Full disclosure: I am an indie filmmaker myself, so any documentary about a maverick in the field such as Larry Cohen, is sure to bring me joy. I will try to get out of my own head with this review to be objective.
King Cohen is a feature documentary which focuses on the prolific filmography of indie filmmaker Larry Cohen. It is mostly about the filmmaking and not the man himself, and given all the interesting stories this movie told, it is clear why the film’s director, Steve Mitchell, went that route.
You may be asking who is Larry Cohen? He is one of the filmmakers and writers who’s work you must have seen at some point but did not realize it.
King Cohen makes this case clear by covering his TV work such as NYPD Blue, Branded and movie credits like Phone Booth, It’s Alive, The Stuff and who could forget the William Lustig film Maniac Cop. (Any of those ring a bell?). If not, I only named a few of the titles this comprehensive documentary explored.
Many legends of the film world were interviewed for this documentary, beside Larry Cohen, the movie features J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis and Martin Scorsese.
Many of the people he worked with also weighed in. One of the many fun moments was when the documentary shows actor/director Fred Williamson telling his side of a story hot from a set, then cuts to Larry Cohen giving a totally different account of the events.
Besides that interesting give and take, the edit of King Cohen showcases many memorable clips from Cohen’s work, which provides the perfect backdrop to the narrative and reminds us of a bygone era of filmmaking.
Movie monsters made by hand, stealing shots at an airport baggage claim and challenging cultural norms are all part of Larry Cohen’s journey. In the case of his 1972 directorial debut, Bone, Larry is thought to be the father of the Blacksploitation genre.
Bone, a movie about an African American thief who breaks into the house of a disillusioned white couple preceded the well known movie Coffy by a year.
I have to think that film fans and filmmakers alike will enjoy hearing what went on behind the scenes in order to “make the day” and do it on a modest budget.
If some other filmmaking docs like Corman’s World, or the Mark Hartley favorites Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed and Electric Boogaloo left you wanting more, look no further than King Cohen. It should be said the movie’s full title is King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. An annotated title like this is common for these movies, as a way of explaining what it is about.
If you fit the demographic, that is true though. King Cohen will have you reeling with delight. This movie gives you plenty of bang for your buck. I was surprised the total run time is 1 hour and 50 minutes because it didn’t feel that long.
It should be mentioned that King Cohen was produced and directed by Steve Mitchell. When I looked him up I knew I should buckle in for a wild ride since Mitchell wrote and was second unit director of the Jim Wynorski cult classic Chopping Mall.
That kind of brings everything full circle doesn’t it? King Cohen has conquered its festival run, it won the Best Documentary Award at the Fantasia Film Festival. This fun and free wheeling Documentary is one to watch out for.
This movie was picked up for North America distribution by Dark Star Pictures, they are crowning King Cohen with a theatrical run starting July 7, followed by a VOD release on August 14.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the suspense feature Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker (all be it nothing compared to Larry Cohen) he is happy to give a kind word about other films and share them with the rest of this wild world.