Hickey & Boggs: Alas, Aero Theatre Q&A, We Hardly Knew Ye

During my Hickey & Boggs retrospective a couple of weeks ago I included a post  that featured a three part video, originally done by the folks at Criminally Unknown, from a Q&A session with Culp after a screening of the film at the Aero Theatre in LA in 2007. It appears the video is no longer available and the Criminally Unknown FB page is gone. Their Twitter account has been dormant for more than a year and their website is gone too. I know the internet is a fickle place and nothing last forever but…dammit all, did it have to go away not two weeks after I added it here?!

Their YouTube account appears to still remain, but also with no updates for more than a year, and the only piece of the nearly 40 minute Q&A session that was posted was a segment regarding Bill Hickman and the connection the Rolls Royce used in Hickey & Boggs had with The French Connection. I’m going to include the clip here but… don’t dilly dally watching it for it may be gone tomorrow.

If, by any remote, insane, million-to-one shot chance that somebody out there, either from Criminally Unknown or who knows them or something, sees this, could you contact me? I would be more than happy to give that 40 minute Q&A video a home with all proper credit and attribution and whathaveya to Criminally Unknown. The video is a rare, fantastic gem full of stories and tidbits on Culp’s only directorial feature. Oh please, don’t let it be lost forever…

Hickey & Boggs: Commentary, Tidbits and Extras

For the longest time it seems this movie languished in obscurity. I had heard of it almost as soon as I started delving into All Things Culp, but finding the thing proved a task. Up until 2011, there had not been an official DVD release and apparently whatever copy was out there floating around, was not of the greatest quality. One grainy clip of Culp and Cosby going into the hotel to try to find Mary Jane was about all I’d ever seen of the film. And that wasn’t even posted on YouTube.

Then sometime in 2009, I found the movie available through iTunes (and still is). Naturally I purchased and downloaded it, although I lamented going this route. I pined for a DVD, something tangible that ensured, for the most part, that I would always have the movie, even if I burned through the computer that I downloaded it to (which, eventually, I did.)

Thankfully, 20th Century Fox on behalf of MGM released the film in a manufacture on demand format – along with several other MGM titles that Fox now has the rights to – in 2011.

What saddens me is that Culp did not live to see the film finally get a proper DVD release. The demise of MGM in the 70’s, the breakup of the studio’s film catalogue between other studios (Fox, Warner and Sony/Paramount) pretty much shoved everything into a vault for years while legal issues were hammered out before any of these titles could see the light of day again. Also, before the advent of the manufacture on demand, studios were hesitant to make the investment into a DVD release for a movie that they felt probably wouldn’t get much of a return.

Very unfortunate, as it would have been fitting to have Culp put together a “director’s cut” or at least a good amount of extras and commentary on the movie.

What we do have though, is various tidbits and commentary about the movie via other sources that I wish to bring together here. Bonus material, if you will, that didn’t make the DVD…

The re-teaming of Culp and Cosby was certainly noted by the media at the time the film was being shot in September/October of 1971. I Spy had ended 3 years earlier but was still fairly fresh on people’s minds. (At the time I Spy was cancelled, it was still pulling good ratings. So why was it cancelled? That’s another story).

Culp was very clear, however, when speaking about Hickey & Boggs to the public. “The story has nothing to do with ‘I Spy,’” he was quoted in the press at the time. “The fellows we played were winners, obviously. These two guys – Hickey & Boggs – are losers.”

Most entertainment writers noted the same thing but their stories played up the I Spy angle more than anything. Michel Poiccard of the Los Angeles Times noted in October of ’71, “’Hickey & Boggs’ will obviously generate much of its interest because it stars a team of actors who are both well known and loved by American audiences.”

Critically, it did garner interest. The film got a mix of good and “meh” reviews, some who praised the acting of Cosby and Culp, appreciated Culp’s directing skills, the use of locations, establishing a mood, ect. ect. The Pittsburgh Press (now Pittsburgh Post) called the film a “fine thriller about human private detectives.” Although the reviewer noted that it was sometimes confusing, they compared it to The Big Sleep noting that Hickey & Boggs’ “momentum comes more from characters and isolated situations than from the coherent flow of a story.”

Jamie Portman of The Calgary Herald also lamented that the plot “suffers from severe confusion if not dislocation.” But even he seemed to forgive this, extolling more about the characters and characterization of Al Hickey and Frank Boggs. “You can talk all you want about the gut realism of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe or Lew Archer stories; but they are also invested with a rueful romanticism. The romanticism has gone sour in Hickey and Boggs.” Portman concluded that Hickey & Boggs “is a metaphysical detective thriller – fragmented, maddening and extraordinarily watchable.”

