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Larry Cohen (1938 - )

Related: blaxploitation - American cinema - director

It's Alive! (1974) Larry Cohen [Amazon.com]

It's Alive was a 1974 horror movie written and directed by Larry Cohen. In the movie, a couple's infant child turns out to be a vicious monster that kills when frightened. Notable talents involved in the movie were Bernard Herrmann for the score and Rick Baker for makeup and puppet effects.


Larry Cohen (born 15 July 1938, New York City) is an American film producer, director and screenwriter. Although he writes and produces for others, he is best known for directing his own low-budget but inventive horror films and thrillers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Cohen [Jul 2005]

Q (1982) - Larry Cohen

Q (1982) - Larry Cohen

See also: itsonlyamovie.co.uk Google image gallery hundreds of video cover scans

In Q (aka The Winged Serpent, 1982), the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl is resurrected and flies about New York City snatching human sacrifices off the skyscrapers. Cohen was able to employ the talents of Michael Moriarty, David Carradine, and Candy Clark, and the film is one of his most sophisticated, but it still manages to include such lines as “Maybe his head got loose and fell off.” and "I want a Nixon type pardon!"

  • Q (1982) - Larry Cohen [Amazon US]
    Q is a Larry Cohen movie, so b-movie fans know what to expect - a kinetic, almost documentary visual style, characters that are witty and behave like human beings, James Dixon (Cohen's Dick Miller), and little surprises to keep the movie from becoming predictable. The basic plot has a rash of ritualistic murders linked to disappearances from rooftops in mid-town Manhattan (starting with the beheading of an Empire State Building window washer) leading to the discovery of a monster sized winged serpent. Jimmy Quinn, a struggling former junkie/hood played beautifully by Michael Moriarty (Law & Order), stumbles across the creature's nest in the Chrysler Building (NOT the Empire State Building as some think). After putting the creature to good use, Jimmy attempts to make a deal. Police Officers David Carradine and Richard Roundtree are not amused. For a bare bones disc (Q is presented in a widescreen 1:85:1 aspect ratio and that's it, no trailer, no commentary, nothing) this release is rather steep, but b-movie lovers will want it in their collection. Recommended. Chadwick H. Saxelid via amazon.com

    See also: 1982 - video cover artwork - Larry Cohen

    The Stuff (1985) - Larry Cohen

    The Stuff (1985) - Larry Cohen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    The Stuff (1985) concerns a parasitic goo from beneath the Earth's crust which manages to get itself marketed as a dessert; the film's hero announces proudly at the beginning: "Nobody could be as dumb as I appear," and later delivers the maxim: "Everybody has to eat shaving cream now and then." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Cohen [Jul 2005]

    B movie maverick Larry Cohen always enjoyed slipping a little social commentary into his genre pictures, and the satirical sci-fi/horror comedy The Stuff is no exception. A mix of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob, The Stuff is an insidiously addictive, low-calorie dessert sensation that soon wins the hearts and minds of the nation, but mostly the minds. You see, to borrow a title from another Cohen classic, it's alive.

    Michael Moriarty is an industrial spy with questionable ethics and a certain moral flexibility behind his disarming drawl. "No one is as dumb as I appear to be," he informs his newest client, a snack food CEO who wants the secret of The Stuff. Needless to say he becomes the film's hero, a smart-talking everyman battling a compromised FDA and a corporate baddie who sees dollar signs in every Stuff snarfing zombie he converts. Cohen's satirical swipes at consumerism, advertising, and the ethics of corporate profit come fast and furious, if not exactly focused, and help drive the film past his--at times--sloppy direction. Moriarty's energetic performance is hilarious, and his rag-tag crew includes Andrea Marcovicci as an advertising wunderkind (who improbably falls in love with Moriarty), Saturday Night Live alum Garrett Morris as "Famous Amos" parody "Chocolate Chip Charlie," and Paul Sorvino as a commie-hating, conspiracy-spewing militia leader.

