Hickey & Boggs: 40th Anniversary

It was 40 years ago this September/October of 1972 that Robert Culp’s only feature length directing effort, Hickey & Boggs was released. The film starred Bill Cosby along with Culp and although it was not a big commercial success at the time of its release, the film has obtained something of a cult status and is now considered a lost gem of early 70’s noir.

I’m biased, of course, but this movie really is a lost gem. As such, and since Hickey & Boggs truly was a significant milestone in Robert Culp’s career, it seemed natural that my next “capapalooza” post would be for the film and I would have it ready by the time of the 40th anniversary. I actually started working on the post way back in January since I knew it would probably run a little long between the number of screens caps I had and doing the overview of the film.

A little long? The whole thing literally got away from me. I have hundreds of screen caps, the overview ran waaay too long plus I had tons of commentary. The whole thing ended up a monster.

So instead of one great big LONG overkill of a post, I decided to break things up into smaller parts. There will still be the usual big capapalooza post (with some restraint on the overview) but I will separate out most of my commentary and other tidbits and gems about the film into other posts. So stay tuned over the next few weeks for more on Hickey & Boggs.


Inside Out – Trailer (non US)

While roaming around YouTube lately I came across this foreign trailer for Inside Out. It’s in Farsi. In fact, the description on the video reads (thanks to a Farsi to English translator – though I wouldn’t stake my life on this): “Trailer “the price of a prisoner” Indonesia with Farah F. Voice. Reconstructed by myself.” I have not ever seen what the trailer for US audiences was but I would guess that this is probably pretty close, the only differences being the language overdub and some sound overdubs (the car racing across the bridge to make the jump).

Sky Riders

Originally released, 1976

**Contains spoilers**

Back when Culp material on YouTube was still pretty thin (2008/2009), I was pleasantly surprised to find this movie. Although the plot stretches things just a tad, it’s a good entertaining 90 minutes spent. Plus, I was knee deep in Maxwell Mania by the time I found this and I couldn’t help but see some brief flashes of Maxwell characteristics in Jonas Bracken. Very brief, mind you. The loose necktie and Culp’s particular vocalization in this thing are close to Maxwell (without the brassy language) and the fact that Bracken, for all his money and refined lifestyle, had no qualms about picking up a rifle and jumping into the fray with this thing. Maxwell woulda been proud.

Culp plays Jonas Bracken, an American multi-millionaire international businessman living in Greece, whose family is kidnapped by terrorists moments after he leaves the house for the day. Members of Bracken’s house staff are killed in the process and the kidnappers take off with his wife, Ellen (Susannah Yorke) and two children.

The police notify Bracken and immediately begin investigating, the lead cop being Inspector Nikolidis (Charles Aznavour). The kidnappers have left a two way radio at the house to communicate further instructions to Bracken. Bracken can only wait.

Meanwhile, Jim McAbe (James Coburn) is a black market smuggler of some sort who hears the news when he makes a delivery. Bracken’s son, turns out, is actually McAbe’s but McAbe hasn’t seen the child since he was a baby. He’s nonchalant about the news to the shady sea captain he’s dealing with but once he flies back to land, he goes to see Bracken.

Obviously, he’s quite concerned about what has happened. If there’s any animosity between these two men, given one’s the current husband and the other is the ex, it doesn’t show. Jonas asks McAbe to stick around.

The terrorists have Ellen record a message to Jonas, explaining who they are and what their demands are. She tells Jonas that she and the children are okay and then lays out their demand: Five million dollars in 48 hours, otherwise the family will be executed. Jonas immediately goes to work trying to liquidate every holding and asset he’s got to come up with the $5 million.

When the terrorists contact Jonas again, with another recorded message from Ellen, they know he hasn’t raised all the money yet, but they take what he has gotten so far as a sign of good faith. She tells him that they will be contacting him again at a specific time with the two-way radio. When they do, they have a long laundry list of what they want him to spend the money on. Hundreds of guns and weapons with millions of rounds of ammunition. (Culp’s facial reactions are priceless during this scene – shock, disgust, anger – he runs the gamut).