Frank DeGuida of The Milwaukee Sentinel applauded the film, the Culp and Cosby reunion and appreciated Culp’s direction, in particular the action sequences and Culp’s “fine sense of composition, with many shots presenting interesting visual effects.” DeGuida concluded, “all in all, if Culp has a sequel in mind when he has his heroes walk away into the sunset after the final shootout, I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it.”

Not all critics were as generous. Some couldn’t figure out who was who and what was what. Some blamed the script, some the directing. Others just didn’t get it, such as Variety which complained that the script ”suffers through audience never being entirely certain as to the identity of some of the characters.” (While some critics appreciated that the film didn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence by having to explain everything, Variety reviewers apparently liked their movies simple and spoon fed.)

I did not find any reviews from any Florida newspapers, which, so far in my searches, typically were less than kind of any Culp film or tv show (leading me to believe that it simply must have been depressing to live in Florida in the ’70s.) However, I did find a review from the Ocala Star-Banner for when the movie premiered on television on NBC’s “Saturday Night at the Movies” in March of 1976. The reviewer noted the following about the plot: “During their travels through the less glamorous sections of Los Angeles, Hickey and Boggs stumble up on a major case that places them in the midst of a major hold up at Dodger Stadium.” Um…what?

But overall, the critical response was positive. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into much success at the box office. Although critics seemed positive about the film being well done and such, they also noted, heavily, that the film really was a downer. However, in looking at the promotional materials for the film at the time – the trailer and movie poster – the movie seems to suffer a little of an identity crisis. The trailer at least is fairly clear; two down and out PIs who are in over their heads but the funkified music and Dragnet-esque voice over ruins it.

Then there’s the poster. It has a great photo of Culp and Cosby on it with the shot up Rolls Royce and the very blunt tag line: “They’re not cool, slick heroes, they’re worn tough men and that’s what makes them so dangerous. They hold their .44 magnums with both hands and keep shooting until they hit something. Anything.”

I understand the first line, a bit of a poke at the fact that this is not I Spy. But the rest of it, about shooting their guns until they hit something…. The poster doesn’t so much as even hint at any thing else about these two men (ie, that they’re PIs) and I can’t help but wonder if they’re a couple of guys who just go berserk (ala Michael Douglas in Falling Down) and start shooting people. And ya know, I wouldn’t wanna see Culp n’ Cosby in a movie like that.

Perhaps, that may have been what kept others from seeing the film too. The whole “this isn’t I Spy” angle may have been driven home too much.

It may have just been, perhaps, that the average movie goer didn’t want to see Culp and Cosby as “losers.” The point was certainly driven home enough, in both reviews and in the promotion of the film that these two characters were down trodden, seedy, bottom of the barrel type guys. Cosby’s expression on the movie poster is pretty hang dog for a guy whose bread and butter is comedy. And Culp, after being handsome and dashing as Kelly Robinson, looks…well, he looks like shit in this movie. He’s pale, drawn and has what has to be the worst hair cut I’ve ever seen on him.

But friends, that’s what makes it all work.

When I first saw this movie I was struck by both Culp and Cosby’s performances in this. I grew up knowing Bill Cosby as he was on The Cosby Show and also remember a children’s show he did called Picture Pages. This is the guy who wore those wild sweaters during The Cosby Show run in the 80s, pitched Jello products and is a hilarious comedian. Of course, I was familiar with I Spy before seeing the movie, but nothing he did there was nearly as dark as what he did in Hickey & Boggs.  I was genuinely impressed.

I don’t believe Bill Cosby would have done this kind of movie if Robert Culp had not directed it.  This is not Cosby’s typical vehicle but Culp knew the kind of performance he could get from Cosby and got it.

As for Robert Culp…damn, I thought. He is so damn good at what he does, he really looks like a downtrodden, bottom of the barrel, crawling into the bottle kinda guy. He can’t run worth a damn in this thing. Brilliant!

Ah, well I might have been giving Culp a little too much credit. Not that he’s not that damn good at what he did (because he was) but come to find out he had something happen to him two weeks before filming started that contributed to his somewhat less than stellar physical appearance here.

He had double hernia surgery. That’s right. Double. Ouch.

Which explains his tripping down stairs, limping running style and being bent at the waist whenever he could get away with it. This is especially noticeable at the end of the shootout scene at the Coliseum, when Boggs is at the top of the bleachers looking down at Hickey and the dead bag man on the ground, leaning on the fence, bent double and looking like he’s making sure his innards are still where they’re supposed to be.

Culp told nobody about having surgery, except Cosby who would have known something was wrong. Culp swore Cosby to secrecy because if the insurance company knew about it, the production would have been shut down immediately, something Culp couldn’t afford to have happen.

