March 24, 2019
He thrived making low-budget horror and blaxploitation films after creating the 1960s TV series 'Branded' and 'The Invaders.'
Larry Cohen, Writer-Director of Its Alive and Hell Up in Harlem, Dies at 77
Larry Cohen, the avant-garde writer and director who made his mark in the horror and blaxploitation genres with such innovative cult classics as It's Alive, God Told Me To, Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem, has died. He was 77.
Cohen died Saturday night in Los Angeles surrounded by loved ones, his friend, actor and publicist Shade Rupe, told The Hollywood Reporter.
The older brother of late Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen — she got her start promoting his early films — Cohen began his career by writing for television in the late 1950s, and he created the Chuck Connors-starring Branded for NBC and the cult sci-fi drama The Invaders, starring Roy Thinnes, for ABC.
More recently, the New York native wrote the screenplay for the Joel Schumacher thriller Phone Booth (2002), starring Colin Farrell.
By stocking his movies with sly social commentary and tongue-in-cheek humor, Cohen's work felt edgier and more impactful than similar low-budget fare.
"Things were going on all over the country and the world that I wanted to try and deal with in my films," Cohen said in a 2017 interview with Diabolique Magazine. "Take [his 1985 feature] The Stuff, which was about products being sold on the market that kill people. There are still so many products like that being sold today. In those days, you still had cigarettes being advertised on television.
"Nowadays, it's not cigarettes, but it's medication that'll probably kill you just as fast. As a matter of fact, every time they advertise a different pill of some kind, they have a disclaimer afterward telling you all the side effects — like death. So, The Stuff was an allegory for consumerism in America and the fact that big corporations will sell you anything to get your money, even if it'll kill you."
Bone (1972), Cohen's directorial debut, revolved around a black thief (Yaphet Kotto) who breaks into a Beverly Hills home and holds a white couple (Andrew Duggan, Joyce Van Patten) hostage. His second feature was Black Caesar (1973), an update of Edward G. Robinson's 1931 classic Little Caesar that starred Fred Williamson as a gangster who rises up to head a Harlem crime syndicate. That led to a sequel, Hell Up in Harlem, that hit theaters just eight months later.
"Many of the films I made are extremely volatile and deal with controversial subjects like racism," Cohen said. "My first picture, Bone, is way ahead of its time — even today. When I made it in the '70s, I thought by the time we got to 2015 that racism would be finished — but it isn't.
"Now you have people being shot by cops, people shooting cops, and riots in the streets. It's the same old thing again — blacks against whites — and it's just sad that after all these years nothing has changed. Even [after] a black president and a black attorney general, it doesn't matter, we're back where we started from."
It's Alive (1974), which he wrote and directed, featured a score by composer Bernard Herrmann and creature effects by Rick Baker. Revolving around a hideously deformed mutant baby who goes on a murderous rampage, it spawned two sequels. He also wrote and produced Maniac Cop (1988), and that horror title birthed a pair of follow-ups as well.
Cohen wrote and helmed God Told Me To, a 1976 satire about people committing murders on instructions from above that starred Tony Lo Bianco and gave Andy Kaufman his first screen credit, and Q (1982), which transformed New York's iconic Chrysler Building into a nesting place for a winged, dragon-like serpent.
In 2018, Steve Mitchell turned the cameras on Cohen for the documentary King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, and Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, John Landis and Williamson were among those with stories about the indie maverick. "Making a pretty strong case for his idiosyncratic vision and tenacity, it's likely to have moviegoers rushing to figure out where they can see obscurities like God Told Me To and Q," John DeFore wrote in his review for The Hollywood Reporter.
Lawrence Cohen was born on July 15, 1941, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. The family moved to the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, and he would hustle movie ticket money by offering to carry groceries for tips.
Cohen graduated from City College of New York in 1963 with a degree in film studies. After landing a job at NBC as a page, he gave himself a crash course in the art of producing teleplays, and by his early 20s, he was writing television scripts.
Cohen broke into TV in 1958 with an adaptation of Ed McBain's crime novel The Eighty Seventh Precinct for Kraft Television Theatre. Over the next decade, he would pen episodes for Zane Grey Theatre, Surfside 6, Checkmate, The Fugitive and The Defenders.
He created Branded, which ran for two seasons (1965-66) and starred the 6-foot-6 Connors as a disgraced officer unjustly drummed out of the cavalry for cowardice. "My intellectual concept of the show is that it's like a Shakespearean tragedy," Cohen said in a 1965 interview for TV Guide. "You must have a great man to experience true tragedy. That's why I like Chuck Connors so much in this part. He's so big — he's the tallest underdog in the west."
Cohen went on to create ABC's short-lived 1966 drama Blue Light, starring Robert Goulet as a double agent, and CBS' Coronet Blue, an offbeat 1967 drama about an amnesiac (Frank Converse) trying to unravel the mystery of who he is (the only thing he can remember are the two words of the series' cryptic title) before coming up with The Invaders.
Cohen took the idea for that one from two of his favorite 1950s sci-fi films — Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders From Mars. It was about an architect (Thinnes) who witnesses aliens landing on Earth and tries to convince everyone that there's danger ahead.