While the list is being rattled off, the police are trying to zero in on the radio signal. They do and trace it to a truck parked in what looks to be some kind of construction area on a hilltop. The police surround the truck and one of the officers, Dimitiri (the nephew of the Inspector Nikolidis) approaches the truck. He opens the doors and has just enough time to see the tape player equipment – and the bomb.

The explosion kills Dimitri and kills and wounds several other officers.

After this, Jonas gets a package in the mail. A note “to encourage you” and a roll of film negatives. He’s about to turn the note and the negatives over to the police when McAbe tells him not to. Instead they develop the film themselves and find a photo of Ellen and the children who appear okay. They also note what looks to be a painting of some kind behind them in the photo.

Jonas makes a couple of extra copies for McAbe who plans to get Ellen and the children back. McAbe shows the photo to an art historian/dealer that he knows. The dealer pinpoints what the painting is and knows where it is at: A long abandoned monastery that sits high on the mountains, with one road in and no other way to get there. McAbe checks it out and while doing his re-con of the place he figures there’s another way in. To fly.

Of course, he can’t get a plane in there, they’d hear him coming. But if he could get in quietly, like a bird, he’d have a chance. He enlists the help from some hang gliders to teach him how to fly one. Eventually he asks for their help in the whole caper.

Jonas, meanwhile, gets another radio call from the kidnappers who want to know how he is doing getting what they want. They remind him of the photos they sent him, which the police didn’t know about until now. Inspector Nikolidis, overhearing this transmission, asks to see the photos and then tells Jonas that he’s under arrest (for withholding evidence is my guess).

Meantime, the hang gliders decide to help McAbe.

At the police station, the police have traced the location of the terrorists hideout based on the photos. The Inspector plans to go after them the next day. Jonas would rather any police operation wait until he gets his family back by way of the exchange that they want (or by McAbe who, Jonas figures, is going to attempt to get them back). All the same though, Jonas fears if the terrorists get any idea of a rescue attempt to be made, his family will be killed.

The police have also been checking up on McAbe and learn that he has checked out of his hotel and met up with some other Americans. As a result of this news, the Inspector decides they will go after the family immediately.

Jonas again asks for the police to wait, but Inspector Nikolidis says no.

It’s a five hour drive to this monastery. McAbe and his troop of hang gliders are already there and they wait until nightfall to make their landing. The police, meantime, are on their way.

Under the cover of night, McAbe and his crew make it into the monastery and find Ellen and the children. They almost make it out clean but one of the terrorists spots them out a window (easily enough since it’s now morning). The monastery erupts into chaos and shooting with McAbe and everyone trying to get out and the police and Jonas, moving in.

And Jonas, by the way, is right smack in the middle of this thing. After spending the whole movie sitting and worrying, he was spoiling for action at this point. And may I say I’m GLAD they had Jonas smack in the middle of this thing and not sitting in a police car, with the occasional shot of him…sitting and worrying as he hears gunfire off in the distance. Man…

Meanwhile, the gilder pilots, Ellen and the children all get back to the gliders with McAbe staying behind to provide cover as everyone takes off. As they make their getaway, however, they end up in full view from the monastery. The terrorists fire shots, wounding a couple of the flyers but Ellen and the children are unscathed. Jonas and the police shoot at the terrorists to prevent them from shooting any more at the gliders.

The terrorists have one more card to play, a helicopter, and they use it to try to take down the gliders. They also try to take down McAbe but he merely grabs hold of one of the landing skids and hangs on for the ride. The gilder pilots suffer some wounds but manage to clear out with Ellen and the kids. McAbe shoots the rotor/transmission of the chopper forcing it to land.

The terrorists are defeated and Jonas is reunited with his family again.