There are a lot more interesting stories and tidbits about the movie, more than I can possibly do justice by cramming into this post, so instead I invite you to check out the following three part video. Back in 2007, there was a screening of Hickey & Boggs at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles and Robert Culp was on hand for a Q&A session afterward. He talks about everything, from getting the script, the financial backing, directing it, the clothes he and Cosby wore (Cosby hated them), the “laughing garbage man” and the hernia surgery, amongst other things. All three parts together total about 40 minutes or so. The video is originally from the folks at Criminally Unknown. A great “featurette” for this Hickey & Boggs 40th anniversary salute! (Links originally lost in 2012, restored in 2015).

My capapalooza post for “Hickey & Boggs” can be found here.

And finally, Hickey & Boggs is available on DVD and Blu-ray through Amazon.com. Do yourself a favor, get this movie!

~Lisa Philbrick

Hickey & Boggs

Originally released, September 20 (limited)/October 4 (nationwide), 1972

**Contains spoilers – for the love of Culp, if you haven’t seen this movie STOP READING and go watch it first!**

Robert Culp plays Frank Boggs who, along with Bill Cosby’s Al Hickey, is a down trodden gotta-reach-up-just-to-touch-the bottom of the barrel private investigator. Hickey and Boggs work out of an old office building somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, where the bright California sun does little to make their world any more cheerful. They’re old school PIs who are trying to hang on in a business that’s been pretty much legislated out of existence by the State of California.

These guys have hardly anything. They don’t have enough money to pay all their bills (but do manage to scrounge enough for drinks at the local bar), they drive junk cars, wear old suits and both have marriages/relationships that have busted apart.

Yet, they keep moving, not exactly forward but moving. And this is where the movie opens. They’re at the bar, having a few drinks, watching the boxing match on the tv. During the commercial break they talk finances. They don’t have enough money to pay both their phone service and the answering service, so Hickey only paid for the answering service. Boggs offers to borrower against his house, which I take based on Hickey’s reaction there’s not a lot of equity left in the place.

In order to check their messages and return phone calls, they’re reduced to using the payphones outside of the bar. One of the messages is for an appointment the next morning which Hickey has to make because Boggs decides he’s going into the tank. (Can you get any lower than this?)

The next morning, Hickey meets with a Mr. Rice (Lester Fletcher) on the beach. Mr. Rice made it a point to be sunbathing for this meeting – first thing in the morning. He wants the PIs to find a girl, Mary Jane Bower, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. Rice never really says why he wants to find her, it’s assumed to be romantic connection. Hickey doesn’t really care since Rice is willing to pay $500 as a retainer.

Rice, by the way, spends part of the meeting looking over at the young kids playing on the swings with “bad intent.”

Hickey returns to the office to tell Boggs they’re working. Boggs hardly looks up from his newspaper until he hears how much they got for a retainer. “You think money turns my head?” Boggs asks…as he slooowly turns his head toward Hickey (obviously it must). With a couple of leads to follow, the two PIs head out to try to find Mary Jane.

While this is happening, the local mob is discovering that the money they were originally to get from a bank robbery in Pittsburg about a year earlier, is now floating around LA, looking for a buyer. They know “Quamando’s woman” has the money but they’ll have to do some homework to track her down. Mr. Brill (Robert Mandan) makes some phone calls to get some soldiers to track it down, the soldiers being Tommy Signorelli as the gunman, Nick, Matt Bennett as the muscle, Fatboy, and Bill Hickman as, appropriately, the wheel man, Monte.

The leads from Rice turn up two things, a fresh dead man (who Hickey discovers) and a tidbit that Mary Jane dated a guy by the name of Quamando at one time who went to prison for armed robbery. Prisoner Quamando has a brother who runs a flower shop and when the two PIs meet again at the bar to compare notes, they plan to visit him the next day.

We learn that Al Hickey was once a police officer, having worked out of the Hallenbeck division. (Bogg’s background is never specified). Hickey goes to see Nyona (Rosalind Cash) who he may or may not have been married to, but they were living together – until she threw him out. Nyona has a young daughter who is about the only bright thing in Hickey’s life at the moment. He leaves some coins under the child’s pillow and then has a very short visit with Nyona, whom he hasn’t seen in three weeks. Whatever it was that made her throw him out, she’s still mad at him about.

Mr. Rice, meanwhile, is giving the same information he gave to Hickey to Mr. Brill. I’m not sure if he went to Mr. Brill of his own accord or was asked to be seen or what, but there’s one tidbit he doesn’t give the mob: He claims to not know of Mary Jane Bower.

Boggs, meanwhile, finds comfort and solace in a twenty dollar hooker. At the office. When he leaves the money on her coat, we never actually see her take it. With the dawn breaking over LA, Boggs sits in his chair with a drink and a dry toothbrush. He then brushes his teeth…and so begins a new day.

