The too-easy shorthand description of legendary exploitation filmmaker Larry Cohen is that he's New York's answer to Roger Corman. The two share an affinity for the weirder margins of storytelling, have made cult hits with enduring fame for a dime and possess a mighty work ethic that keeps them creating from morning till night, even today. But where they differ is in motivation. Where Corman wants to make money telling whichever story he foresees will be hot (and he's been frequently right), Cohen approaches even his most outlandish pictures, like The Stuff (1985), from a personal angle. He infuses them with a message, some kind of moral that you might miss if you're only paying attention to the killer yogurt. In that way, Cohen is less like Corman than he is a sort of cousin of horror filmmakers like John Carpenter or Wes Craven. As those directors have won greater critical consideration, Cohen finally gets his in Steve Mitchell's King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen.
Mitchell's documentary style isn't flashy or refined, but the director does his homework and almost cross-examines the film's subjects. If Cohen tells a story about his collaborator Fred Williamson rolling out of a moving car on the set of Black Caesar (1973), Mitchell puts the same questions to Williamson -- and, of course, both accounts are different. But that's half the fun of a doc like this, with scruffy film-world characters shooting the shit about the old days of guerilla moviemaking.
While Cohen might accept his title as an exploitation director, he does take issue with other filmmakers pretending they're not exploiting something or someone -- "Isn't every movie an exploitation movie?" he asks.