These aren't necessarily the best of Cohen's output, but
in our book, they're the most interesting. Wherever possible,
we'll let the filmmakers address the films in their own
Cohen's first film upon returning from England features
a terrific cast -- Michael Gough (the British Whit Bissell?),
Jerome Cowan, Elisha Cook Jr., Virginia Grey -- but more
excitement took place offscreen than on. "One of our lions
escaped during the shooting of the picture," Cohen recalled,
"and we had front page headlines in all the papers! Everybody
said I must have done it as a publicity stunt, but it actually
happened. A full-grown American mountain lion named Chico,
three hundred pounds, broke loose and dashed out through
"For a cheap picture, those miniature sets that we built
were pretty good," said Cohen. "I worked my ass off. In
fact, I don't think I ever worked harder on a picture than
I did on Konga." The derivative plot has mad doc
Michael Gough (definitely the British Whit Bissell!) turning
a monkey from chimp-size to blimp-size. Comparisons to King
Kong did not find Herman unprepared. "[This] was what
I wanted!" he said. "We paid RKO so that we could use in
our ads the line, 'Not since King Kong ... has the screen
thundered to so much mighty excitement!' I paid RKO because
I didn't want them to think we were stealing it. We paid
'em $25,000 so there would not be any lawsuit."
8. Bride of the Gorilla
Cohen's first producer credit, this werewolf tale transplanted
to the South American jungle was directed and written by
Curt Siodmak, who had scripted Universal's classic Wolf
Man 11 years earlier -- and The Wolf Man himself,
Lon Chaney, is on hand as the local constable investigating
the titular "were-ape." Raymond Burr is quite good as the
plantation owner who falls victim to a native curse. A solid
supporting cast includes Tom Conway, Paul Cavanagh and the
tragic Barbara Payton.
7. Battles of Chief Pontiac
This ambitious B western is extraordinarily well-mounted,
considering the budget and what Cohen went through to pull
off the production, negotiating with Sioux and Air Force
brass. Directed by Felix Feist (Donovan's Brain),
it addresses controversial topics, such as the abusive treatment
of Indians, including their deliberate infection with small
pox. Lex Barker stars along with Helen Westcott and Berry
Kroeger. But Lon Chaney steals the show as Chief Pontiac,
delivering his lines with an intuitive conviction not seen
since his turn as Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
6. Blood of Dracula
A transparent retread of Teenage Werewolf (heralded
by fantastic poster art), the film is interesting for its
distaff take on the premise featuring Sandra Harrison as
the tormented teen. According to director Herb Strock, "She
was an oddball to start with and that's why I thought she'd
be good for the picture." As regards working with Cohen,
Strock recalls that, "Herman was a very pontific type of
producer ... but he knew I always came in on budget and
that's what he was looking for."
5. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein
A cut below the standard set by Cohen's benchmark Teenage
Werewolf, this inevitable followup is nonetheless worth
your time if only for the performance of Whit Bissell (among
the B Monster's all-time favorite actors). According to
director Herb Strock, "[Whit] always gave more than 100%.
He worked with you, he was always there. He reminded me
so much of working with Boris Karloff. This was a man who
was like a horse at the post. Ready to go, knew the lines,
always on time, always ready, prepared, in the character.
He was a dream to work with."
4. Horrors of the Black Museum
Just mention the "binoculars scene" to any baby boomer.
They might not know the film by title, but odds are they'll
recall that grisly -- and STILL quite shocking -- scene.
Michael Gough, Cohen's British psycho go-to guy, is a mystery
writer who hypnotizes his assistant into committing gory
crimes that Gough can incorporate into his "fictional" paperbacks.
The gimmick this time was "Hypno-Vista," and featured a
"renowned" specialist explaining the process to the audience
at the start of the film.
3. How To Make A Monster
A semi-tongue-in-cheek take on the mad doctor theme, this
flick features a mad makeup artist, bent on revenge. He's
thanklessly created both the Teenage Werewolf and Teenage
Frankenstein for the cost-conscious studio that now wants
to give him the boot. One of the film's more affecting scenes
features a switch from black and white to color film during
the climax. (Teenage Frankenstein featured the same
gimmick.) Director Herb Strock recalls, "the color at the
end of these pictures was Herman's gimmick, and we always
had to plan this as a separate reel. We planned this very,
very carefully. It was a lot of fun working with Herman.
We got along fine."
In spite of its conspicuously low budget, this is an effective
and underrated alien invasion film. As directed by Sherman
Rose, the sparse funding actually works in the film's favor,
as our heroes are barricaded for much of its running time
in a claustrophobic hotel room. The simplistic, boxy robot
invaders are in keeping with the film's austerity -- though
shoddily prepared, they're nonetheless effective. Stark
shots of deserted city streets are likewise memorable. Richard
Denning (and who DOESN'T like Richard Denning?) takes charge
of the harried brigade of human survivors that includes
Kathleen Crowley, Virginia Grey and Richard Reeves. Whit
Bissell (who else could we turn to?) is the scientist charged
with finding an effective weapon with which to staunch the
1. I Was A Teenage Werewolf
Even if you HATE cult-movies (and if you do, what kind of
a sick person are you?) you're aware of this film and its
cultural impact. Cohen and company took a gamble with the
outrageous title and teen-geared premise and it paid off
in spades. Michael Landon is terrific in the title role.
(Some reports claimed he was embarrassed by the film after
attaining Bonanza stardom, but Landon made a fond
reference to the film in an episode of his Highway to
Heaven TV series years later.) Whit Bissell (Okay, hands
down, Hollywood's top scientist!) as the driven, demented,
Svengali-like doctor was never better. The obligatory musical
interlude is wildly out of synch, but this doesn't seem
to affect the cavorting teen cast, which includes Yvonne
Lime and Ken Miller. "A" film elitists can laugh if they
want, but this was a watershed picture.