Fresh as a daisy, Boggs goes to Clifton Farrow’s apartment, the man Hickey found dead. The apartment is still an active crime scene with the LAPD but he fanagles a key to the place from either a neighbor or the landlady (making it sound like he was a cop) and goes in to poke around.

As he pokes around the place, he sees a note about a Rams/Falcons football game in a date book. Boggs helps himself to the day old bacon that’s been sitting on the stove since the man was killed and while in the kitchen, he hears the snap of a mouse trap from under the sink. He opens the cupboard and finds the mouse, releasing it. He then finds a small jewelry box taped to the drain pipe under the sink. Inside the box are two $1000 bills.

Large denomination bills, by the way, were last printed in the 1940s and discontinued by the Federal Reserve in 1969. Although the Fed began removing the bills from circulation, criminals would have still had an interest in them for various illegal transactions, such as the drug or arms trade. As the viewer, we know Mary Jane is trying to unload the cash and she obviously couldn’t spend it on new clothes, not without getting somebody’s attention.

When he’s done snooping through the apartment, Boggs returns the key to a patrolman, claiming he ended up with it by mistake. Mr. Brill’s soldiers, on orders to check out the same leads Hickey and Boggs are following, drive by in their GTO and see the cops hanging around the place which pretty much tells them all they need to know.

Later, Boggs meets up with Hickey at a hot dog stand. Hickey was to check with the florist Quamando brother, but the flower shop was closed. Boggs shows him what he found in Farrow’s apartment. He then says that he tried to call Rice but Rice’s answering service had been shut off with no forwarding number. They each order up a couple of really horrendous looking chili dogs.

They turn what they found over to the police. As is typical, there is no love lost between these two PIs and the police department. Sergent Papadakis (Vincent Gardenia) and Detective Shaw (Jack Colvin) are naturally annoyed that Boggs walked into an active crime scene.

Still, Boggs made a note of what he had found in Farrow’s apartment even though it didn’t seem like it had anything to do with Mary Jane. Along with the two $1000 bills was a note with some names on it and he copied down the names.

From here they go to check with the florist. He says he hasn’t seen Mary Jane in five years or more.

Shut out, Hickey and Boggs regroup outside the florist shop looking at the names Farrow had written down with the two $1000 bills. There was also an address noted which they decide to check on. They drive off just as the torpedoes show up to beat the same information out of the florist.

The address they check is for a hotel, where the room is rented to a Mary Florida. She hasn’t been seen for a few days. For $50 Boggs gets a key to the room and a promise from the receptionist that she would phone them if any heat shows up.

The room is sparse but Boggs finds an envelope in a drawer with the same Rams/Falcons seat numbers written on it as was found in Farrow’s apartment. The mob torpedoes then show up and the two PIs go out the window to the fire escape before the thugs arrive, with Hickey hanging on a drain pipe and Boggs trying to bust in to another room from the fire escape. The torpedoes, meanwhile, are tearing the hotel room apart. Fatboy can’t find anything productive to do so he finds a doll and proceeds to tear that apart. (Makes you wonder what he’d do to a woman. Eeeeyah…)

Hickey keeps hanging on to the drain pipe despite Boggs telling him to come on and sees Fatboy rip apart the doll. When Fatboy goes to look out the window and puts his hand on the windowsill, Hickey pushes the window down with his foot and crushes Fatboy’s hand.

The two PIs crash through another room’s window and run like hell (for the most part. Culp can’t run worth a damn here and even goes tumbling down the bottom of the stairs. But there’s a reason for that. Stay tuned). When they get outside, Boggs grabs his “out of order” paper bag off the parking meter and runs to the back of the torpedoes GTO. He stuffs the bag in the gas cap and lights it. He and Hickey take off as the torpedoes come out of the building and start shooting at them….and the GTO blows sky high.

The next morning, Hickey comes into the office with the mail. They get a letter from Rice, taking them off the case. Boggs assumes Rice found Mary Jane, but Hickey doesn’t think so (and the letter doesn’t specify). Considering the heat they had on them at the hotel, Hickey figures Rice was scared off. Hickey’s not about to be scared off and he pulls out his gun and starts loading. Boggs joins him, after reinforcing himself with a shot of booze first. But he asks Hickey if he really wants to go to this point. It may be better for them to just run.

Nope. Hickey isn’t running. And as such, neither is Boggs. “Yes, sir, I like your style…” he says after Hickey leaves to go see the florist again.

The thing about this part that I don’t get is why Boggs discouraged Hickey from wearing the shoulder holster. It’s gotta be a pain in the rear to have to lug around a .44 wrapped up in a towel or a newspaper under your arm. The only thing I can think of is it was too “cop like” to wear the holster.

