Sunday, May 16, 2010
Sunday Matinee: God Told Me To
Seeing as how we seem to be stuck in an endless tapeloop of the 1970s, today's feature presentation is more timely than ever. Larry Cohen's God Told Me To is one of the great grindhouse/drive-in classics that seems to know a lot more than it's saying out loud. His filmography is full of that kind of thing; Cohen made his name with the genetic engineering-themed horror opus, It's Alive.
On the face of it, God Told Me To is a satire on all of those bizarre religious cults of the 70s, many of which popped up out of nowhere, all very well-financed and strangely fully-formed. The sociologists tried to explain them all away as symptoms of a society in flux and of a confused young generation, but I'm not sure even they believed that stuff. Especially when a whole host of Fundamentalist groups sprung up soon after, equally well-financed and fully-formed, using the very same recruitment and indoctrination techniques only on a much larger scale.
But Cohen goes a lot deeper with it all, tapping into a lot of memes familiar to Secret Sun readers: alien identity, androgyny, St. Paddy's Day, Times Square, even ancient astronauts. At the center of it all is a mysterious board of power-brokers similar to the Syndicate in The X-Files. There's also some visual effects (such as they are) that might ring a bell if you've seen The Forgotten and more subtext than you can shake a stick at, if you pay close attention.
Quite a cast for a low-budget drive-in opus, too. Aside from convincing performances from the supporting cast, you have good work from Tony LoBianco, Sandy Dennis, Deborah Raffin and Sylvia Sidney (of Beetlejuice fame). This film also marks the debut of Andy Kaufman in a fascinating cameo role.
So, you have cults, aliens, and 70s-vintage urban malaise, all wrapped up in glorious grindhouse production values. How can you go wrong? Most importantly, I can't shake the feeling that Cohen was telling tales out of school with this one. See if you don't pick on up on that vibe yourself.
Watch the whole thing at Mystic Politics.
Cohen revisited the theme of death over Manhattan in 1982 with Q, short for Quetzalcoatl. Only this time Quetzalcoatl is a pterodactyl who's prayed back into existence. Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.
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