LOS ANGELES--Hollywood producer and writer Herman Cohen, best remembered for popularizing the teen-horror genre with the movie in episode 809- I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, died here of throat cancer June 2. He was 74.
Cohen was born in Detroit and began his career in film as a youngster, working 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 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."
"Werewolf" starred then-unknown Michael Landon as a milk-throwing 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 a Black Museum" and "How to Make a Monster" all had roughly the same plot as the original film--a teen-ager who is manipulated by or transformed into a monster by an evil adult. The notion apparently stuck 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 '70s, Cohen stopped producing movies. In 1981, he formed Cobra Media, a domestic distribution firm.
He is survived by a brother and a sister.