Movie News

Herman Cohen, the Producer behind genre classics like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF has died

Published at: June 10, 2002, 5:32 a.m. CST by staff

Father Geek here with sad news for fans of the 50's and 60's teenage horror drive-in film sub-genre. Back in 1957 I was walking down Houston street in San Antonio when I was suddenly attacked by a flood of images that blew my 12 year old mind. The huge sidewalk frontage of the great MAJESTIC THEATER was covered with every size poster, lobbycard, and still photo there was for a new Double feature Southwest premiere of I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN and I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF. A young Father Geek was dumbstruck, frozen in his tracks. I must have stood there going over and over the images for an hour. Annnnnd right there in the middle stood an 8 foot cut-out standee of the most horrific image of them all... the mutated face of the teenaged Frankenstein creature itself, all green and yellow and... and that bulging bloodshot eye half torn out by its root staring out at me... yes, ME! I'll never forget that image. Herman Cohen got my hard earned 50 cents that Saturday and again on Sunday afternoon.

Father Geek didn't know who Cohen was at the time, but he sure collected alot of half dollars from me in my youth. It would be years later, when I was deep into collecting 50's horror posters that I made note of his name on movie paper I was beginning to pick up, like: BRIDE OF THE GORILLA, and HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER, and BLACK ZOO, or KONGA, TROG, THE HEADLESS GHOST, HORROR OF THE WAX MUSEUM and more. I still have posters for each of those films. Films Cohen not only produced, but wrote five of, and acted in 3 or 4 of. Yeah, Herman helped turn me into the Geek I am today, the father of Harry Knowles. Its all his fault, along with a couple of dozen others, but HE was a major influence. I only hope we do him and the others justice. I got this note a few minutes ago...

Father Geek- I know you're handling the ranch while Harry's off in Sin City, so I thought I'd forward this to you.

I grew up on AIP/ Cohen films like 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf' and 'I Was A Teenage Frankenstein' on my local UHF stations in the late '70's, and am saddened to hear of the loss of this pioneer in cinema. He will be missed.

(when I scoop, they call me) e.

Maker of Teen Horror Flicks Dies in Los Angeles

Sun Jun 9, 3:47 PM ET LOS ANGELES (Reuters)

Producer Herman Cohen, who invented the teen-age fright flick and launched Michael Landon's film career with "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," has died of throat cancer in Los Angeles at age 74, a hospital spokeswoman said on Sunday. Cohen died on June 2 at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"Werewolf," starring Landon as an affable teen transformed into a hairy horror by a diabolical hypnotist, became a cult classic after its release in 1957 and confirmed Cohen's conclusion that teenagers were movie tastemakers.

Made for less than $100,000, "Werewolf" grossed more than $2 million. The success inspired Cohen to do six more horror films in which hapless teenagers were terrorized by evil adults.

"I have always felt that most teenagers think that adults -- their parents, or their teacher, anyone who was older and who had authority -- were culprits in their lives," Cohen said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Through his cult horror films, which included "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" and "How to Make a Monster," Cohen put American International Pictures on the map and established himself as the "king of the drive-in horror movie," film historian Tom Weaver told the Times.

Cohen co-wrote many of his films, naming many characters after family members and friends and including cameos for himself, in the manner of Alfred Hitchcock.

The horror genre was a departure from Cohen's earlier work in the 1950s in mainstream films such as "Crime of Passion," starring Barbara Stanwyck.

The Detroit native began his association with motion pictures at 12, as an assistant to a movie theater janitor. He traded his services for free movie passes for himself and his family, the Times reported.

After serving in the Army, Cohen landed a sales job at the Detroit offices of Columbia Pictures.

He moved to Hollywood to work in Columbia's publicity department. In 1951, he earned his first screen credit as assistant producer of "Bride of the Gorilla."

Cohen stopped producing movies in the 1970s. He is survived by a brother and sister.

Father Geek back, Herman wasn't 100% horror genre, among others films in 1969 he produced a damn good Spagetti Western called DJANGO IL BASTARDO. Just Click Here To Find Out More About His Career.

Readers Talkback

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  • June 10, 2002, 5:44 a.m. CST

    another great gone....

    by jedi_master97

  • June 10, 2002, 5:45 a.m. CST

    Greatest line of dialogue ever! "Speak damn you. Go on, speak! Y

    by Regis Travolta

    Priceless dialogue from Teenage Frankenstein. Should have won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Go get 'em Herman! Give 'em what they want up there!

  • June 10, 2002, 5:46 a.m. CST

    "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla"

    by jedi_master97

    is this for real?

