Wednesday, August 29, 2007

cinema obscura: Michael Sragow on Robert Culp's "Hickey and Boggs" (1972)

Michael Sragow, fab film critic for The Baltimore Sun, rings in with this terse, spot-on capsule appraisal of Robert Culp's neglected "Hickey and Boggs" (1972) in the September 3rd edition of The New Yorker:

"In a rare show of Hollywood respect for a screenwriter, the director Robert Culp gave Walter Hill the credit right after the title. He earned it for his brilliantly conceived script about a private-eye team in seventies Los Angeles who try to live by a strong-silent-guy code at a time when laws and mores have outstripped their hardboiled style. Culp’s staging and editing are ragged, but as Boggs he acts up a quiet storm, and he elicited superb ensemble work from the likes of Rosalind Cash, James Woods, Isabel Sanford, Michael Moriarty, and the uncredited Roger E. Mosley. The plot, about a search for a woman who is peddling stolen cash, involves at least one pervert, various money changers, Black Power spokesmen and radical-chic supporters, and a team of cops led by the perennially dyspeptic Vincent Gardenia. Nearly all of the directorial lapses are forgiven when Culp flashes an idiotic smile at his ex-wife as he watches her perform at a strip club, or when Bill Cosby, as Hickey, in a performance that should have pegged him as a strong, versatile leading man, repeatedly goads his partner into action. Released in 1972. (Moving Image; Sept. 1.)"

I was planning to comment on Culp's film myself but bow instead to Michael. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Michael is also the author of Library of America's "Agee on Film" and has recently completed a biography of the director Victor Fleming. He also contributes reviews to The Atlantic.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Bill Cosby and Robert Culp as the title characters in Culp's "Hickey and Boggs")

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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

5 comments:

Chris said...

"[...] author of Library of America's 'Agee On Film'" -- would that mean *editor* of the Agee volume?

Your mention of King Vidor also gives me a chance to ask your opinion of the Raymond Durgnat co-written volume on Vidor (which I remember liking).

Chris said...

"[...] author of Library of America's 'Agee On Film'" -- would that mean *editor* of the Agee volume?

Your mention of King Vidor also gives me a chance to ask your opinion of the Raymond Durgnat co-written volume on Vidor (which I remember liking).

joe baltake said...

"Editor" may the proper moniker in this casebut I prefer "author." I never read any books on King Vidor. I'm only familiar with this films, although I may check out the Durgnat, along with Sragow's tome.

jbryant said...

TCM showed the King Vidor installment of "The Men Who Made the Movies" just last night. Hell of an interesting guy and a very innovative filmmaker. I haven't read any bios of him, but I did read that book "A Cast of Killers," about his investigation into the William Desmond Taylor murder.

As for "Hickey and Boggs," I saw that when it first came out and would love to see it again, because I have no solid memory of it. Alas, no DVD.

joe baltake said...

Please note that Michael Sragow's upcoming book is on Victor Fleming, not King Vidor as I originally reported. Sorry, Mike.