    The DVD features commentary by Larry Cohen along with trailers and detailed biographies. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com

    THE STUFF, in which a mysterious substance is commodified as food? The film has something to say about fears about and credulity over what we put in our bodies as food and drink. There’s an inspired moment at the end where, after the Stuff’s side effects are known, the company tries to repackage the phenomenon as The Taste, which tastes like the Stuff but, you know, doesn’t come from a meteor or kill you. --http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=425#comment-188 [Jul 2005]

    see also: food - taste - Larry Cohen - film - director


    Larry Cohen was born in New York's Washington Heights district in 1941 and was educated at the City College of New York. He was interested in cinema from a very early age and exhibited a precocious interest in comic books. When working as a pageboy at NBC during the late 1950s, he witnessed the production of many examples of "The Golden Age of Television", several of which were shot live. As his age was well below the minimum requirement for television writers, he gave his birth date as 1938 (in some filmographies) so he could write for the medium. He wrote several accomplished teleplays during 1958–1961, several of which were transmitted live, featuring performances by talents such as Henny Youngman, Keir Dullea, Peter Falk, Jack Warden and Nancy Kovak.

    Cohen has always been a great admirer of classical Hollywood cinema and the works of Alfred Hitchcock in particular. Like George Romero, he was actually present while Hitchcock shot Union Station location scenes for North by Northwest (1959). But several years passed before they officially met. After writing several episodes for the acclaimed Herbert Brodkin 1960s television series The Defenders, he relocated to Los Angeles and became the most sought-after writer for television pilots. Cohen conceived the original premises of Branded, the Western television series starring Chuck Connors, by reworking the premises of The Four Feathers from an old movie catalogue he browsed through whilst waiting in a producer's office. He wrote several teleplays for the series as well as conceiving the idea for The Invaders. Cohen also wrote several excellent scripts for individual episodes of The Fugitive, Sam Benedict and Arrest and Trial. Like Robert Aldrich's early 1950s television work, Cohen's usually neglected television work provides indispensable evidence for understanding his later films. --http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/cohen.html, accessed Apr 2004

    God Told me To (1976) - Larry Cohen

    God Told me To (1976) - Larry Cohen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Perhaps Cohen's most complex film, as well as his darkest, is God Told Me To (aka Demon, 1976), in which a troubled Catholic detective is faced with an epidemic of murders carried out by apparently normal people who claim, with quiet satisfaction, that God told them to do it. The film mixes science fiction and horror with religious satire. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Cohen [Jul 2005]

    Cheapo horror director Larry Cohen followed up his modest success with the monster-baby classic "It's Alive" with this weakly realized ultra-cult flick. The main attraction is, I suppose, Cohen's apparent attempt to co-opt and cash in on every single type of '70s exploitation trend he could think of: demon movies, anti-establishment political paranoia thrillers, blaxploitation, cop flicks and sci-fi, flying saucer conspiracies. If he could have afforded an actor who knew how to high-kick, it probably would have been a kung-fu action film as well. Trouble is, even though there are interesting elements to the script, the film is so appallingly low-budget, sketchily written and poorly acted that it's difficult, in all honesty, to recommend it to any but the most devoted fans of trash culture. The strident antireligiousness and misogyny are both remarkable, particularly Cohen's graphic inserts of female genitalia that are as grotesque as they are gratuitous: no wonder you never heard of this film. There are a couple of choice cameos, though, particularly from actors who play various blank-brained murderers. Most significant celebrity sighting: Andy Kaufman as a robotic, hypnotized killer cop, and Sylvia Sidney as a traumatized retiree. Sleazy, semi-middle/lowbrow and resolutely trashy. - Joe Sixpack via amazon.com

    God Told Me To (also known as Demon) is a 1976 sci-fi/horror film written and directed by Larry Cohen. It stars Tony Lo Bianco as Peter Nicholas, a Catholic police detective investigating a series of murders being committed by various random, seemingly-normal assailants, who claim that God told them to kill. Nicholas finds that the murderers have been influenced by a religious cult leader whose origins (and perhaps even species) are a mystery.

    Andy Kaufman appears in a cameo as the killer at the Saint Patrick's Day parade -- Kaufman's first role in any film. Sylvia Sidney appears as the detective's traumatised mother. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Cohen [Nov 2005]


    FI Was this quirkiness bottled-up inside of you? God Told Me To, for example, is light years from anything else you had done – not only different from other films in your own career but different from the rest of the American cinema. Was there always this genie inside of you, waiting to jump out?

