King Cohen is a 2018 documentary about the life and works of director, writer and producer Larry Cohen. The film was written and directed by Steve Mitchell. Cohen himself along with actors, directors, producers, fans, and people inspired by his work appear in this documentary about the bizarre genius of Larry Cohen.
The film focuses mostly on Cohen’s professional life with some bits of personal life thrown in. A long list of recognizable faces appear in the film to talk about the long and storied career of Cohen. Start with selling his first script at a young age and continuing up to his last return to the director’s chair, so far, for the Masters of Horror series. Cohen’s story in film making is one of trials and tribulations in his form of guerrilla film making.
Many people would not know the body of work Larry Cohen has under his belt, but none the less it is an impressive one. The film starts by showing Cohen’s days working in television. During his time working strictly in TV, he sold many scripts for TV programs and sold a few TV series that he created. During this time he grew disillusioned with TV due to all the interference and went on to write and direct his own films. The film deals with his biggest cult classic movies and the B-movies that turned him into a king.
Larry Cohen’s story is an interesting one, especially for those who don’t know his tale. A man who did main stream television and Indy film at the same time. Larry comes off as likable and even when he and actors who worked with him accuse him of lying it all appears to be in good fun. Not only is Larry’s current wife in the film, speaking glowingly to him, but also his ex-wife appears and talks about his career through the years. The film also shows Larry at a convention with fans coming by and he comes across as very personable. He comes across as an eccentric uncle to the audience.
Some extremely recognizable appear to talk about how Larry’s storied career. The first talking head is J.J Abrams, who tells a story about meeting Cohen. Oddly, Abrams is the first one to appear and talk about Cohen, but this was his only appearance in the film. Well known directors like John Landis and Martin Scorsese appear talking about Larry and his outlaw filming style. Actors like Michael Moriarty and Fred Williamson are heavily featured as they are the two who worked with Larry the most while he was making films. Everyone interviewed paints the picture of Larry as a creative genius who made films on his own terms.
Also covered is the plethora of actors Cohen worked with on films. His work with Bette Davis on her last film Wicked Stepmother is featured and is one of the more somber moments of the film. This was Davis’s last role as she was extremely sick and was upset at the way she looked in the film. She left the film midway through production causing rewrites and her speaking poorly about Larry in public. His work with Red Buttons is also covered on how much they enjoyed working with each other. Andy Kaufman is mentioned and appears in footage from God Told Me To, but is never mentioned besides in passing.
A lot of time is devoted to the way Larry shot movies. Much of his style involves stealing footage, when you shoot something without permission to film at the location. Cohen claims that indy films plan to much. In his words, to much planning would leave no room for improvisation when things do go wrong. One of the most notable moments of guerrilla film making Larry did was for Q. A scene that took place at the Chrysler Building appeared like it was under attack by terrorists and caused police to show up and crowds to panic. A style of film making that is lost today, but Larry Cohen’s films were known for.
The audio was good through out the film. The levels between the interview segments to the film footage to convention footage all remain the same with no jumps in quality. The music for the title and end credits fits the subject of the film. Any music used in the film fits with the subject matter and isn’t jarring.
King Cohen may not be a story everyone knows, but it is one that everyone should see. Larry Cohen’s story is one of talent over coming the system and to always be willing to try new ideas. The film is a love letter to Larry’s career, with friends, fans, colleagues, contemporaries and everyone in between talking about Larry and his films with a smile as they talk about the career of a king of B-movies.