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Black Caesar (1973)
Cohen's Blaxploitation crime movie boasted a soundtrack from James Brown and a central performance by From Dusk Till Dawn star Fred Williamson.
Cohen: "I remember shooting in front of what is now Trump Tower, having a shot going on in which the leading man gets shot and staggers around 57th St., collapsing in the street, with hidden cameras, and hundreds of people running to his aid, thinking it was a real event. I had someone dress in a police uniform, closing down Fifth Avenue. It was unbelievable. We had no permission to do anything like this. I got away with so much in this city that I would probably go to prison for now."
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God Told Me To: The “Whisper” Cut (1976)
A New York cop (Tony LoBianco) investigates a series of murders whose perpetrators say that God told them to commit their crimes.
Cohen: "So many of my movies have been about benevolent things that turn into things of horror. How about God? Suppose God is wreaking havoc on the streets of the city? Bernard Herrmann (legendary Psycho and Taxi Driver composer) was going to do the music. So, we put together the picture to show him and I put some of his music on the track. We had a bunch of scenes that we ended up taking out of the picture, which I’m sorry we did, because the picture’s better with those scenes in it. Then Bernard Hermmann didn’t do the music, because he died. So, that’s what the ‘Whisper’ version is. It’s never been seen in New York — it’s never been seen anywhere, really."
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A huge winged serpent terrorizes New York from her eyrie at the very top of Manhattan's famous Chrysler Building.
Cohen: "The Chrysler building people didn’t know we were going to climb up into the needle. Who would do such a thing? We got to the very top of the Chrysler Building and after that there was no elevators or anything, it was just a very rickety ladder. I didn’t even know if the crew would follow me. Then, of course we had to put pulleys down and ropes to bring the cameras and the lights. Finally, the Chrysler building found out what we were doing and said we had to have more insurance. So, I called the insurance broker, and he came to the top of the Chrysler building and wrote the policy there. I signed the contract right at the top of the building."
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Perfect Strangers (1984)
A mafia hitman discovers that a young boy has witnessed him undertaking a contract murder.
Cohen: "Perfect Strangers is one of my favorites. That's where I got to direct a 2-year-old child. That was really a challenge. Everybody thought it was insane. The crew is looking at me like, This guy's nuts! But it worked. I sat down with the kid, and I told him what to do, and he did it. That was a unique experience."
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Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Billions) plays a murderous filmmaker in this twisted tale
Cohen: "It's my revenge on big budget directors. Eric Bogosian is a director who's washed-up, he's had a couple of flops, he can't get a job any more. But he's got a beautiful house down in the Greenwich Village area, which was a great location to shoot in. He has committed a murder, and photographed it, and now he tries to integrate it into a movie. Eric was actually very nice. We had a fight the first day. [I] always have a fight the first day, with somebody. But as soon as you have the fight, and you establish who's in charge, they never bother you again after that."
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Cohen's horror-comedy concerns a killer dessert. Yes, you read that right.
Cohen: "My production people said, 'I've got a great location for you in New Jersey. It's a furrier's showroom.' There were two tenants in this building. It was the showroom and it was the New Jersey headquarters of the teamsters union. And here we were shooting a non-union picture. Sure enough, here came all these guys that looked like Tony Soprano. I just thought of singing a song to them out of Fiddler on the Roof — [Starts singing] 'If I was a teamster/All day long I'd sit there in the truck/If I was a teamster man, hey!/Wouldn't have to work hard…' They're looking at me like, 'This guy's f--king out of his mind.' Then they walked away and [they] didn't bother us at all. One of them said to me, 'You've got the biggest pair of balls I've ever seen.'"
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The Ambulance (1990)
Eric Roberts, Janine Turner, and James Earl Jones star in this thriller about an ambulance whose passengers don't always reach the hospital.
Cohen: "The cast was excellent. Eric Roberts did some of his best work and, wow, what a thrill to direct James Earl Jones. That was a little bit more of an organized picture. We had a production manager on it and I think somebody made up a board that put the scenes on a chart. I'd never had that on any of my movies. But I never saw it. So, I had no idea what it said. I just went and did what I wanted to do."