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In God We Trust - aka In God We Tru$t
Written by, directed by and starring the late, great Marty Feldman, 1980's In God We Trust (or Gimme That Prime Time Religion) (also known as In God We Tru$t), takes place ‘once upon our time' and tells the story of one Brother Ambrose (Feldman) of The Trappist Order Of St. Ambrose The Unlikely. When the monetary runs into money problems and needs to come up with some fast cash to make the upcoming mortgage payment, Ambrose is sent out to figure out how to come up with the scratch. Through a few odd steps, he winds up in Los Angeles where he runs into all manner of colorful characters and becomes… quite worldly.
Ambrose gets picked up in school bus that's been converted into a church led by Dr. Sebastian Melmoth (Peter Boyle) and then meets a hooker with a heart of gold named Mary (Louise Lasser), with whom he starts to fall in love with. Before long, a televangelist conman going under the name of Armageddon T. Thunderbird (Andy Kaufman) of The Church Of The Divine Profit. Will naïve Ambrose be able to set things right or will he get swept up in this crazy new world he's found himself in?
Following hot on the heels of the box office success of Monty Python's The Life Of Brian though failing to come anywhere close to matching that movie's box office, In God We Trust was the subject of some controversy when first released, with some Christian groups labelling the film as blasphemous. The movie was also a pretty massive box office flop, and would prove to be not only Feldman's second directing effort, but also his last. And that's a shame, because while not ever joke or sight gag lands where Feldman no doubt intended it to, a lot of them do hit their marks and the movie turns out to be quite funny. Not only that but it's got plenty of cult appeal thanks to the overall weirdness of the picture and some interesting casting choices.
Boyle is a lot of fun to watch here, using his oddball screen presence to build character nicely and looking unforgettably goofy with a long haired wig on his dome. Lovely Louise Lasser is likeable (how's that for some nice alliteration?) in her part. If her Mary (that name was surely chosen intentionally) isn't the most original character ever created for the silver screen, Lasser plays the part well and we have no problem at all understanding why someone like Ambrose would fall for her, even if the romance angle of the story does sometimes feel a bit shoehorned into the rest of the storyline. Andy Kaufman, who stayed in character for the duration of the shoot and actually did go preach in New York to prepare for the role, is perfect as Armageddon T. Thunderbird (say it out loud and you'll get the joke), really going all in on the part and looking fantastic in his fancy suits and with his shock white hair. As to Feldman himself? Who better to play a quirky, weird-looking monk about town than someone with his unorthodox appearance? He's very good here.
The movie benefits from the use of a Harry Nilsson song and a solid score and also features noteworthy cameos from Wilfrid Hyde-White, Eddie Parks, and Richard Pryor (as God, no less).
In God We Tru$t arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 with the feature given 30.7GBS of space on the 50GB disc. The opening credits are a bit on the grainy side but once we get through that things look pretty clean. There's nice detail and texture here, the picture always looks appropriately film-like. Skin tones look nice and natural and colors are reproduced quite well. There are no issues with noticeable compression artifacts or edge enhancement and the picture is free of any obvious noise reduction. Black levels are solid and all in all, this generally looks really nice on Blu-ray.
A 16-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems to note here, the track is clean and properly balanced. It isn't home theater demo material, this isn't that kind of movie, but it gets the job done without any problems even if the range is understandably a bit limited due to the original source materials.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Sledge Hammer creator and Feldman Friend Alan Spencer that starts off by noting how MCA was going to be a problem for the studio before then going on to talk about how he came to know Feldman during his brief stint in Hollywood. He talks about Andy Kaufman and Harry Nilsson's involvement in the film, the film's connections to Monty Python's Flying Circus and how the film deals with the symptoms of Christianity practiced not preached. He notes Feldman's acting style and how it reflected his real life personality, notes on some of the locations and props used in the picture, thoughts on Feldman's style in the film, how Kaufman prepared to play a televangelist for the film, some of Feldman's relationships with people off camera including a date to a Liberace concert that later involved an encounter with a homeless man, Spencer's early days selling jokes to Rodney Dangerfield, how Feldman's parties were very popular and well-attended until this particular movie flopped, and lots more.
A second audio commentary by Entertainment Journalist and Author Bryan Reesman is less anecdotal and more trivia and fact based. He starts by talking (very quickly) about how Feldman came to be known in Hollywood after appearing in Young Frankenstein, the themes that the movie deals with, the use of music in the picture, the use of multiple panels in certain scenes to give the movie a comic book feel, Feldman's run-ins with the studio on this picture, Feldman's trouble with alcohol, John Morris' score, how the movie houses we see in the movie no longer exist since the decline of the grindhouse cinema, Kaufman's involvement in the picture, casting the picture, locations and lots more. There's a bit of crossover between the two tracks but enough differences to make both worth listening to.
Additionally, the disc includes a Trailers From Hell segment with Alan Spencer, 3 radio spots, two image galleries, two theatrical trailers, menus and chapter selection options. Some nice reversible cover art is also included.
In God We Tru$t is as smart as is it bitingly funny. Feldman's picture makes some very astute observations about those who would and do take advantage of the faithful, and at the same time, provides plenty of laughs along the way. Kino's Blu-ray offers up this underappreciated gem in a very nice presentation and with a nice selection of extra features as well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.