Saturday, April 30, 2016

God Told Me To

As part of the TCM Underground block tonight, TCM is showing the imaginative God Told Me To overnight at 2:15 AM.

The movie starts off with scenes of everyday life in 1970s Manhattan, just around the time when President Ford was telling the city to drop dead. Suddenly, the quotidian scenes change as one person falls dead from a gunshot wound! And then more and more people start dropping dead too, which unsurprisingly causes panic. There's a mass-shooting sniper someplace high above the city, and NYPD detective Peter Nicholas (Tony LoBianco) is the one who ultimately winds up with the task of bringing him down off the water tower the police spot him on. Peter gets up there, and in trying to talk the man down, hears him say something rather shocking: when asked why he did it, the man answers "God told me to." Then the man jumps to his death.

What an opening. But things are about to get much worse, well at least for the New Yorkers portrayed in the movie; for the viewer, the movie is about to get much more interesting. Other people start comming mass killings as well, and all of them respond by saying "God told me to", just before they too die. Something is going on, and it's especially disturbing to the devoutly religious Peter. So he starts to investigate.

Meanwhile, his investigation is beginning to bring up some uncomfortable things about himself. Peter is a devout Catholic with an estranged wife (Sandy Dennis) now living out on Long Island, and who is living with his girlfriend (Deborah Raffin); presumably he can't bring himself to get a divorce because of that whole Catholic thing. But the investigation starts to bring up evidence of some strange guy named Bernard who has a shadowy past and an even more shadowy birth, but who apparently met all the killers before they went on their rampages.

The investigation into the past is more disturbing to Peter. At first, people give explanations that by most normal observers would be considered just another case of somebody making stuff up about alien abductions. But to Peter, he's getting the sinking feeling that all of this is the unblemished truth, and that what it's leading to is some sort of virgin birth. Oh, there's that pesky Christian doctrine again to torment our devout Catholic detective. Worse, it appears the father may not be God, but the Antichrist!

As I said at the top, God Told Me To is imaginative. It's got a plot that can be a bit difficult to follow at times, as there's a lot crammed in to the relatively brief running time. But for the most part what it does it does well. New York City makes a very good backdrop, especially since this was in the city's crime-ridden 70s phase. The Disneyfied Times Square wouldn't work as a backdrop, but the lower-class New York of the 70s does. Sure, the story winds up being a bit unbelievable, but there are a lot of Hollywood movies that require large suspensions of disbelief.

All in all, God Told Me To is an intriguing and disturbing movie, and one that I think would make an excellent double bill with the original 1970s version of The Wicker Man. God Told Me To is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray at not too bad a price.

No comments: