The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover

Overview

Larry Cohen's pseudo-biography of J. Edgar Hoover Broderick Crawford was virtually howled off the screens upon its release in 1977. Today, with the cross-dressing Hoover so much a matter of historical record that even Oliver Stone didn't bother to make too much of a point of it in Nixon, the Cohen film plays more like a dramatic re-enactment rather than the puerile paranoid fantasy it appeared to be at the time. Unfortunately, Cohen's method is part exploitation and part historical tableau. On the one hand, Cohen...
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Overview

Larry Cohen's pseudo-biography of J. Edgar Hoover Broderick Crawford was virtually howled off the screens upon its release in 1977. Today, with the cross-dressing Hoover so much a matter of historical record that even Oliver Stone didn't bother to make too much of a point of it in Nixon, the Cohen film plays more like a dramatic re-enactment rather than the puerile paranoid fantasy it appeared to be at the time. Unfortunately, Cohen's method is part exploitation and part historical tableau. On the one hand, Cohen dramatizes historical moments in Hoover's momentous life story -- the shooting of John Dillinger in front of Chicago's Biograph Theater, his first arrest -- with a deadening solemnity even abandoning the backlot facsimiles to shoot on the actual historical locations. On the other hand, Cohen relishes his scenes of Hoover's homosexuality and his propensity for sitting in the dark with a bottle of whiskey, replaying tapes of the amorous liaisons of high government officials -- the decadently homosexual Hoover built his political power base by getting all the dirt he could on the government's movers and shakers -- particularly their sexual liaisons -- and blackmailing them for their support when he could not get it in any other way. A true schizophrenic masterwork in its time, the film is now muted by a reality more incredible than Cohen ever imagined in his wildest dreams.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover is a frustrating "Jekyll-and-Hyde" kind of movie, one part sleazeball exploitation film, one part rabid pit bull "evening the score" with an American demagogue who more than deserved it. There's an undeniable passion in Larry Cohen's film, and that passion infuses it with a great deal of strength. Unfortunately, Cohen's lack of technique and inability to really get underneath the skin of the character or to truly explore the dramatic possibilities inherent in the story seriously undermine that passion. The result is a rollercoaster of a film that careers wildly between moments of delight and moments of horror, and ends up a big, sloppy mess. Fortunately, Cohen had the good sense to hire Broderick Crawford to portray the title character, and the ageing actor grabbed the opportunity and ran with it for all it was worth. It's not a totally successful performance -- the material is too deranged to allow for that -- but it's fascinating and Crawford always holds the screen whenever he's on (which is most of the time). There are also some noteworthy (if, again, not totally successful) supporting turns from the likes of Jose Ferrer, Rip Torn and, especially, Dan Dailey. Hoover doesn't work, but on its own terms, it's enthralling.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/15/2011
  • UPC: 883904237754
  • Original Release: 1977
  • Source: Mgm Mod
  • Time: 1:52:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 47,870

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Broderick Crawford J. Edgar Hoover
José Ferrer Lionel McCoy
Michael Parks Robert F. Kennedy
Ronee Blakely Carrie DeWitt
Rip Torn Dwight Webb
Celeste Holm Florence Hollister
Michael Sacks Melvin Purvis
Dan Dailey Clyde Tolson
Raymond St. Jacques Martin Luther King, Jr.
John Marley Dave Hindley
Howard Da Silva Franklin D. Roosevelt
June Havoc Hoover's Mother
James Wainwright Young Hoover
Lloyd Nolan Attorney General Stone
Ellen Barber FBI Secretary
Lloyd Gough Walter Winchell
Brad Dexter Alvin Karpis
Jennifer Lee Ethel Brunette
George Plimpton Quentin Reynolds
Jack Cassidv Damon Runyon
Andrew Duggan Lyndon B. Johnson
E.G. Marshall
Technical Credits
Larry Cohen Director, Producer, Screenwriter
John M. Crewdson Consultant/advisor
Cathy Davis Production Designer, Set Decoration/Design
Lewis Friedman Costumes/Costume Designer
Paul Glickman Cinematographer
Chris Lebenzon Editor
Carolyn Loewenstein Set Decoration/Design
Artie Mandelberg Associate Producer
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
Peter Sabiston Associate Producer
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