VHS MOVIE REVIEW : GOD TOLD ME TO
Religious themed horror flicks have been around since the advent of scented quilted toilet paper. Well, maybe a little longer than that, suffice to say that quite often religion plays a major part in the horror field. I can't think of another horror flick to date that plays off of these themes as bizarrely as the classic Larry Cohen flick, God Told Me To. Blue Underground is back in style with a Cohen triple threat this month and God Told Me To is first on the chopping block.
It's a busy day on the streets of New York and a water tower sniper is plugging away, randomly taking shots at passers by. First one to try and talk him down is policeman Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) who attempts to reason with the sniper, before he states "why" which is easy enough, "God told me to" then the sniper plunges to his death. To an everyday Joe this would most likely be brushed over as nutty talk, but to Peter, it says a bit more. Peter is a closet Catholic. He lives with his girlfriend Casey (Deborah Raffin) yet he's still married to his wife. His girlfriend doesn't know it but he sneaks off to church and confesses his sins nearly every day. His belief is strong, which is why the words uttered by the sniper take on so much meaning to Peter. Things only get more frightening when a hospitalized man who had just returned from a stabbing spree utters the same words to Peter bedside, as does a marching patrolman at the St. Patty's Day Parade (played by Andy Kaufman) after he To opens fire. Everyone wants to gloss over the whole "God told me To" bit (including the police) except for Peter who finds himself chasing after a barefoot young man with long blonde hair seen talking to each of the offendors before they each went over the deep end.
The young man Peter chases after is named Bernard Phillips and when Peter finds his residence, a young woman brandishing a butcher knife attacks him. Unfortunately, before they have any time to chat she falls down the stairs to her death. Odd thing is that this woman turns out to be Bernard's mother, except for one minor detail; the autopsy reveals that she's a virgin. The real reason behind all of this might just have something to do with an odd alien abduction story that we're told happened year's prior and a bizarre sect that has apparently moved into the city. That's all you really need to know.
The whole affair here is really quite fascinating and one of the reasons that God Told Me To is this effective lies within its high-end character development. The struggle is great for Peter who harbors these beliefs but at the same time is forced to question that which he secretly holds so dear. It'd be a hell of a focus group to put together some folks half religious half not and hear their split reactions to the film. I'm sure there would be many hours of debate. It's a great mind bender here that doesn't shy away from the tough talk. In the end, this is why God Told Me To is so successful. It delves deep into religious territory in an intelligent and thought provoking manner, shedding new light on the infinte possibilites of belief. This alone should be enough to piss some people off, good!
Blue Underground continues their trend of high quality standards with this release. Print damage is minimal (although there are a few scenes that have their fair share of rough spots), overall with little to no grain and as solid a color palatte as one could expect from a 70's production. Make no mistake about it; this film is stuck in the 70's. Maybe not within its ideals, but with its fashions, hairstyles, etc. Audio options include DTS, 5.1, Dolby Surround and Mono. Each of the options sound just fine, with the digital surrounds offering just a bit of depth including the occasional gunshot or helicopter in the surround field. Overall the surrounds are never intrusive, they're quite subtle. Dialogue is clear all around and music or effects are never overpowering. Everything remains balanced.
Extras include a trailer, TV spots, still gallery and a Larry Cohen Bio. There's also a feature length audio commentary with the man himself Larry Cohen and Bill Lustig, which is quite interesting and informative. I'm sure fans of Cohen will get a lot out of it. While not quite as packed as some of BU's previous releases, it's still a pleasing package all around for fans of the flick.
Overall it's just another great release from Blue Underground that will no doubt make fans happy. If I'm not mistaken there was a previous release of God Told Me To from Anchor Bay, but unfortunately I don't remember much about it. Since I can't make any claims as to the quality of that release, let's just say that the commentary along with the souped up audio and 16X9 picture should be enough to make you happy. If you're wondering why I say these things, just remember...God told me To.
VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE
This might just be the most awesomely bad movie ever created. Unlike the other films reviewed in Celluloid Country, Hillbillys in a Haunted House (sequel, of course, to The Las Vegas Hillbillies) knows it’s cheesy and never tries to get above its raising. It’s 90 minutes of pure camp, interspersed with country songs.
Hillbillys in a Haunted House stars Ferlin Husky as ultra-manly country star Woody Wetherby, while American Country Countdown radio host Don Bowman portrays Woody’s business manager, Jeepers. Joi Lansing (most memorable in her recurring role as Gladys Flatt on The Beverly Hillbillies) is girl singer Boots Malone, although based upon the truly impressive bullet bra she sports throughout the film, her name is off by one letter.
Anyway, the three are traveling to Nashville so that Woody and Boots can perform in a jamboree. And what a better way to pass the time than singing a song about how they’re going toNashville? They decide to stop for the night in the generically named Acme City. It’s a bona fide ghost town; all the inhabitants have relocated to the big city in search of factory work. Talking to a filling station attendant, the trio learns that the only place to stay is the abandoned Beauregard Mansion. In the middle of this conversation, lightning dramatically crackles in the night sky…and then the scene returns to mid-afternoon sunlight. No one says anything about this three-second eclipse. As Boots, Woody and Jeepers drive off to the mansion, the attendant realizes he forgot to tell them the mansion is haunted. Oops!
So now they’re in the abandoned mansion, and Jeepers—totally the Shaggy in this live-action Scooby Doo ripoff—is terrified by every little noise. But when he gets scared, Woody serenades him with “Living in a Trance.” one look at the song lyrics makes me wonder about the strictly business nature of the Jeepers/Woody partnership.
Boring stuff happens, and eventually we learn that the house isn’t abandoned, but is filled with a host of inept Cold War spies—including Lon Chaney, Jr.—trying to steal a secret formula for rocket fuel (Acme City may be aghost town , but it’s also home to a state of the art laboratory). For some reason these spies have a caged gorilla in their spy lab; I have no idea what this has to do with rocket fuel, but when the gorilla escapes, wackiness ensues.
Hands down the best part of the film is the parade of guest stars. A very young Merle Haggard shows up twice, singing “Swinging Doors;” other country singers with cameo roles include Marcella Wright, Molly Bee, and Sonny James. Sure, it’s a little weird when the plot comes to a screeching halt so that one of these stars can sing, but it’s such a treat to see these artists sing, especially Haggard and Husky.
So if for some reason you must see this movie, don’t worry—for each awful and improbable plot point, there’s a country song to take your mind off it.