KING COHEN **** USA 2017 Dir: Steve Mitchell 110 mins
Opening with J J Abrams clutching an IT’S ALIVE baby prop while relating an anecdote, this is a regaling feature documentary about one of modern horror’s smartest writer-producer-directors, made by the guy who wrote the vaguely Cohen-esque high concept splatter flick CHOPPING MALL.
Described by his acting muse Michael Moriarty as “the greatest daredevil Hollywood has ever seen”, Cohen is appropriately the star of the show : an unpretentious, straight-talking New Yorker who describes with boundless enthusiasm the genesis of keynote projects like IT’S ALIVE (originating from his fascination with the anger of babies), the vaginal imagery of GOD TOLD ME TO and the major studio sacking that led him to rush the seminal Q THE WINGED SERPENT into production. Much attention is afforded to the guerrilla filmmaking tactics characterising his early career, notably Q’s ingenious use of a crowd of panicking New Yorkers who assumed his staged machine gun action at the top of the Chrysler Building was a real terrorist attack. The film covers a lot of ground and is punctuated by wonderful clips and spry, affectionate talking heads including Martin Scorcese, Fred Williamson, Eric Roberts and John Landis. In amongst the hilarious anecdotes are tales of Cohen’s genuinely touching allegiance to great old actors for whom the phone no longer rings (most painfully, his experience with a cancer ridden Bette Davis) and the poignant tale of his friendship with Bernard Herrmann at the end of his life. As Cohen himself says, “If people told me these stories, I would think they were full of shit”.
Review by Steven West