  • June 10, 2002, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Can you imagine what would happen if someone tried to do a movie

    by rev_skarekroe

  • June 10, 2002, 9:45 a.m. CST

    KONGA!!!!

    by Smilin'Jack Ruby

    "Not since &#39;King Kong&#39; has the screen exploded with such mighty fury and spectacle! Konga!!!" What a fantastic movie. It&#39;s sad that Cohen has passed. There has never been a producer so obsessed with putting guys in gorilla suits as horror conventions. <Somewhere Andy Lazar just got an idea>.

  • June 10, 2002, 2:46 p.m. CST

    The REAL tragedy is....

    by RobinP

    ....that of all the thousands of people who&#39;ve enjoyed Mr Cohen&#39;s efforts over the years, only seven of us could be bothered to make the time to pay our respects on this talkback ! Mr Cohen, Rest in Peace.

  • June 10, 2002, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Corman, Arkoff and Nicholson, remember them?

    by Johnny Bacardi

    As sad as I am to hear of Cohen&#39;s passing, you&#39;d think that he was a one-man movie machine! I think there were a few others like Sam Arkoff, James Nicholson, and Roger Corman that had a *little* bit to do with AIP&#39;s success... Don&#39;t get me wrong-not to take anything away from Mr. Cohen, but the newspaper article and ever Pa Geek&#39;s piece was a wee bit one-sided.

  • June 10, 2002, 5:56 p.m. CST

    R.I.P. Mr. Cohen

    by Sod Off Baldric

    You will be missed.

  • June 16, 2002, 6:47 a.m. CST

    HERMAN COHEN

    by Inheritor

    I have been up all night looking up the web sites and obituarys on my Uncle Herman Cohen. I want to thank all of you, and Ain&#39;t It Cool News for taking the time to remember Herman Cohen. It means much to me to have read your comments and memories. I am in deep shock and grief at the death of my Uncle. We had talked only a few days before his death, and he was sounding like himself again. He died on June 2nd - the day of his Sister Bea Banks Belfer&#39;s funeral. The next day I was visiting the graves of his 3 sisters, and his parents. Fate led me to know of his passing. The cemetary had given me the wrong plot number for my Grandparent&#39;s graves. I found myself at the grave of another Meyer Cohen. Just at that time a van from the cemetary was passing by. I flagged down the van, and asked the man to show me the graves of my Grandparents Meyer and Goldie Cohen. He took me to the correct graves. I had always known that my Uncle had purchased the plot next to his Father. The man from Cloverhill Cemetary - as I was standing at the foot of my Uncle&#39;s burial plot said to me that there was going to be a funeral there on Wednesday. I immediately knew and said MY UNCLE HERMAN. He said the call had just come in with the news of his death. Two days later on June 5th - that burial plot became his grave. I have been thinking a lot about my Uncle all this night, as I have been since that awful day when I found out that he had died - and had been before that knowing my Uncle was ill. I was so pleased to see your web site and the reponses to my Uncle&#39;s death. I always felt that American International did not pay enough attention to my Uncle&#39;s career at their big anniversary. Yet, all of you have responded at this awful moment for me my family, Didier Chatelain - his business partner at Cobra Media in Hollywood, his colleagues, friends, and fans. For me - there was no greater horror than seeing my Uncle&#39;s body lowered into the ground. I thought of all that energy he had, his magnificent voice, his strong opinions, and his wonderful sense of humor. I thank all of you for recalling the memory of Herman Cohen. I hope you will let the new generation of those in film, and others know of his films and life. I liked my Uncle&#39;s films. Those endings - usually with Michael Gough standing over a dead body on the ground - I found reflective and symbolic. I thought Joan Crawford at the end of TROG was one of the great moments in film - when she pushes the reporter&#39;s microphone away. It said a lot to me, and remains a strong influence on my life about the cruelity of human beings - and how caring and individuality must triumph instead - in one&#39;s community, America, and in the world. My Uncle loved the film industry, and was working in it until the week that he died. He dreamed of producing films as a boy in Detroit. He saw that dream come true. At age 18, he became the manager of the local movie theater - the Dexter which he had worked at since he was 12. He was assistant manager of the Fox Theatre after WWII. When he made all that money on I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF - he used it to purchase the movie palace theatre he loved. He owned the Fox Theatre from 1961 - 1982. He left Detroit and went to Hollywood. He did produce, write, act in, and distribute films. He was not a saint. Everyone who he yelled at can I&#39;m sure still recall every word said to them - his voice alone something that people remembered. He did what he set out to do. To me that is a good life to have lived. I hope his life serves as an inspiration that dreams can be achieved. He always had said that if he became physically ill that he did not want pity. So when I last wrote him I stated that I was sitting on a beach thinking about the good in his life. He is now back in Detroit where he grew up excited about seeing movies. Again, I thank those of you who replied to the wonderful article about my Uncle. My best - Gail Cohen gcinheritor@msn.com