When Hickey gets to the florist shop, he finds Quamando is dead.

The police, meantime, have run a trace on the two $1000 bills found in Farrow’s apartment. Turns out they were part of a bank robbery in Pittsburg the previous winter. Over $400,000 was stolen. Three guards were killed along with three of the robbers. The driver got away but then he was found dead later, the money and his girlfriend missing.

The girlfriend was never identified.

The police have Hickey and Boggs brought in because the recent deaths keep tying back to this money. Come to find out there’s a reward out for the recovery of the money: $25,000. This gets the boys attention.

Back at the bar, Hickey is running over everything again figuring Mary Jane was the girlfriend and is trying to unload the money. Boggs tells him not to worry about that now and that they were going to the football game the next day. Hickey doesn’t care about going to any football game. “We’re looking for Mary Jane Bower, not Roman Gabriel. Twenty-five thousand dollars…” Undeterred, Boggs asks what kind of odds Hickey wants. “On the Rams?” Hickey asks.

“On Mary Jane being at the ball game.”

They go to the game (and somehow got in as ushers) but Mary Jane doesn’t show. The wait around until the stadium clears out. The note Boggs found in Mary Jane’s hotel room matched what Farrow had on his date book: Rams – Falcons + 1. And three seats specified. After some thought, they figure that the plus 1 might be plus one day.

The next day, they go back to the Coliseum (with guns wrapped in towels and newspapers – seriously fellas, holsters woulda been more practical!). Boggs has scratched a new name on the copy of the note from Farrow’s apartment – Edith – with a phone number. His ex-wife who’s been dumped by some boyfriend in Westwood with a bigger house and has crawled back to Frank wanting help. Hickey’s raised eyebrow is commentary enough.

Inside the Coliseum, they wait in the tunnels for Mary Jane to show up. They’re not the only ones lying in wait, the torpedoes are waiting too. Mary Jane shows up, as does the bag man she was going to deal with, but she spots not only Boggs at the entrance to one of the tunnels, she sees one of the torpedoes. She stays in the shadows of another tunnel, while the bag man waits in the seat in the stands for about five minutes. When Mary Jane doesn’t show, he gets up to leave.

Hickey and Boggs chase after him…well, Hickey chases after him as Boggs drops back because he can’t run worth a damn…only for the bagman to get blown away by Nick. Our fearless PIs end up in a shootout with Nick, Fatboy gets the bag man’s brief case of cash and the torpedoes make their getaway, but not before Boggs puts a bullet in the back window of their car. (Best shot of Culp in the whole movie.)

 Meantime, Prisoner Quamando is released on parole. Mary Jane isn’t just his girlfriend, she’s his wife and they have two children (one of whom is played by Jason Culp).

The police are less than enthused about the shootout at the Coliseum. Papadakis blows his stack and Lt. Wyatt (James Woods) warns the two PIs that he’ll basically put them out of business if this escalates further.

The two PIs press on though, as Bogg’s eloquently puts it, “We gotta find that bitch before they do.” They go over the names Farrow had on the note that was with the money Boggs found originally. The addresses for these people Farrow did not write down, so the phone book provides the answer and another hot dog break.

When he goes to see Eleana Cole, Boggs doesn’t know it but he ends up face to face with Rice, the guy who had hired him and Hickey to begin with. He asks to see Mrs. Cole to talk about Clifton Farrow and Mary Jane Bower. He’s brought in to see what turns out to be Mr. Leroy (another name on Farrow’s note), a black revolutionary.

They meet on the back patio of the house that faces the ocean. Yes, it is really hanging precariously off a cliff!

While Boggs is doing that, Hickey is back at the office where he gets a phone call from Mary Jane. Mary Jane also phones Mr. Brill and contacts Rice to make a deal. Boggs finds out about the phone call when he gets back to the office, where he loads up on booze and a cigarette. Culp is not at his prettiest here (nor is he supposed to be.)

The meeting with Mary Jane is to take place in Parking Lot 32 of Dodger Stadium. Hickey and Boggs are waiting, as are the torpedoes. A man in drag shows up (this is the guy Rice sent – in drag on purpose). Hickey and Boggs think they have Mary Jane. So do the torpedoes who come barreling out of the dark and start shooting. The man in drag goes down. Bogg’s car ends up getting blown up (“500 cars in the lot and the bastards blow up mine!”). Hickey, however, nails Nick and the torpedoes get away.

The man in drag turns out to be one of the leads they couldn’t find, a guy named Bledsoe. Hickey then realizes that they were set up.

