If you haven’t heard, Larry Cohen passed away on Saturday, March 23rd at the age of 77. There’s so much to say about the maverick filmmaker. I feel bad I haven’t written more about the acclaimed cult writer/director on this blog. I have reviewed Cohen’s 1974 killer baby film (no, that’s not a typo) It’s Alive along with his 1985 satirical sci-fi dark comedy The Stuff but there’s so much more to dive into. There’s Cohen’s years as a blaxploitation pioneer with films like Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. There’s God Told Me To, a trippy religious sci-fi flick. Q, a movie about the ancient god Quetzalcoatl taking the form of a stop-motion dragon and taking over the Chrysler building. I haven’t even got to the Maniac Cop series.
There’s a lot to admire about Cohen as a filmmaker but for me, two things come to mind. 1) Cohen was the “King of the Concept”. All his films had such bizarre yet tantalizing premises. They sound like awful B-movies from the fifties, yet they were smart and satirical pictures with great characters and even better monsters. 2) Cohen was the original guerrilla filmmaker. This is a man who would film killing sprees and cars speeding down the sidewalk in the heart of New York City. Cohen was a risk taker a “Whatever-it-takes” to get the shot kind of guy. He was passionate about his stories.
Cohen was never a household name but he had a long and fruitful career. From his early years, creating TV shows like Branded and Coronet Blue while still in his twenties, all the way to writing thrillers in the 2000s like Phone Booth for Joel Schumacher. The man was prolific and beloved among so many fans of so many sub-genres. There are so many stories about Cohen that writer/director Steve Mitchell made an excellent documentary about the man two years ago called King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. Which is available on Shudder at the time of this review. Or better yet, check out a Cohen film. I think you’ll find he has the STUFF.