KING COHEN (2017) Reviews and overview

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Artwork by Paul Shipper

King Cohen is a 2017 American documentary feature film written and directed by Steve Mitchell about writer, producer, director, creator and all-around maverick, Larry Cohen (It’s AliveGod Told Me To, Q: The Winged Serpent; The Stuff; et al). 

The film features interviews with Martin Scorsese, Eric Roberts, Tara Reid, Traci Lords, Laurene Landon, Robert Forster, Eric Bogosian, John Landis, Yaphet Kotto, Michael Moriarty, Barbara Carrera, Fred Williamson, Joe Dante, Megan Gallagher and Rick Baker.

King Cohen began its theatrical run on July 20, 2018, in Los Angeles, with other cities to follow.


Larry Cohen, the giant behind such well-known exploitation properties as Black Caesar (1973), It’s Alive (1974), Q (1981), The Stuff (1985) and Maniac Cop (1988), is given thorough and respectful treatment here by writer-director Steve Mitchell.

Starting in the late 1950s with scripts for nearly forgotten TV shows such as the suspenseful Kraft Television Theatre (NBC, 1947-1958) and Roald Dahl’s biting thriller/horror romp, Way Out (CBS, 1961), Cohen gradually moved his way from scripter to director to producer, all in an effort to protect his multiple creations from the uninspired, lacklustre bureaucrats calling the shots on most productions.

While a good deal of the documentary is devoted to Cohen’s forays into horror, Mitchell does a good job bringing to light Cohen’s connection to, and creation of, fondly remembered Gen X TV shows Branded (NBC, 1965-1966) and The Invaders (ABC, 1967-1968) as well as intriguing but less well known programs such as Coronet Blue (CBS, 1967) and N.Y.P.D. (ABC, 1967-1969), while along the way pointing up Cohen’s vigorous independent streak and his devotion to talent, regardless of whether that talent was currently hot or not and whether it was new or established.

Behind the scenes footage and interviews with the likes of Fred Williamson, the great Michael Moriarty, Martin Scorsese, Eric Roberts, and Joe Dante bring Cohen and his shoot-from-the-hip, guerrilla film making style into focus and elaborate on his sense of camaraderie and fun, as well as on a few mildly contested “misremembered” incidences, most notably with Fred Williamson.

Most galling, though, is Bettie Davis’ puerile and disaffecting comments after Cohen’s genuine attempts to help her, behaviour which simply solidifies her image as the egotistical and insecure person many have claimed she was.

Ultimately, King Cohen is an enjoyable and enlightening examination of one of the most creative and passionate forces behind low-budget quickies, told with admiration and love. It’s a gift to Larry Cohen and a true gift to his fans.

Ben Spurling, MOV!ES and MAN!A

Other reviews:

” …it’s that it would have been nice to see a little more time spent on the higher quality movies Cohen wrote but didn’t direct […] I could have used some dirt on Best Seller, the Maniac Cop movies, or his time working with the similar-minded Abel Ferrara on Body Snatchers, etc. I get it though, Cohen has written far more than he’s directed, and as such, it’s wise that Mitchell focused on Cohen’s singular vision as producer/writer/director.” Arrow in the Head

“Engaging, funny, and revelatory, this documentary was lovingly crafted specially for horror lovers while being accessible enough for viewers of any interest. King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen is a documentary worthy of your time, and is a must-see for fans of Cohen’s works.” Bloody Disgusting

King Cohen gives viewers fascinating insight into Cohen’s diverse oeuvre. In addition to a new appreciation for his work and introducing me to a couple of hidden gems I hadn’t seen before, the documentary makes me want to see Cohen make a new movie. It’s clear from his interviews that he remains sharp, witty, and passionate.” Alex DiVincenzo, Broke Horror Fan

“Cohen’s expansive filmography defines itself through innovation, chutzpah, and unbelievably charmed serendipity unmatched by any other guerrilla indie icon.  And King Cohen perfectly encapsulates Larry Cohen’s deeply rich career by offering a chef’s kiss blend of critical insight and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment.” Culture Crypt

“What emerges is a picture of a driven, maverick artist who will do anything to get his shot (typically without permission), who prefers on-set improvisation to meticulous prep, and whose sense of film history (not to mention his desire to hire top talent at low cost) has guided him to collaborate with Hollywood’s older, overlooked talents.” SciFi Now

“For anyone who loves Cohen’s work and offbeat storytelling sensibilities, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy what Mitchell has crafted with King Cohen, and even cinephiles in general should have a lot of fun with this one, too.” Daily Dead

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