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King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen Review

August 10, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen
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King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen Review  

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen Review

Directed by Steve Mitchell
Written by Steve Mitchell

Distributed by Dark Star Pictures

Runtime– 110 minutes



King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, written and directed by Steve Mitchell, is a wonderful documentary that looks at the life and career of renowned writer and director Larry Cohen, the man behind such classic exploitation flicks as Black Caesar, Q: The Winged Serpent, the It’s Alive trilogy, The Stuff, and more. Featuring a fairly extensive interview with Cohen himself, the movie looks at how Cohen got started in television, writing scripts for the tail end of live TV drama, into creating television shows like Branded with Chuck Connors, Coronet Blue, and The Invaders. Mitchell then takes a look at just about every movie Cohen has directed so far, starting with Bone in 1972 and ending with the Masters of Horror episode he did in 2006, Pick Me Up. Some movies are explored more than others (Bone and Black Caesar get fairly extensive looks, while only the first It’s Alive movie gets any sort of attention. I don’t think As Good as Dead, a TV movie Cohen did in 1995, is even mentioned), but that’s okay. The stuff we do get, in an overall sense, on everything, is as top notch as it gets.

Mitchell also manages to wrangle up some top fellow filmmakers to explore their love for Cohen and his movies, like Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, John Landis, and Mick Garris. These interviews, along with appreciative film journalists and, occasionally, the stars of Cohen’s movies, admire how Cohen did everything his way, often making movies on the run with no permits and making things up as he went. Cohen himself gets into how, when he wanted to make a movie, would just go ahead and do it, without permission from authorities, “stealing shots” all over the place. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, star of Cohen’s Black Caesar and Original Gangstas, talks about how he learned so much from working with Cohen (Williamson gets into detail on Cohen’s “stealing”). It’s amazing that Cohen managed to get away with some much. The section on Andy Kaufman’s role in And Gold Told Me To is both hilarious and terrifying. Everything about that scenario could have gone wrong quickly, and yet Cohen managed to make it work.

There are various sections on Cohen’s work with actor Michael Moriarty, who appeared in several of Cohen’s movies over the years, starting with Q: The Winged Serpent. In fact, Moriarty’s explanation of how his role changed in Q: The Winged Serpent probably could be its own movie. There’s also an interesting section on Cohen’s J. Edgar Hoover movie, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, a movie that Cohen seems to really like but audiences didn’t quite get.

Now, there are sections that I wish could have been explored a little more, especially his work as just a writer as opposed to a director. Cohen wrote the script for all three Maniac Cop movies, but outside of a brief image of a Maniac Cop poster, there’s no real time given to that aspect of his career. Again, director Mitchell doesn’t want to make a four plus hour documentary, so I get why some aspects of Cohen’s career aren’t delved into as much as other parts, but it’s a shame that there isn’t more on that part of Cohen’s career. I would also have liked to see more of Cohen at fan conventions, an idea that could make for its own no doubt fascinating mini-documentary. Who wouldn’t want to meet Larry Cohen?

There’s also a weird “Cohen really didn’t make exploitation movies” idea running through some of the documentary’s narrative, which is just ludicrous because Cohen admits that he made exploitation movies (all movies are exploitation movies, according to Cohen). I’ve never understood why some people celebrate exploitation movies and the people who made exploitation movies but then spend an inordinate amount of time explaining how exploitation directors don’t really make exploitation movies. It just makes no sense. If you love Larry Cohen, love the fact that he always knew what he was doing and had absolutely no problem making exploitation movies. I mean, that is why you love him, right?

Cohen hasn’t made a movie since that Masters of Horror episode, which is shocking since he clearly still has plenty of ideas for potentially great movies (he still writes every day). We don’t really find out why Cohen doesn’t direct anymore, though. Perhaps that’s being held for the eventual King Cohen sequel?

And that is what the world needs, another Larry Cohen documentary. There are no doubt more Larry Cohen stories and whatnot out there to explore. I know I’m down for another go around.

If you’re a fan of Cohen’s, a fan of well-made documentaries, or you’re just curious about the guy who made the movie about the killer yogurt, you should absolutely check out King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. It’s a true love letter to a filmmaker who did it his way.

See King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Several

Explosions: A few.

Nudity?: Briefly.

Doobage: Larry Cohen talking to the camera, various people talking to the camera about Larry Cohen, photos of Larry Cohen working at various stages of his career, several cool scenes from Black Caesar, It’s Alive, And Gold Told Me To, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, and more, and all kinds of shit happening at Larry Cohen’s house, both movie making and Larry just walking around writing and talking and stuff.

Kim Richards?: It depends on how you want to look at the It’s Alive movies.

Gratuitous: J.J. Abrams, Larry Cohen, scenes from Larry Cohen’s movie, various admirers of Larry Cohen’s work, some people who really don’t like the idea of Larry Cohen as an exploitation director, a poignant story about composer Bernard Herman, Gary, Indiana, and Larry Cohen walking around his house writing and talking and stuff.

Best lines: “Larry Cohen is the master of the premise,” “Q is the best big monster movie after King Kong,” and “Do I really want to go to Gary, Indiana? In the summer?” (There are plenty more but, really, there are so many it’s difficult to collect them all).

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen is a fascinating low letter to a true cinematic maverick. If you’re a fan of Cohen’s, you definitely need to see it. Some sections are better than others, sure, and some aspects of Cohen’s career get a little more love than others, but that’s to be expected with biographical documentaries. Documentary director Steve Mitchell does a great job putting all of the pieces together, and it’s a supremely entertaining damn near two hours. See it, see it, see it.