Love them or hate them, most everyone can agree that Larry Cohen’s films are, to quote Mick Garris, “Radically unique entertainment.” Director Steve Mitchell’s feature-length debut King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen is a fascinating glimpse into the life and mind of one of horror’s most prolific writers and directors.
King Cohen chronicles Larry Cohen’s varied filmography, which spans 60 years, as well as treats us to a close look at some of his inventive (and sometimes illegal) filmmaking techniques. A pioneer of “guerrilla filmmaking,” as described by actor Fred Williamson, we see how Cohen often overlooked rules, regulations, and permits in favor of the best budget-friendly shots he could get. Some of his methods included resorting to hidden camera footage, staging violent fights in public, allowing vehicles to drive on busy public sidewalks, and even having Andy Kauffman impersonate a police officer. As we learn more about the method behind Cohen’s madness, his adoration and respect for genre films becomes both apparent and contagious.
Interviews with Cohen’s family and friends offer insight to his personality and small bits of his life, while colleagues detail some of the It’s Alive creator’s most batshit moments. Fellow artists such as Martin Scorsese, Rick Baker, JJ Abrams, Traci Lords, and Joe Dante recount their experiences meeting or working alongside Cohen, and their anecdotes are sure to keep viewers smiling and laughing to themselves.
While King Cohen could have been elevated higher still had it delved more into the horror icon’s personal life, Mitchell’s final product remains intriguing and inspiring. Much of the film focuses on the filmmaker’s successes, but it also sheds light on some of his failures. It’s made clear that Cohen’s dreams of making films came true by means of sheer willpower, ingenuity, and the audacity to be different. Through showcasing Cohen’s DIY work ethic, the film holds a mirror to the audience as if to say, “You can do this, too.”
With this film, Mitchell provides an irresistible study of one of the horror genre’s most curious creators. 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.