The police are at their limit now. Lt. Wyatt  is ready to pull their ticket and put them out of business. They’re facing charges now (witholding evidence, abetting felonious conduct) and their lawyer can’t offer much help. As they walk out of the PIs office and down the hall, Hickey stops at one point and says “I dunno…” and as if on cue there’s the sound of a toilet flushing in the background. Appropriate, since that’s about where these two are at.

Hickey figures it’s time to get out of the PI business. “It’s not about anything,” he tells Boggs.

“Yeah it is. It’s about four hundred grand…” More than that, it was about $25,000 – money both of them needed pretty badly.

While things are looking pretty dire on the professional level, with either the cops or the mob going to bury them, Hickey seems to be improving his relationship with Nyona on a personal level. It would be the last bright spot for him, however. The only bright spot Frank has is to see his ex-wife Edith (who he still pines for) back at her old job – as a stripper. She was previously barred from this particular club but the guy owed Frank a favor, so Edith was hired back. This allows Frank to basically be tortured by watching her dance.

Hickey lets it go for about a minute and then yanks Frank out of the place by the arm. Edith expresses her insincere thanks. “Kill yourself.”

Out on the street, Hickey and Boggs have to pick up the pieces. Boggs decides to check up on the Prisoner Quamando. Hickey says he’ll go back to the house at the beach (Mrs. Cole) and see what more he can find out. Frank also has to get himself another set of wheels.

Not only does Frank find another set of wheels, he finds another damn blue T-bird. And no, I don’t know what the point was of pulling the door latch was all about. He doesn’t kick the tires. He doesn’t even test drive the thing. He takes it, as is. Even the car dealer is surprised (and no, it’s not Cal Worthington – whose commercials can be heard on the tv in the bar scenes).

Hickey, meanwhile, goes back to Mrs. Cole’s house only to find it literally has fallen off the cliff!

Frank returns home with his new T-bird (which he looks back at as he walks to his front door – don’t we all do that with a new car?) only to find his house has been broken in to. He calls Hickey to warn him that the torpedoes might be on their way to his place (note the interstate running through Bogg’s front yard as he’s talking on the phone.) But the torpedoes have already been at Hickey’s place. Nyona, who was finally starting to thaw to Hickey and had been at his place, was in the wrong place at the wrong time…

This is where Culp’s directing style is unique. We don’t see what happened to Nyona. We don’t even see all of her on the screen. We don’t have to. Earlier in the film we saw Fatboy tear apart a doll. Here we see the blood splatters on her legs, the electrical cord and the two by four wrapped around one leg… Only a moron would stop and whisper to the person next to them in the theatre and asks “what happened to her?”

Hickey is devastated by what happened. One of the most powerful scenes in the whole movie is Hickey sitting on the front steps of Nyona’s house, while her little girl mindlessly goes back and forth on the small patch of lawn with a push mower. They don’t say a word to each other but there’s some kind of consolation going on. The child means a lot to Hickey and we’re pretty sure that Hickey had come to fill a void in the little girl’s life for a father. But then Nyona’s mother (played by Isabelle Sanford) spots him sitting there and comes out of the house and rips into him, basically blaming him for Nyona’s death. As she’s yelling at Hickey, calling him a no good rotten son of a bitch, the little girl stops pushing the mower and just crumbles to the ground.

As the grandmother consoles the little girl, Hickey can only watch heartbroken. Behind him, traffic on the freeway whizzes by, oblivious.

Hickey is pretty much stone faced when Boggs meets up with him at the bar again. Boggs found out that the Prisoner Quamando was paroled a couple of days before and that his wife’s name is Mary Florida Quamando. Bingo. He got their address too and is ready to go. He figures Hickey wants to get the torpedoes, if they find the woman, the torpedoes wouldn’t be far behind. But Hickey just sits there.

Boggs runs the gamut, first trying to get Hickey to move, then admonishing him for quitting, then joining him for a drink, then getting really pissed reminding Hickey of his speechify earlier about how Frank couldn’t go bad now because of some woman he couldn’t get over. Boggs is a little callous here as his ex-wife hadn’t been killed but…

Frank then declares he’s going to go after that $25,000 reward and he up and leaves the bar, but he doesn’t go far. After a moment, he comes back and he tells Hickey that he can’t bring Nyona back and he can’t make up for what he missed. The only thing he could do was to even things up. Make things right.

On that note, Boggs starts to leave again but he pauses. He’s really not going to go without his friend and partner and when he looks back to see where Hickey is at, Hickey is following after him.

