director Larry Cohen
A guy climbs up on a watertower in central Manhattan and starts shooting people with a rifle. When asked why he did it, her replies, “God told me to.” A man enters a grocery market and starts stabbing people. On his deathbed, asked why, he says, “God told me to.” A cop during the St. Patrick Day’s parade suddenly opens fire on the crowd. When the cop (Andy Kaufman in his first cinematic role) is subdued, he simply states “God told me to.”
It’s mid-1970’s New York and there is a Christ-like young man giving people the word to unleash violence on friends, family, the general public, and only one cop (Tony Lo Bianco of The Honeymoon Killers (1969)) seems tuned into the methodology to the madness and seeks the slippery, glowing hermaphrodite behind all this. Only, there’s more to this Manson-esque madness than drugs and hippies and modern mass shooting madness. There are alien abductions and impregnated women, virgin births, and some form of “God”.
This is straight out of the fertile imagination of writer/director Larry Cohen in his 1970’s heyday. Richard Harland Smith of moviemorlocks.com compares Cohen to Sam Fuller, and maybe that is an apt perspective. God Told Me To ran as part of a TCM Underground Larry Cohen double feature alongside his great 1975 flick It’s Alive.
I’ve been meaning to re-watch God Told Me To for some while. Oddly, I’d remembered it with a little more hippie drug culture and forgotten the whole alien angle.
Cohen commands a cast of great, low-key character actors and shoots on the mean streets of New York in its pre-Giuliani’ed glory. Of course, this film depicts the more crowded streets of Manhattan, ones that later Q – The Winged Serpent (1982) would come to haunt and besiege.
It’s not just unique, it’s quite great too.