spots. There are no compression issues, nor is there any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement, everything looks properly filmic. Overall this is a pretty strong upgrade once you get used to the color changes.

    New to this UHD release is a Dolby Atmos track in English that, like the other Blue Underground Atmos offerings on their UHD releases, stays pretty true to the movie’s roots while still managing to spread the score and occasional effects into the surround channels to nice effect. This happens not just in the more action intensive scenes, such as the opening shooting spree scene, but in the quieter moments as well and it definitely does give the score more presence and depth. 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio options are available in 5.1 and 1.0 mono flavors. Purists will understandably opt for the mono track provided, which also sounds very good and true to source, but the newly created Atmos mix features excellent depth and some impressive range as well. There are no problems with any audible hiss or distortion. It’s perfectly balanced and it sounds excellent. As far as subtitles go, we get English SDH, French and Spanish options.

    For those who didn't listen to it when it was originally released on DVD way back when, the commentary that Cohen provides moderated by Bill Lustig appears on this disc as well, and it's a great talk with Cohen covering pretty much everything you'd want to know about the movie. He talks about where some of the ideas came from, casting the picture, shooting on location in New York City, the film's use of stock footage, the score and how it's used in the picture, the editing - you get the idea. No stone is left unturned here and Cohen and Lustig get along well, which means they really get into the conversation here and keep it interesting and fun to listen to.

    A new commentary track features film historians Steve Mitchell (who literally wrote the book on the film’s director, given that he’s the author of the tome King Cohen) and Troy Howarth. It’s a very good track and a nice companion piece to the archival commentary, as it not only goes over the expected trivia and notes on the different cast and crew members and production details but it adds some welcome analysis to the mix as well. They explore the themes, the characters and the situations and spend a good amount of time talking about how and why Cohen was able to explore them all as effectively as he does in this picture.

    From there we move on the a batch of featurettes (found on the included Blu-ray disc, not on the UHD) starting with Heaven And Hell On Earth which is an eleven minute interview with leading man Tony Lo Bianco. Here the actor speaks openly about his work on the picture, how he was moonlighting in a play around the time it was made, Cohen's directing style and the risks involved in working without permits in NYC and his thoughts on his co-stars and on the film's cult following. Special effects artist Steve Neill shows up in Bloody Good Times to discuss his work on the film for just over nine minutes. He talks about how he got into doing effects work, how he learned the trade and about his work not just on this film but quite a few other cult and horror pictures as well, some of which once again teamed him up with Cohen. Speaking of, the director shows up in God Told Me To Bone, which is a twenty-one minute Q&A session that was done at a screening of Gold Told Me To and Bone in Los Angeles a while back. Here he shares some amusing stories about the making of the film and working with his cast and crew. It covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary but it's worth watching. He also shows up in an eight minute Q&A shot at Lincoln Center in New York City that covers similar ground.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are five TV spots and a trailer under the God Told Me To title and then a trailer and a pair of TV spots under the alternate Demon title as well. Also be sure to check out a pretty extensive still gallery. Menus and chapter stops are also included. As noted, a Blu-ray disc (which uses a 1080p version of the new transfer) is also included inside the keepcase alongside the UHD release and the packaging includes some reversible cover sleeve art as well as an embossed slipcover.

    God Told Me To – The Final Word:

    God Told Me To is a bizarrely compelling film absolutely worth tracking down. This is creative, low budget, seventies era NYC filmmaking at its best and its most insane - maybe it's a cliché to say it, but it's true that they really don't make them like this anymore. Blue Underground’s UHD release carries over all of the extras from the previous Blu-ray edition and throws in a new commentary as well, but more importantly than that gives the feature itself a solid 4k upgrade. Highly recommended!


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