They go see Quamando and manage to get into the middle of things just as Quamando is about to go through with a deal with Rice and Mr. Leroy. By this point the pieces have all come together. Quamando worked for the LA mob and Mary Jane had got the money in Pittsburgh and brought it back to LA. But he went to prison and instead of delivering the money to the mob in LA, Mary Jane sat on it for a while before looking for a buyer – with a better deal than the mob. She originally had a deal with Farrow but he wanted a bigger cut which was why he was taken out of the equation completely. But as soon as she started putting the money out on the street, the mob got tipped off and the pressure was on. Quamando goes to the mob looking “to come home” but they want him to collect another bonus. So they tell him to go through with the deal with Rice and Mr. Leroy.

The mob, however, have one more trick up their sleeve.

Quamando brings the two PIs with him when he meets with Rice and Mr. Leroy. They drive on to the beach where they’ll meet up with Mary Jane, who will have the money with her.

Mary Jane arrives by plane (earlier in the film, when Hickey and Boggs are looking in her hotel room, there are pictures of small aircraft on her wall) and lands on the beach. She hands the suitcase of money to Quamando who turns and throws it into the sand at Rice and Mr. Leroy. He doesn’t even take their bag of money in return. He takes Mary Jane by the hand and starts to walk her back to the plane.

Over the cliff along the beach, however, comes a helicopter with Mr. Brill’s soldiers in it.

A shootout ensues. Rice goes down, Mr. Leroy had a couple of his boys riding in the trunk of the Rolls and he pulls them out but they’re no match for the mobsters in the chopper. They’re cut down in the sand. Mr. Leroy tries hiding in the trunk of the Rolls himself, but the bullets from the mobster automatic rifle cuts holes into the car and the trunk.

While this is happening, Mary Jane and Quamando are turning the plane around on the beach. The chopper hovers back over to them and the gunman hesitates for a moment. Just when you think they might be spared, they’re not. In a cloud of dust kicked up by the chopper we hear the gun fire and when the dust clears, Mary Jane and Quamando are dead.

This is another part where Culp’s directing is unique. I actually felt sorry for these two when I shouldn’t have. I mean, Mary Jane blew a guy away earlier in the film. Yet the death of these two characters wasn’t at all satisfying in terms of any justice served.

When the mob soldiers think they’ve got everybody taken care of, they drop Fatboy down to the beach to pick up the both the $400,000 suitcase and the paper bag of money from the deal, the “bonus.” Fatboy no more than picks up the suitcase when suddenly there’s thunder from Bogg’s .44.

An intense shootout takes place between the heavies and the PIs. Mr. Leroy’s Rolls Royce and Quamando’s Firebird get shot full of holes but essentially protect Hickey and Boggs against the automatic rifle of the mob gunman. They get a break when the rifle jams and Boggs, who earlier in the movie complained that he needed a bigger gun because he couldn’t hit nothing, nails the gunman in the chopper. The force of the hit sends the gunman into the lap of Monte who is piloting the chopper and Monte can’t keep the bird in the air. The chopper crashes down to the beach.

Monte is still alive but he can’t get the dead weight of the gunman off of him to climb out of the wreckage of the now burning chopper. Fatboy tries to move in closer to help but the flames consume the remains of the bird and it blows up.

Fatboy is the last man standing against the PIs. He pulls on a piece of the chopper literally fighting with it before it comes loose. Hickey and Boggs just watch him and when he has it loose he turns to them. Neither PI feels particular threatened by Fatboy. (I think Fatboy knows he’s a goner anyway). Hickey’s gun is empty so Bogg’s hands over his .44. With what turns out to be Bogg’s last bullet, Hickey takes Fatboy down.

And the movie ends with so much death and carnage…and nobody showed up. The beach was empty and even when we see a shot of the other end of the beach (where there are some people!) apparently nobody dared even pay attention to what was going on. How could they not? There were about as many bullets flying on this beach as there was at Normandy. And with the plane and the helicopter…nobody noticed?!?!

Anyway, Hickey and Boggs got to the end of it with their lives and this time they got the bag money. The stolen $400,000 in the suitcase is left on the beach and the two PIs walk off into the sunset…they’re own futures perhaps not to be much longer.

 

 

My additional commentary will be in a separate post, but I did want to note the various cast members of this film, all of whom were excellent.


Robert Mandan (Mr. Brill) – Played Chester Tate on Soap and showed up a several times on Cannon, Maude, The Love Boat, Barnaby Jones and Santa Barbara.  Also had a recurring role on Three’s Company (and Three’s a Crowd) and the short-lived Private Benjamin.


Michael Moriarty (Ballard – Brill’s right hand man) –  Known for his role as Executive A.D.A Ben Stone on Law & Order and also appeared Bang the Drum Slowly and in Clint Eastwood’s 1985 western Pale Rider. One of Moriarty’s earliest film roles is Hickey & Boggs.


Tommy Signorelli (Nick) – Had minor roles in films such as Kelly’s Heroes, Theif, Dick Tracy and Bang the Drum Slowly (with Michael Morairty and Vincent Gardenia).


