R.I.P Larry Cohen

Towards the end of my conversation with Larry Cohen, he said that it was pretty damn cool that anyone can have a Larry Cohen film waiting for them in their house. He compared it to having a personal library in the privacy of your own home. In other words, he didn’t dismiss streaming or digital media like many others have. He was glad that his films were accessible in any format. Despite being a renegade, a maverick director that made his mark in the 70s, he was still embracing the present when I spoke with him a couple of years ago. He talked about a future collaboration with JJ Abrams, and still made sure to continue writing every single day. Despite the fact that he hadn’t directed a picture in a very long time, he remained prolific with words and material. Honestly, I could’ve talked with him for much, much longer than 20 minutes. I did get to meet him in person when I covered the Cinepocalypse Film Festival for a screening of the wonderfully entertaining Eric Roberts picture, The Ambulance.

I’ve been in denial all morning but it’s true: one of my favorite writer/directors has passed at the age of 77. Larry Cohen is responsible for so many great scripts and features that it’s hard to know where to begin. Also, I would say that he was easily one of the best interview subjects I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking with. Feel free to download or stream the link above to hear our delightful conversation. I mentioned to him that The Stuff remains one of my all-time favorite films, a horror-comedy that my dad and I bonded over. A few years ago for my other podcast that I used to co-host - Patrick Ripoll, Mike Flynn and I recorded an entire episode about Larry Cohen. It remains one of my favorite episodes of any show I’ve ever done for a lot of reasons, including an immortal moment (not involving Larry) which contains the hardest I’ve laughed on a podcast in the eight years I’ve been doing them. So there’s a lot invested in my appreciation for the man’s work. I’ll admit that God Told Me To was a perplexing experience, but a truly unique one that I plan to revisit within the week. There’s also no denying the power of an early film like Bone as well as countless contributions he made to Blaxploitation cinema.

CHECK OUT AN EPISODE OF THE DIRECTOR’S CLUB PODCAST
from 2015 ON THE FILMS OF LARRY COHEN

When I spoke with documentary filmmaker Steve Mitchell, who made King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, Mitchell said that, “Get Out was the closest I’ve seen anyone come to making a Larry Cohen movie.” And he was right. Another groundbreaking horror director like Jordan Peele certainly owes a lot to the kinds of films Larry is responsible for. Even when he wasn’t directing his own material, he always made his mark as a writer including one of Joel Schumacher’s best films, a taut thriller called Phone Booth. You’ll hear in my conversation with Larry, that it was one of the better experiences he had because Schumacher was open to collaboration with the writer in a way that someone like Abel Ferrara wasn’t when Larry wrote Body Snatchers.

All you really have to do for today, and indefinitely, is to go onto IMDB and catch up with the incredible amount of work that Larry contributed to cinema for a number of decades. As a director, he was churning out great films in the ’70s and ’80s but took a break between 1996’s Original Gangstas and in 2006, he directed Pick Me Up, my personal favorite episode of the horror anthology series Masters of Horror about two rival serial killers taunting Fairuza Balk. Again, Larry was just a class act, a friendly amicable presence that adored his fans. You’ll hear that when we spoke and in any other interview he conducted in the past. He has a wealth of material out there for both genre film devotees and those unfamiliar with the name. I am truly sad for his family, friends, and for cinephiles that wanted him to make another picture again. But he has also left an incredible legacy that made an impact on so many filmmakers and artists, and he will be a part of our lives in some form forever. We will all have Larry Cohen in our living room TV, our hard drives, our libraries, our DVD collections, and beyond. Thank you Larry for talking with me, for being such an extraordinary writer/director, and for the countless great work that generations will always cherish and be lucky enough to experience. May you truly rest in power.

James Laczkowski