After all Coburn’s character went through and the great stuff from Culp here during the shootout, I found the wrap up to all this is a huge and total let down. I’m not sure Ellen actually says “thank you” to McAbe in their short exchange before she goes running back to Jonas. McAbe is handed a bottle of booze by the Greek police and carried off on a stretcher to be patched up.

I didn’t notice the first time I saw this, but noticed it when I capped it that Culp puts a little Hoby Gilman in Jonas Bracken as he’s got a six shooter strapped to his hip and tied down. How many multi-millionaire international businessmen do you know own a six shooter, let alone look comfortable enough wearing it? He never pulls the weapon at any point during the shootout, instead using a rifle but he obviously came prepared for this fight.

Despite the fact that Culp does nothing more than look worried throughout this whole flick, he looks soooo good doing it.

But I’ll say again I was glad his character got right into the fray of the rescue.

At the time this movie was released, Sky Riders didn’t cause too much of a stir. It was filmed entirely on location in Greece, but most critics passed over it, one going so far as to call it “a long jump off a short mountain.” Another critic noted that “Culp and Susannah York’s talents were largely wasted here.” If the movie was noted for anything at the time it was for the hang gliding sequences, which are very well done. (Hang gliding was a fairly new sport in 1976, having only been around for a few short years).  Bill von Maurer of the Miami News called the film “perfectly mindless, perfectly harmless adventure movie,” and lamented that if “there had been more hang gliding sequences and less of the kidnapping, ‘Sky Riders’ could have been a lot better movie.”

Quite possibly that was the intent of the screen writer, Hall Sprague. Mr. Sprague, who passed away in May of 2010 at the age of 79 (just two months after Robert Culp passed), was a sociologist and noted musician, playwright and screenwriter in the San Diego area who wrote several screen plays. Sky Riders was the only one that made it to the screen but according to Hall’s son Hall wasn’t happy with the final result, not liking the James Bond-ish spin that it ended up with. Mr. Sprague is credited with the story for the movie (others are credited with the screenplay) and is also listed as an associate producer of the film.

The cast included, of course, star James Coburn (The Great Escape, Our Man Flint), and Susannah York (They Shoot Horses Don’t They? Superman). Additional cast notes include international singing star Charles Aznavour as Inspector Nikolidis, iconic French model (and one time girlfriend of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones) Zouzou as the female terrorist that watches over Ellen and the children and John Beck as the lead glider pilot, Ben, who would later play Mark Graison on Dallas in the 1980s.

Also of note is Ernie F. Orsatti, as one of the glider pilots, Joe, (and as a stunt coordinator). Those familiar with The Greatest American Hero will recognize him as one of the hit men from the episode “The Hit Car.” Although Ernie has several acting credits to his name he is better known for his long career in Hollywood as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, having worked on such films as The Poseidon Adventure (he’s the one that does the fall into the glass ceiling as the ship is turning over), three of the Death Wish movies, Hoosiers, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and dozens of television shows including LA Law, The Practice, Charmed, The Closer and more recently, Big Love.

James Coburn’s chopper ride and a clip of a hang gilder landing in a herd of sheep were used in the opening title sequence to the 1980s tv series “The Fall Guy.”

Sky Riders was previously available from modcinema.com and was one of their top selling DVDs.  My caps are based on that copy of the film. The movie was given an official release through Shout Factory! in 2011 (paired with another Coburn film “The Last Hard Men”) and can be seen in it’s original wide screen format.

Hannie Caulder Revisted: Tidbits

Mining the Google news archive for Hannie Caulder resulted in tidbits that were more of the one line Hollywood trashy gossip vague variety rather than anything of any substance. Some of it left me scratching my head, such as this titillating tidbit from entertainment writer/television critic Jack O’Brian in April of 1971: “The big explosion in Spain was Raquel Welch and Bob Culp battling for real on the set of “Hannie Caulder.”