Matt Bennett (Fatboy) – Had minor roles in only a handful of films and tv appearances in the ’70s, including the off beat film Dinah East, an episode of Starsky & Hutch, and the 1978 tv mini-series How the West Was Won.


Bill Hickman (Monte) – Actor/stunt driver best known for being the wheelman that drives the black Dodge Charger in Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, and did the driving stunts for The French Connection and The Seven-Ups. Hickman would appear with Culp again (uncredited) in “The Enforcers,” the first episode for the short lived Shaft tv series in 1973.


Lou Frizzell (lawyer). Character actor with several credits, including the 1971 film Duel, Bonanza, Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones. Some descriptions of Hickey & Boggs credit him as the man that hires the two detectives. This is incorrect. He’s their lawyer, who tells them that he’s “a lawyer, not a magician” when it comes to trying to get them out from under the charges they face after the Dodger Stadium incident.


Lester Fletcher  (Mr. Rice) – This is the guy that hires the PIs. Character actor often cast as a fashion designer, he had various credits, including the 1961 film Operation Eichmann (with future Hogan’s Heroes stars Werner Klemperer and John Banner), and appearances on such shows as The Doris Day Show, The Rockford Files and The Streets of San Francisco.


Ed Lauter (in a bit part here as Ted, the patrolman that Boggs gives the key to) – Veteran actor easily recognizable as he’s had a plethora of roles in film and television throughout his career. Also known as Captain Knauer in the original  The Longest Yard and had a recurring role as Captain/Sheriff John Sebastian on The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo and BJ and the Bear. He and Culp would cross paths again in the 1996 Olivier Gruner action flick Mercenary.


Vincent Gardenia (Sgt. Papadakis) – Previously appeared with Culp and Cosby on an I Spy episode “Get Thee to  a Nunnery” and work with Culp again on the 1980 miniseries The Dream Merchants. He had a recurring role in All in the Family as Frank Lorenzo and also known for his role as Detective Frank Ochoa in Charles Bronson’s Death Wish II and as Cher’s dad in 1987’s Moonstruck.


Jack Colvin (Detective Shaw) – Best remembered as investigative reporter Jack McGee who chased after The Incredible Hulk for five seasons on CBS, Colvin also had roles on The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak and The Rockford Files.


James Woods (Lt Wyatt) – Hugely successful actor whose career has spanned the past 40 years, one of Wood’s earliest film roles was here.


Isabel Sanford (Nyona’s mother) – Best remembered as Louise Jefferson on the The Jeffersons, Isabel made her film debut in 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?


Rosalind Cash (Nyona) – Prolific actress with many film and television roles including The Omega Man, Uptown Saturday Night and television appearances on Kojak, Starsky & Hutch, The Cosby Show and A Different World.

Prisoner Quamando and Mary Jane Bower – were played by real life husband and wife Louis and Carmenchristina Moreno.

Two final cast notes, Roger E. Mosley (T.C. on Magnum PI, Coach Ricketts on Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper) has an uncredited role as one of the black revolutionaries and Robert Culp’s son, Jason, is seen as Quamando’s son.

You can view the trailer for the film here.

 

This is Hickey and This is Boggs

Magazine clipping that, unfortunately, I don’t know what magazine it comes from. However, I do know it’s from England. This was part of a small collection of foreign clippings related to Robert Culp I found on eBay a couple of years back.

Hickey & Boggs: The Trailer

Part of my 40th Anniversary look at Hickey & Boggs, here’s an original trailer, this being a 55 second television spot that ran back in 1972 that I found on YouTube sometime back in 2011.


I’ll be honest in that I wasn’t really bowled over by this trailer – and I had already seen the movie multiple times. The disadvantage, of course, is I’m looking at this from a perspective forty years after the fact and I’ve been spoiled over the years by the likes of voice over folks like Don LaFontaine. (Can you imagine if Don LaFontaine had done the trailer for this one?). The voice over here sounds like Jack Webb and it has almost a Dragnet feel to it. The music –although definitely early 70’s flavor – is totally wrong for the film (infact, it’s not even music used in the film). The clips used are great and certainly show the down and out feel of the characters and the good action scenes in the film, but the music and voiceover just don’t cut it.  And the line about “they’ll knock you out of your seat” …um, eeeyeah.

Having been kind of disappointed in the original trailer (I think the movie deserved better), I was inspired to try to edit together one of my own. Now, mine’s probably no better than the original and I’ll admit my editing skills are pedestrian. Plus, I don’t have Don LaFontaine to do the voice over (in fact, I have no voice over with this). But, ever have an idea grab at you and not let you go until you do whatever it is it asks?