"The major thing the show had going for it is the fact that we are all a little bit paranoid and that it's easy to identify with somebody who is a single man fighting the world," Invaders producer Alan A. Armer said in a 2000 story for ClassicTVhistory.com. "I mean, that's what all real heroes are, if you look at the great myths and legends and the great stories that have been told."
Though it only lasted two seasons (1967-68), The Invaders gained cult status and paved the way for shows such as The X-Files.
Cohen also created the 1973-74 ABC series Griff, starring Lorne Greene — just off his long Bonanza run — as a cop turned private eye.
Cohen's first feature screenplay was for the sequel Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966), and that was followed by scripts for Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969), Scream Baby Scream (1969) and El Condor (1970).
In 1996, Cohen revisited his blaxploitation roots by directing Original Gangstas, an action drama that paid homage to the '70s films and featured many of that genre's stars, including Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, Paul Winfield, Richard Roundtree and Ron O'Neal.
Cohen also wrote and directed The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), Full Moon High (1981), Special Effects (1984), Deadly Illusion (1987), A Return to Salem's Lot (1987), the Bette Davis-starrer Wicked Stepmother (1989) and The Ambulance (1990) and wrote the screenplays for Best Seller (1987), Guilty as Sin (1993) and Captivity (2007).
He penned an episode of ABC's NYPD Blue and directed for the last time on a 2006 installment of Showtime's Masters of Horror.
Sometime in the early 1970s, Cohen bought a 1929 Spanish-style dwelling built by the family of William Randolph Hearst. And like any low-budget filmmaker worth his salt, he put it to good use.
"Almost every movie I made I ended up shooting one scene in my house just for good luck," Cohen said in a 2018 interview with The Ringer. (The home that Kotto broke into in Bone was his.)
"Sometimes it was a nightclub, sometimes it was a hotel suite, sometimes it was a pool room. Whatever we needed, we had all kinds of flats outside stored away. We could put up false walls, and we could create sets without much time or effort. It was great because I didn't have to go to work in the morning. I could just get out of bed, come downstairs and direct the movie."
Famed director Samuel Fuller had owned the house before him. When he met Cohen at a party, he asked if he could bring his wife by to see it. Cohen invited them over, the two became friends and Fuller portrayed a vampire hunter for Cohen in Salem's Lot.
In 1988, he was honored with the George Pal Memorial Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
Cohen was married to Janelle Webb from 1964-87, and she had a hand in many of his films, doing everything from producing and acting to writing songs for the soundtracks. The couple had five children — Pam, Victoria Jill, Melissa, Bobby and Louis — and all can be seen in dad's films.
Cohen also is survived by his second wife, psychotherapist Cynthia Costas Cohen. She also appeared in his movies.
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Julia Fox defends viral ‘Uncut Gems’ interview moment: ‘I was stoned’ | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
4m-p0_-ePd8
Alexia Echevarria pushed ‘RHOM’ producers to show more of son Frankie’s recovery | Page Six
February 17, 2022
E-wTaN9NfkI
Pete Davidson rejoins Instagram amid Kanye West drama | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
SsC3dmsI6t4
Aaron Rodgers And Shailene Woodley Reportedly Break Up | TMZ LIVE
February 17, 2022
FoErdRE8Qe4
Chet Hanks Done Talking About Famous Parents, Becoming Personal Trainer | TMZ
February 16, 2022
5_UrULOkQ6o
Woman Stabbed at Foot Locker During Nike Shoe Release
February 16, 2022
TfuXMs1JdVg
Steph's Freaky Side, "Summer House" & "Love During Lockup"
February 17, 2022
9W_raO0zlA8
Tay or Nay, Offset's Sushi Anxiety & Nick on Monogamy
February 17, 2022
PauYHpJRA6o
Kim Kardashian & North West TWINNING in Matching Pajamas | E! News
February 17, 2022
b-_Oib6R108
Adam McKay - Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony
February 17, 2022
tYtzsHoOZzo
Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and the Cast of 'Uncharted' Talk Most Challenging Stunts
February 15, 2022
d3ksX-SKi8c
Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell on ‘The Adam Project’, ‘Deadpool’, and Possible ‘Star Wars’ Role
February 16, 2022
5TxJsbJr9Dk
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
04
May
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Playoffs
Seattle Sounders - Pumas
04
May
USA: Major League Soccer
FC Cincinnati - Toronto FC
03
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Bournemouth - Nottingham Forest
02
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Brentford
02
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Fulham - Luton
02
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Real Betis
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Eintracht Frankfurt
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Monchengladbach - RB Leipzig
02
May
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Salernitana
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Leicester City
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Mallorca
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Bologna
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Arsenal
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Chelsea
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Inter Milan
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Fiorentina
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Venezia
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Rayo Vallecano - Real Sociedad
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Mainz - Bayern Munich
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bochum
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leeds - Manchester City
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Espanyol
30
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
28
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Chelsea
27
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Liverpool - Villarreal
27
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Inter Milan
26
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Manchester City - Real Madrid
25
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - Juventus
24
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Rayo Vallecano
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Everton
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - West Ham United
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Empoli - Napoli
23
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brentford - Tottenham Hotspur
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.