And that’s all he wrote. What?! Are we implying here that Culp and Welch went toe to toe about something? Or did somebody confuse Culp with Patrick Curtis, Welch’s husband at the time? (The two were on the outs during the filming of this movie.) Of course, do you think I could find anything more about this supposed battle royal? Of course not.

A year later, in May of ‘72, Mr. O’Brian wrote: “Raquel Welch wears just a poncho and a gun in her “Hannie Caulder” Western. Her contract lets her okay every still used.”

I then found a few mentions by the blunt and often catty Hollywood columnist Joyce Haber, who wrote in May of 1971, “There’s a scandal brewing over ‘Hannie Caulder,’ the Raquel Welch starrer recently finished in Spain. Few, if any, collected their salaries beyond the first two weeks after shooting started. Certainly not Burt Kennedy, the director, or the cast which co-starred Ernest Borgnine and Robert Culp. ‘Hannie’ is a co-production of David Haft’s Tigon and Raquel “Pat Curtis” Curtwell. But Kennedy has spoken to his lawyer.”

She then followed up on June 2, 1971 with a correction: “David Haft cables from Twickenham Studios, London, that he had nothing to do with Raquel Welch’s latest film “Hannie Caulder.” That’s the one Burt Kennedy has consulted his lawyer about for default of salary. ‘The company is not David Haft’s Tigon nor am I in any way, shape or form responsible for its activities of financial obligations. Any difficulties between that company, Patrick Curtis (Miss Welch’s estranged mate), Burt Kennedy et al, are neither related to nor concern me. I would be most appreciative if you would make this a matter of record.’ Matter recorded, Mr. Haft.”

Incidentally, I found nothing more about the salary dispute and can only assume it was resolved and everyone was paid.

Earl Wilson chimed in as well, commenting on the situation between Raquel Welch and husband Patrick Curtis. Things were not well but on April 8, 1971, Wilson reported that things had been “resolved.” I’m guessing that resolved meant they split up, which was what was reported four days later by Norma Lee Browning of the Chicago Tribune. (Welch and Curtis were divorced by January of ’72).

If the trite breathless Hollywood “news” items weren’t bad enough, reviews for ‘Hannie Caulder’ were not particularly kind or enthusiastic. “A travesty of the western genre.” “Bland Mediocrity.” One reviewer points out that the film can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s a tragedy or a comedy (which I’ll concede is a legitimate point).

Culp, however, apparently took most critics by surprise. In fact, one review put it that “Culp is a surprise also, the pleasantest one.” Another review calls Culp “personable” and says he “plays it like he did in ‘I Spy’ on TV and charms Miss Welch and the audience. “

On the other end of the spectrum, Jamie Portman of the Calgary Herald wrote on August 9, 1972, “With his greying beard, dark jacket and granny glasses, Thomas Luther looks more circuit preacher than lethal gunslinger. Look closer and you make the improbable discovery that it’s really Robert Culp hiding behind all that foliage.

“Mr. Culp appears more embarrassed than smitten by Miss Welch’s charms. Objecting to their ample display, he loans her a pair of his trousers. The trousers, unhappily, are baggy, but Miss Welch solves that problem by visiting the territory’s haberdasher and decking herself out in a pair of suede pants which, after repeated immersion in a bath-barrel, give the impression that she’s been poured into them.”

Mr. Portman later added that “Mr. Culp is stalwart in a bizarre sort of way.” Not sure exactly what he means by that…

Norman Dresser of the Toledo Blade wasn’t thrilled much with the movie at all, commenting that “Miss Welch wears a sack-like poncho throughout the movie, which hides 90 percent of her screen personality.”

And of Culp? Mr. Dresser wrote, “Also on hand, in another off-beat bit of casting, is Robert Culp as a bounty hunter who teaches Miss Welch how to shoot so she can carry out her mission. He teaches her very well, indeed.”

Stefanie Pettit of the Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) was blunt. “Bland at best, this film has simply nothing at all to recommend it” and “if by some chance, (Welch) should become flat-chested later in life, all her talent will be gone.”

