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Incredibly Strange Films Excerpt: Larry Cohen

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R/S: Do you have any particular point of view on CIA operations?

LARRY COHEN: Well, I think they’re into a lot of things, for sure. We know the FBI in the past has operated brothels and things like that to get information on people. The Russians do it in Russia—they have houses of prostitution to get information. I would imagine that psychiatrists could be used to get information.

Psychotics are often used, like the guy who shot the Pope (the so-called Bulgarian Connection) where the guy talks like a complete looney—so he probably is a psychotic. The question is, were the Russians and the Bulgarians involved in getting him to shoot the Pope? If so, they probably did exactly what we talked about in the movie: they had a secret intelligence agency making use of mentally ill people to carry out killings they’re inclined to do anyway.

Take somebody who has an inclination to kill an authority figure—that’s their psychological make-up. Then you program them to kill the particular person you want them to kill, and in I, The Jury it’s supposed to look like hideous sex crimes.

I think that most of the elements of that picture were overlooked. I don’t think people could focus in on the plot, because most of the time they were just trying to understand what the leading actor was saying—his diction was so unintelligible. But in the original script, what was going on was very clear.

The people who took over the film were more interested in action scenes: blowing up limousines, staging an elaborate chase sequence with shooting and fighting in trucks—stuff like that. That to me is not important. The important thing is to have an unusual angle about everything and an unusual look at the psychosis of the detective.

A picture like The Maltese Falcon, which people can see over and over again, doesn’t have a single car chase or gun fight; there are no chases over rooftops, no fist fights. Bogart gets knocked out one time. It all happens in a couple of rooms; there’s a lot of talk, interesting characters, but no so-called production values in the picture.

Now if somebody were to remake The Maltese Falcon today, they’d say, ‘Okay, we’ve got to have Sam Spade in a car chase—it’s San Francisco; how can you not have a car chase? Sydney Greenstreet’ll be driving one car, and—!’ That’s what they’d do.

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