To describe independent filmmaker Larry Cohen as underrated would be a huge understatement. The writer/director/producer has made over twenty films, including such cult classics as the It’s Alive trilogy, God Told Me To, The Stuff, Q-The Winged Serpent, Special Effects, A Return to Salem’s Lot and The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover. As a screenwriter he is even more prolific – eighty-four screenplays to his credit, including Phone Booth, the Maniac Cop trilogy, and Abel Ferrara’s Bodysnatchers to name but three. And then there are his many TV scripts. Anyone remember The Invaders starring Roy Thinnes? Cohen created it. NYPD Blue? Cohen’s written it. Film critic Robin Wood championed Cohen in the late 1970s, but since then only one full-length study has been devoted to his work (Larry Cohen: The Radical Allegories of an Independent Filmmaker, written by Tony Williams in 1997). But fear not, because Michael Doyle’s Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters more than makes up for this neglect: his new volume of interviews with the filmmaker is nothing less than exhaustive in its coverage of the Cohen’s fifty year career.
Conducted over a period of three years, Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters covers everything from Cohen’s early days in television, to his directing credits on ‘70s Blaxploitation classics Black Caesar and Hell up in Harlem, to the making of his breakout hit It’s Alive, to forging his career as an independent making films for AIP and New World in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. The straight-talking Cohen is a terrific interviewee and Doyle knows exactly what questions to ask him. Pretty much everything you wanted to know about Larry Cohen can be found within this book’s bumper 700 pages, including his thoughts on the social-political interpretations that critics have given of his work. It’s a barnstorming debut from Rue Morgue writer Michael Doyle, and beautifully put together by Bear Manor Media, complete with many rare photographs from Larry Cohen’s own private files.
Enjoyable and informative throughout, Cohen has fascinating anecdotes about his collaborations with the likes of Hitchcock, Bernard Herrmann, Sam Fuller and Bette Davis, about working with Bill Lustig on the Maniac Cop series, about his involvement in the Masters of Horror series, and much more besides. Doyle extracts Cohen’s thoughts on horror films, screenwriting methodology, the film and TV industries and the techniques of film directing, making this an indispensable volume for cult movie fans. Comprehensive researched and written, with none of the usual repetition you often find in interview collections of this sort, Larry Cohen: The Stuff of Gods and Monsters is compulsive reading from start to finish. Highly recommended.
LARRY COHEN: THE STUFF OF GODS AND MONSTERS / AUTHOR: MICHAEL DOYLE / PUBLISHER: BEAR MANOR MEDIA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW