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King Cohen (Blu-ray Review)

Schlocky filmmaking is seriously my cup of tea. That should come as no surprise, considering I host and produce my podcast Cult Cinema Cavalcade. Funny enough, I’ve yet to tackle the filmmaker who is the subject of this documentary even though I have many planned on the docket. Larry Cohen is one of the best of the B-filmmakers of all time. And its great to see that he’s been given a really thoughtful and detailed documentary on his entire career. La-La Land entertainment has put the film out on Blu-ray for home consumption after a nice brief. limited theatrical run last year. You can pick it up now, as it was released on September 25th (Though there doesn’t seem to be an Amazon order link for it at this time). 

Film 

Buckle up for KING COHEN, the true story of writer, producer, director, creator and all-around maverick, Larry Cohen (Black Caesar, It’s Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff). Told through compelling live interviews, stills and film/TV clips, the people who helped fulfill his vision, and industry icons such as Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, John Landis, Michael Moriarty, Fred Williamson, Yaphet Kotto and many more, including Larry himself, bring one-of-a-kind insight into the work, process and legacy of a true American film auteur. Few can boast of a career as remarkable or prolific, spanning more than 50 years of entertaining audiences worldwide.

Larry Cohen may be schlocky, exploitative or a B-movie maestro to many. However, his work, above many that attempted stuff like him (Charles Band, Lloyd Kaufman), is more than that. Make no mistake, that’s where his work definitely resides, but it feels more elite than those other films. Cohen might be the prestige filmmaker of that brethren. His films feel like bigger movies or “real movies” in comparison to the Troma or Full Moon features. Calling him King Cohen feels right. He is the one to rule them all.

King Cohen, the documentary crowning him as such, is an incredibly fascinating journey through his entire career and body of work. It features an entire cast of crew, actors, writers and even critics that have worked with him or appreciated his work. And what’s terrific is that they all have the same vibe, the same feel and the same admiration with him that you know all of them’s collective opinion is a genuine portrait of the man/artist. They are all honest and full of stories.

The story they tell is one of the most brave and daring filmmakers ever. If you ever wanted to know just how crazy filmmaking could gets in the 70s and 80s, look no further than the tales in this documentary. As a big fan of this era, they eye-popping stories are a delicious feast. Its a portrait, not just on Larry Cohen, but on the mastery and boldness of guerrilla filmmaking. No permits, stealing shots, hiring genuine people to play parts to save on cash…its all here and its all entertaining as hell to listen to.

I adored this movie. Most of them I adore, but I still have not seen all the films of Larry Cohen. The film doesn’t spoil a terrible lot, so you can watch without fear of a film being ruined for you. The film itself is as entertaining as any given one of his films. While many of his may release without bonus features or the like, let this serve as them for many of those releases.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  King Cohen has brand new interview videos that are mixed in with clips from other films from varying degrees of quality. Some of them are really poor quality which bring across some video anomalies with the obvious upscaling. Overall, this is a documentary, the interview segments look crisp and well detailed. This isn’t one to sit and pick on for its faults.

Depth:  Pretty good depth of field on the interview segments with a good sense of space between the talking head and what’s behind them and their chair/couch.

Black Levels:  Blacks are decent enough. They are pretty deep and can produce some nice shadowy enhancements in the interviews. No crushing witnessed on any of the newer footage.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are decent, nothing really jumps out aside from these blue theater seats that Traci Lords is sitting amongst for her interview segment.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout. I’m only judging on interview segments alone, but you can see glossiness on faces, scars, stubble, make-up and wrinkles with ease.

Noise/Artifacts: With the new footage, this is clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: As is per most documentaries, a stereo track would have more than sufficed. There are some little moments that eek out to surround (Mostly score stuff), but its all up front. It all has good clarity and is pretty well mixed, though a little bit low in its default.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Some light oompf comes from the subwoofer, mainly provided by the score and clips from the film.

Surround Sound Presentation:  As mentioned previously, this is front heavy with a few score moments seeping into the back channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras 

King Cohen comes with a CD of the film’s soundtrack.

An Audience With The King (HD, 46:32) – Extra interview footage with Larry Cohen covering a variety of different topics and stories that didn’t wind up in the film (A lot of off topic stuff). Incredibly engaging and fun to hear.

More Stories From The King’s Court (HD, 37:43) – Additional interview footage from the people interviewed in the film. Plenty of fun with extra anecdotes and stories of crafting certain films.

Monsters On The Table (HD, 3:25) – Larry Cohen shows off a few props from his films (Its Alive baby, Q hatchling).

Hello, World! (HD, 13:21) – Many different personalized intro segments for this film that Cohen filmed for screenings for this documentary he wasn’t able to attend.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:39)

Summary 

King Cohen is an awesome look at the career of the ultimate B-movie filmmaker. Stories of gutsy film shoots and wild story decisions are a blast to hear recounted by Cohen and many who have worked with him here. The Blu-ray has a solid presentation and plenty of bonus material to chew through afterward. This is a definite pick up for fans and anyone interested in the history of low budget filmmaking.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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