8/16/2018

KING COHEN (Review)

Title: King Cohen
Writer/ Director: Steve Mitchell
Cast: Larry Cohen, J.J. Abrams, Rick Baker, Eric Bogosian, Richard J. Brewer, Jon Burlingame
Min: 110
Year: 2018

This documentary deals with the career of prolific filmmaker Larry (Black Caeser, It's Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, etc) Cohen. It goes from where he grew up to how he started on TV, eventually writing scripts for it. From then it moves on to his directing movies and talks about all of his films, inter-cut with scenes each of them. It ends with him present day and still churning out scripts, even though he no longer directs. The documentary features interviews with those who have worked him in movies, those who are his friends and admire him, his ex-wife and current wife, and, of course, the man, himself.
King Cohen is an excellent documentary from start to finish. As a long time fan of Cohen, I found it to be a labor of love and tribute to the man. By the end, of it I gained even more respect for him, than I already had.

It opens with with J.J Abrams talking about how he admires Cohen and how they first met. It really helps to set up the loving tone of admiration for the legendary filmmaker that is carried throughout is hour and fifty minute running time.  From there it heads right into us seeing Cohen at a convention, and we meet one of his adoring fans (who holds an autographed DVD copy of Cohen's Bone). As someone who goes to conventions regularly, it got me even more into viewing the docu. And, made me hope that someday I may be lucky enough to catch him at one.
Hearing Cohen talk is a true treat. His stories about his childhood in New York, going to the movies, college, trying out stand-up comedy, etc tell us so much about this fascinating man. It further helps us movie buffs connect to him, even before his actual film-making life begins to get talked about. These talks with him are even more fascinating when he begins discussing his filmography.

Even better, is hearing others talk about him. Whatever their relationship they have or had with Cohen, everyone has nothing but good things to say about him. And, what a cast it has of people being interviewed! Michael Moriarty. Yaphet Koto, Barbara Carrera,Traci Lords, and other contribute amazing stories and praise. Fred Williamson alone tells awesome stories about shooting Black Cesar and its sequel, Hell Up in Harlem and, later on, Original Gangstas, are worth seeing and hearing all on their own!
But, even more exciting than hearing them talk about Cohen so highly is hearing legends like Joe Dante, John Landis, and motherfucking Martin Scorsese sign his praises. I absolutely loved hearing them talk so highly about someone I think is sometimes overlooked.
Most importantly, I felt I learned much about Cohen. I didn't know how much TV he had done in the beginning of his career. The man is a triple crown holder: producer, writer, and director, something that is rare and mentioned with great admiration, deservedly so, in this film.
His own admiration for legends like composer Bernard (Psycho) Herrmann and actots Sam (Return to Salem's Lot) and Betty (Wicked Stepmother) Davis led him to work with them. Particularly moving is hearing about his friendship with Herrmann, who composed the phenomenal scores to the first two It's Alive movies for Cohen. Cohen and other would ultimately attend Herrmann's funeral. This part is one of countless of highlights of this amazing flick!

All of his movies are talked about in the order they were released, save for the It's Alive Trilogy, which are talked about all at once. Of course, as a horror fan, the parts that interested and excited me the most was the talk of his magnificent genre work. While, I enjoyed the clips from all of his films, it is the horror stuff that I savored the most. And, movies like the wonderfully bat-shit crazy God Told Me To, the aforementioned It's Alive Trilogy, Q: The Winged Serpent (my favorite film of his), and The Stuff can be talked about for hours in my book.
King Larry is the best documentary I have seen all year and one of the most enjoyable ever made about a single filmmaker. It is impossible to not love Cohen, and after you are done watching this you will love him even more. It is incredibly through, right up to the very end of it, and as such very informative. But, most importantly it is a loving tribute to a truly great talent that deserves more recognition than he sometimes gets, in particular by modern audiences. This next part may seem like something cliched to say, but fuck it, it's how I feel. If you only see one documentary about a filmmaker this year make fucking sure it is this one! In fact, even if you see a million of them, still see this one. You know what? Just fucking see King Cohen!

 

4 out of 4

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