    LC Yeah, I think so. Even when I was writing comic books as a kid, I was writing very eccentric stories – not the usual comic book stuff. When I got a chance to make my own movies, I figured, if you're going to do your own film don't just copy somebody else's movie, or make something in a traditional form that you've seen everyone else do.

    FI Was it more of an evolution, than a leap?

    LC Maybe. I don't know. I credit my subconscious for most of my work. I don't think too much about what I write. An idea comes to me, and then I feel like I should write it, so I sit down and just let it go. I don't work it out in advance. I don't make a step outline of what's going to happen. I like to let evolve. I'm always looking forward to the next day's work, so I can find out what happens to the characters. --http://www.filmint.nu/netonly/eng/larrycohen.htm [Jul 2005]

    More films

    1. It's Alive! (1974) Larry Cohen [Amazon.com]

      Larry Cohen came to prominence with It's Alive (1974), a horror film about an epidemic of fanged, predatory babies. Though cheap, it is notable for its satirical black humour (the hero's son slaughters the medical staff at birth) and for its exploration of the parents' dilemma: the hero, who has fathered one of the creatures, at first disowns it but later tries to protect it despite its obvious anti-social tendencies. It's Alive is also noted for being scored by Bernard Herrmann. Cohen made two sequels, It Lives Again (1978) and It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987). They are among the select number of film sequels which equal or improve on the original. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Cohen [Jul 2005]

      It's Alive was a 1974 horror movie written and directed by Larry Cohen. In the movie, a couple's infant child turns out to be a vicious monster that kills when frightened. Notable talents involved in the movie were Bernard Herrmann for the score and Rick Baker for makeup and puppet effects.

      The film was re-released in 1977 with a massive TV publicity campaign which featured a trailer showing a basinette with the creature's claws hanging out one side. Many considered the trailer more frightening than the actual film, which is regarded by many as campy.

      Surprisingly, in view of the fact that some countries (Finland among them) banned the film, the movie received a PG rating in the United States.

      As of 2005, Cohen has bought the rights for a remake of the film but so far nothing more has been heard of this. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_Alive_%28movie%29 [Nov 2005]

    2. Special Effects (1984) - Larry Cohen [imdb.com]
      Reality and illusion collide in this thriller about a megalomaniacal movie director who murders a young would-be actress, then sets about making a feature about the deed, casting the dead woman's clueless husband as the patsy, and finding a dead ringer to play the part of the dead actress.--Eugene Kim for imdb.com

      Bogosian has been writing about, and "acting out," these contradictions for over ten years. In "Special Effects" (1984), written and directed by Larry Cohen, Bogosian plays Chris Neville, a "power" porno film director who aspires toward the snuff film of all snuff films by trying to get his murder of a starlet on the silver screen. Neville blurs the distinction between "real" violence and "screen" violence. Watching a film clip of Ruby killing Oswald, he is struck with the notion that there is no difference between real death and make-believe death. What "Special Effects" exposes is the cynicism, even criminality, of writers and directors toward violence. --William Keough

    Script by Larry Cohen

    1. Phone Booth (2002) - Joel Schumacher [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      By some lucky quirk of fate, Phone Booth landed on Hollywood's A-list, but this thriller should've been a straight-to-video potboiler directed by its screenwriter, veteran schlockmeister Larry Cohen, who's riffing on his own 1976 thriller God Told Me To. Instead it's a pointless reunion for fast-rising star Colin Farrell and his Tigerland director, Joel Schumacher, who employs a multiple-image technique similar to TV's 24 to energize Cohen's pulpy plot about an unseen sniper (maliciously voiced by 24's Kiefer Sutherland) who pins his chosen victim (a philandering celebrity publicist played by Farrell) in a Manhattan phone booth, threatening murder if Farrell doesn't confess his sins (including a mistress played by Katie Holmes in a thankless role). In a role originally slated for Jim Carrey, Farrell brings vulnerable intensity to his predicament, but Cohen's irresistible premise is too thin for even 88 brisk minutes, which is how long Schumacher takes to reach his morally repugnant conclusion. --Jeff Shannon for amazon.com

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