About Herman Cohen
(August 27, 1925 – June 2, 2002)
Best remembered for popularizing the teen-horror genre with I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, producer and writer Herman Cohen was born in Detroit and began his career in film as a youngster, working at the Fox theater there, trading his work for film passes for himself and his family. After serving in the Army, Cohen worked as a sales manager for the Detroit branch of Columbia Pictures before moving to Hollywood. He earned his first notable screen credit in 1951, as assistant producer of BRIDE OF THE GORILLA, and served the same role in 1952’s BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA.
As writer and producer, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, starred then-unknown Michael Landon as an angry teen, sent to an unscrupulous doctor for hypnotherapy, who is instead given an experimental serum that transforms him into a bloodthirsty werewolf. The film was a surprise hit and a money-maker (the movie, made for about $100,000, earned more than $2 million at the box office, and put Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson’s fledgling American International Pictures on the map) and sparked a number of imitators, many produced by Cohen himself. I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM and HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER all had roughly the same plot as the original film—a teenager who is manipulated by or transformed into a monster by an evil adult. The notion apparently struck a chord with 1950s teenagers.
“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.
Cohen also produced a number of thrillers in England in the ’60s, including A STUDY IN TERROR and BERSERK, starring Joan Crawford. 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. You can spot him in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF—he’s the guy with the crime scene photos.
In the late ’70s, Cohen shifted his efforts from production in favor of writing and distribution. In 1981, he formed Cobra Media, a domestic distribution firm, where he worked until he passed away of throat cancer on June 2, 2002 at the age of 76.