If you haven’t heard of Larry Cohen then the documentary 'King Cohen' will turn you into a fan.
The man is an all-round maverick who has been working in Hollywood for over 50 years. Larry is a writer, producer, director and creator of grindhouse genre films and television. 'King Cohen: The Wild World Of Filmmaker Larry Cohen' is a love letter that celebrates everything; from the monsters on top of the Chrysler Building in 'Q', to the cradle as a killer baby looms large in 'It’s Alive'.
This documentary is quite a conventional and linear one in terms of its approach. It is written and directed by Steve Mitchell, who is a fan of Larry’s work. The biographical details are scant; with the proceedings instead favouring an in-depth analysis of Larry’s filmography.
Larry sold his first script in 1963. He is interviewed and it is obvious that the man is a natural-born storyteller. He is prone to moments of embellishment and hyperbole. It may not always be the truth but it definitely makes for some entertaining scenes. Some clips from his films also feature prominently here and they prove fun to watch.
Larry is one affable and charismatic guy. Confirming this point are the film’s talking head interviews with the actors and crew who have worked alongside him over the years. His current and former wives also feature here alongside famous directors: Martin Scorsese, John Landis and J.J. Abrams, who describe Larry’s influence on their work. At times this film feels like a hagiography but perhaps this is a fitting scenario for such a colourful subject.
The film shows us that Larry was a man who broke all of the rules of Hollywood. He used guerrilla tactics to keep production costs down. He always put the fans first and made the movies he thought they wanted to see. As a talent, Larry is a man with lots of fabulous stories and anecdotes. His approach to filmmaking and life seems quite playful and subversive. This documentary doesn’t always live up to him in this regard, as it is a straight chronology of his career.
'King Cohen' is an insightful look at Larry Cohen’s illustrious work in film. This feel-good documentary is an excellent primer and celebration of his career. It is one that trivia-loving cinephiles will enjoy; and those who revel in a behind-the-scenes look at an artist who thought outside of the box office.