The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover

Completed in 1978 but never theatrically released by its distributor, The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover casts Broderick Crawford as Hoover, supported by a cast of Hollywood notables. Though all seem to agree that Crawford gives a stunning performance, the film has been the subject of no little controversy. Variety panned it as “cheap, lurid sensationalism....” Critic Robin Wood, on the other hand, calls Cohen's film (which was well received at the London and Berlin film festivals) “perhaps the most intelligent film about American politics ever to come out of Hollywood.” Wood does not stress the film's historical accuracy, with its various scandalous inferences. “It is a question not of whether what the spectator sees on the screen is ‘objective truth,' but of the relationship between spectator and narrative.... Hoover offers no equivalent for Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman (All The President's Men); there are no heroes on whom we can rely to have everything put right at the end.... As in (Cohen's) It's Alive, the monster is the logical product of the capitalist system.” (in Film Comment)

“The film is generally cast in the same mould as Mervyn LeRoy's The FBI Story but in reality goes in the other direction. Where that well-made movie hero-worshipped, this one never stops needling.... (It) is rather like a forties movie brought intelligently up to date by a film-maker we are certain to hear more of.”

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