The Indie B Filmmaker’s Indie B Filmmaker

Larry Cohen was what most genre directors wish they could be, but aren’t; GOD TOLD ME SO is his masterpiece


The list of his credits shows that Larry Cohen, who died on March 23, had a long relationship with Hollywood, staying in work for decades as more prominent talents fell out of favor. He worked in TV, scripted the sequel to a blockbuster, RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, created a TV series, THE INVADERS, directed everything from blacksploitation flicks to horror, and wrote the screenplay to a Colin Farrell/Joel Schumacher movie. He kept in work.

He also kept his voice. Cohen movies are just that, COHEN movies, with their own specific taste, a kind of “Be cool but care” (Pynchon) grubby nobility amid the giant stop-motion monsters and killer babies.

Fans of genre movies value Cohen’s interests and artistry, but my favorite of his movies doesn’t seem to get much attention. That’s too bad, because it’s the uber-Cohen flick, his ERASERHEAD:

A plot description would only confuse, and much of the fun of any Cohen movie is being set up with certain expectations and having them subverted.

Imagine if Larry Cohen had directed The Last Jedi. You’re welcome.

What GOD TOLD ME TO is about is what genre directors could do in the seventies. While investigating a sniper attack, New York detective Peter Nicholas ends up in a bizarre maze of murder, religion and alien visitation that brings him deeper into his own past. What you’re probably assuming about the movie from just that amount of detail is going to be…subverted.

Nichols meets cult leader Bernard Phillips. And, well…

Prepare to get subverted, Detective.

That’s all you’re getting from me on the specifics, but if you’re a fan of wacked-out 70’s sci-fi, you really need to see this.

Yikes.

The studio stuck with releasing this insane thing tried re-titling it DEMON, but that didn’t help much. Promoting a sci-fi/crime/UFO story about mommy issues, outtakes from SPACE:1999…

Space:1999 fans will recognize the technology.

…well, I don’t see too many McDonald’s God Told Me To Meals happening.

Bless me father, or whoever, for I have…wait, what did I just do?

GOD… is Larry Cohen at full strength. It doesn’t have the humor of THE STUFF, the horror of IT’S ALIVE or the fun of Q THE WINGED SERPENT. But when I read about Roger Corman, and think of how utterly blah so many of his movies are, I think about Larry Cohen. He was an artist in the gutter genres who managed to infuse a real sense of directorial identity into movies about vampires and killer babies and aliens with gender issues. And isn’t that what we go to the movies for?

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