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.
by Paul Brenner synopsis
FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)