Into the Furnace

A sniper sits atop a New York City water tower, firing on civilians. On God Told Me To’s release in 1976, these chilling images recalled the 1970 Kent State campus massacre. In 2022, it’s possible to place any number of mass shootings to those unnerving visuals.

Gold Told Me To, once shocking in suggesting these events could happen regularly, looks disgustingly passe now. There’s a method to these things, where once the police find the shooter, interest wanes, and lesser political squabbles filter into the conversation. God Told Me To shows a lasting media and public frenzy for a string of killings, the murderers all claiming it was God’s will.

God Told Me To shows a lasting media and public frenzy for a string of killings

For a time, there’s a vicious, even cruel critique against organized religion. Detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) goes to church weekly, if only to cleanse his own sins and guilt as he openly cheats on his wife. Chillingly, a killer recalls his actions to Nicholas, casually – even laughing – about how he slaughtered his wife and kids. There’s no empathy, no remorse, no sadness. God said it was okay.

If God Told Me To stayed there, where a repressed Catholic must search for his beliefs against the unbelievable, it might subsist in culture as a dynamic, fatalist depiction of American religious zealotry. The script though, credited entirely to Larry Cohen, chooses to invoke alien abduction, virgin births, and incomprehensible encounters with a hippie star child as a means to explain these deaths. “Surreal” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Maybe the script reflects the late stages of grief, in this case a skewed acceptance, a means to understand what leads people to kill so effortlessly. These acts are so normalized now, trying to add a sci-fi blend to psychological horror and religious extremism comes across as unnecessary. Even in 1976, the obvious exploitative hooey slipping into the plot diminishes the otherwise effective, subversive imagery that defined God Told Me To’s opening act.

Video

Another dazzling full 4K restoration from Blue Underground treats this mid-’70s low-budget effort with immense care. The vibrant color saturation makes primaries glow, including flesh tones. Dolby Vision invigorates every hue, the density outstanding and the purity stellar. Whether it’s the city’s yellow cabs or the simple decor in an apartment, vividness doesn’t stop. A detectable digital tint (veering teal) hangs over the imagery. It’s slight.

Precise grain replication leaves no artifacts behind, keeping the film stock clear and its natural detail flush. Facial texture galore pops when in close. New York’s skyline is preserved as it was at the time, every building visible when the camera finds them. Incredible resolution gives God Told Me To a better-than-new appearance since the print doesn’t show a single scratch or dent.

Low-key contrast spares the brightest whites from blinding peaks, if still reaching a hefty tier. Watered down black levels represent the original film stock more than this master. There’s enough depth to go around.

Audio

Dolby Atmos (with DTS-HD 5.1 and mono options) brings the city life, whether that’s major traffic jams, bullets reverberating into the rears, or the spectacular parade flushing every speaker. It’s organic, naturally taking the vintage audio track and widening the available soundtrack. Discrete effects sound as if they were always there. During the finale, a building collapses, making sure the overheads see plentiful use.

Fidelity isn’t modern – that much is evident. There’s no range or bass to speak of. Dialog sounds rather raw through the strained treble. Gunshots flatten. This is all to be expected.

Extras

The UHD mirrors the Blu-ray’s dual commentaries. The first is with director Larry Cohen, and the second pairs historians Steve Mitchell and Troy Howarth.

On the Blu-ray, interviews include star Tony Lo Bianco and another with effects artist Steve Neill. Two different Q&As with Larry Cohen come before the requisite trailers, posters, and other marketing media.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

God Told Me To
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Movie

God Told Me To’s surrealist fatalism is let down by bizarre twists, but the first act’s potency unnervingly predicted modern history.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 32 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: