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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Police Thriller > Hickey & Boggs

Hickey & Boggs


Picture: D     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: B



Some films are so tough and brutal in tone that people cannot handle them and one of the great gems of the 1970s is a police thriller directed by Robert Culp.  Hickey & Boggs (1972) that has never even been issued on VHS!  Now, it makes its debut on a very basic DVD from AIP (NOT to be confused with the long-defunct American International Pictures).  Originally released by United Artists, the film was written by future producing/directing maverick Walter Hill and reunited Culp with his co-star from the TV hit I Spy, Bill Cosby.


If you are used to Cosby with his comedy films, books, TV shows, records, CDs, Picture Pages, and Jello Pudding Pops, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.  Though there is no doubt of his comic capacities or talents, the question could be asked about whether he can just outright act.  His work here more than proves, even above his cycle of theatrical film Comedies with Sidney Poitier and Richard Pryor, that he can do some serious screen acting when given top-rate material and the chance to take risks.  This is some of Cosby’s finest work.


Culp is also impressive, behind and in front of the camera.  He knows the chemistry he has with Cosby, especially after their landmark Spy genre show, and he takes the edgiest side of that to its outright logical conclusion.  U-A did not distribute this widely, but it shows that Culp could have had a second career as a director.  He would helm other projects, but this remains his best such work.


The film involves the robbery of a then-obscene amount of money ($400,000 in 1972 is in the millions now at least) from a main segment of Pittsburgh National Bank (long since absorbed in the even larger PNC Bank) in Pittsburgh, then taken to Los Angeles.  The trail of the money tends to leave some people beaten and even dead, which Hickey & Boggs pick up on.  These not too popular private eyes start to put themselves in increased jeopardy as they investigate a case that gets uglier and uglier.  The story just gets better and better.


The full screen image is from a very old analog tape source that is in poor condition, so expect unfortunate and highly compromised playback, but the print it was sources from was in good shape and there is consistence in all the degraded shots.  The cinematography Wilmer Butler, A.S.C., is terrific, even if this transfer is noisy.  The DeLuxe color is appropriate and it comes up with a look at Los Angeles that is not typical of most films, which is not easy.  The PCM CD 2.0 Mono is average, but still better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono United Artists catalog owners M-G-M would have issued this in, so I will give AIP credit for doing their best with the audio, as monophonic films on DVD rarely come out in PCM sound.  PCM is always warmer and fuller than similar Dolby Digital Mono, so it helps make up for the picture problem.  Ted Ashford’s score is a plus.  The only extras are very basic biographies on Culp & Cosby.


The cast is also very good, with familiar faces far more so now than upon the films release.  They include the late, great Rosalind Cash (The Omega Man), Lou Frizzell, Michael Moriarty, Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons), Vincent Gardenia, Robert Mandan (Soap), Michael Moriarty, Jack Colvin, Ed Lauter & James Woods.  This really was Hollywood’s last golden age and you rarely see casts this strong now.  If you want a strongly entertaining film that is serious, mature, smart and gritty, any effort you need to make is worth getting your hands on Hickey & Boggs.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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