Man. As I read these reviews all I could think of was how hard these critics had to work to try an outdo each other in the snark and smarm department back then. Then I realized that nothing’s changed since.

Despite all that, I did find one redeeming piece of Hollywood gossip. This, from an uncredited column from March 12, 1971: “Bob Culp – in Spain doing it with Raquel Welch in ‘Hannie Caulder’ flying on still another trip. Got his shirts back from a local cleaning chick with something new in laundry marks – the home phone number of the senorita who did the ironing.”

Call me. I’ll press your shirts anytime…

My non-snark, non-smarm overview and screen caps of “Hannie Caulder” can be found here.

Inside Out Revisited: Tidbits

I didn’t start mining through the Google newspaper archive until I was doing research for the movie A Name for Evil and now I find myself getting lost looking back through old newspapers. (I’m a history buff anyway).  Subsequently, I’ve been digging through looking for whatever I can for whatever Robert Culp movie or TV show I’m writing about next but since I only just started doing this, movies such as Inside Out (and Hannie Caulder) missed out initially.

So, I did a little searching around and found a couple of interesting tidbits for Inside Out. The first being a note in one of Marilyn Beck’s columns from March 19, 1975, saying that Robert Culp took part in a tennis tournament in Berlin during filming of Inside Out. The tournament, held annually, was called “The Divided City Tennis Competition” and Culp’s partner was a US Consul and career CIA political officer, Merron L. Latta. Culp and Mr. Latta defeated their French opponents 9 – 6.

Another tidbit involved not Culp, but Telly Savalas, who endured tabloid garbage from the Daily Mail alleging that during filming he partied all night until 4am, didn’t remember his lines and kept his co-star (James Mason) waiting.  Savalas filed a libel suit against the Daily Mail and a year later won, to the tune of $56,700.

Mason, for his part, defended Savalas and paid him compliment in court, talking about how inexperienced people tend to put too much emphasis on learning just the lines, while actors like Savalas exercise a little more creativity with the words and dialogue.

Nowhere in any of the articles I found relating to this was there any comment or quote from Culp, who I imagine kept otherwise busy with the tennis tournament and stayed the hell out of  Savalas’s legal issue.

And, of course, I found a few reviews of the movie.  Michael Marzella, a staff writer for the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times panned the movie in February of 1976 calling it “dull” and “hollow trash.” He went further to say that after seeing the movie “any jury in the land would convict (the) actors of attempted suspense and recommend no mercy.”  For Culp specifically, he noted, “Culp smiles very nicely and usually remembers his lines.”

Ouch. Perhaps Mr. Marzella was just having a bad day?

Another reviewer, Jim Moorhead of The (St. Petersburg, FL ) Evening Independent wasn’t quite as harsh in February of ’76, but he lamented the films’ lack of a clever plot. Despite various faults he found with the movie (the lack of using actual German or Russian dialogue in the scenes involving Germans and/or Russians) he did say the film is “a diverting and amusing evening’s entertainment.”

And the last tidbit I found comes from the North Island Gazette of Port Hardy, British Columbia, where the film was screened in the 16mm format fairly early in the film’s release period (March/April, 1976) due to Warner Brothers apparently deciding not to release Inside Out in the 35mm market. This was apparently significant at the time and the Port Hardy screening was only the second such screening of the movie throughout all of British Columbia (after Vancouver). I’m not all that well versed on the technical aspects of the film world at that time, the difference between American and Canadian releases, nor do I fully understand what the difference is between the 16mm and 35mm market – other than the 16mm was usually screened much later after a film’s release, according to the article. But apparently this was a “minor coup” at the time for 16mm markets. If anyone can comment further on this, please do as I’ll admit I’m curious. The article can be read here.

And one final note, from the same Port Hardy article, while the two reviewers in Florida panned the film, Canadian film critic Michael Walsh described Inside Out as “a completely compentent caper film.” I certainly enjoyed the film and you can check out screen caps and my overview here.