We saw this Larry Cohen film a couple of days ago and DH and I were, frankly, weirded out by it. It's about a series of bizarre murders in NYC (the film was relased in 1976, so I have to give a fashion warning too—take a few minutes to prepare yourself beforehand) that are committed by otherwise normal people who, when asked why they did it by the hero Peter Nicholas, an NYPD detctive (played by Tony Lo Bianco), say just before they die—either by suicide, or killed by the police—'God told me to'. Naturally Nicholas —a Catholic so devout he tells his current girlfriend that his wife won't divorce him when it is he himself who thinks divorce is a sin [obviously he somehow forgot the thing about lying being a sin too]—sets off to find out what is going on, cost him what it may. And (you probably saw this coming) it costs him a whole lot.


OK: Nicholas tracks down the person seen talking with these killers shortly before they commited their crimes, and he also finds the doctor who delivered them when they were born, and the child's mother. The OBGYN says that he had delivered thousands of babies in his career but that this was the only one whose sex he could not determine. The child was called 'he' by the mother, however, so he was given a boy's name, Bernard Phillips. After more thrilling events, our hero—who by now has been suspended by the NYPD for being too obsessive about these cases—discovers that Bernard is actually his [half-]brother. Bernard, enveloped in a glowing golden light, looks pretty androgynous: tall and thin with long blonde hair, wearing a long white dress, which he lifts to reveal


something that looks like a cross between a vagina and a mouth with tongue in his side, thereby referencing, I take it, the wound Christ received from a lance on the Cross just before he died. We had seen this orifice before, though its nature was then obscure, during the flashback scene in which Bernard's mother was raped onboard a hovering UFO.

Yeah. You read that right. I told you this one was weird.

And then, to complete the weirdness, Bernard offers to have the hero's children, if he wants. Nicholas declines the offer and instead sets about killing his brother, whose evil intent he now recognizes. The building burns down but Bernard's body must have been found, because Nicholas takes the rap and at the end is being led away in handcuffs by two NYPD officers. When asked by a reporter why he did it, he says, 'God told me to.' The film closes on a still of Nicholas staring into the camera, and—props to Lo Bianco—that image really was chilling, one of the things that helped rescue this film from the WTAF? category. Another was the performance by Sylvia Sidney as Peter Nicholas' long-lost mother, who was also raped by space aliens, like Bernard's mother. She must have been 90 at the time of filming, but clearly could still act like ringing a bell. (As an aside, it's a shame older actors tend to end up in genre films, often horror—Bette Davis, George C. Scott, many others.)

So, I present this here as a probably unique sample of transgender, transsexual cross-fertilization with a strong Catholic strain of guilt and obsession about the nature of God, not to mention Close Encounters of the Sexual Kind, and on top of all that 70s fashions, especially on the Black characters, such as the pimp Zero, whose outfits are a tribute to the Decade That Taste Forgot.