Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Yeah, it's about four hundred grand."

Though I had noted it awhile back, I hadn't viewed the very underrated 1972 neo noir film, Hickey & Boggs, in a few years. Even though I have both the VHS and the horrid DVD versions of this Bill Cosby and Robert Culp movie (in nowhere near their I Spy modes), I hadn't played either in awhile. But luckily, Corey at The Drowning Machine spotted (paraphrasing) 'the paean Duane Swierczynski penned to the film at Secret Dead Blog'--I highly recommend their insights on this film. And that led to the free Fancast link for the film from a post commenter (which Corey cited, as well). So yesterday, I finally had a couple of hours to myself to watch this on my laptop via the site stream. The film, with Culp directing a Walter Hill screenplay (both excellent), gets better with each viewing. No kidding. I also pick up new items of note each time I watch it. If I can piggyback onto Duane's and Corey's stream of consciousness, I'd like to mention some of these here (spoiler warning for those of you who haven't seen this gem):
  • when the two P.I.'s get to take in a hot dog meal together, it's at the world famous (at least for us Angelenos) Pink's - and I'm pretty sure the last time I was there with the kids I did note Bill Cosby's picture up on their wall of fame (and look what I found on their web site)
  • the pint of liquor Boggs takes a periodic swig from is Dewar's White Label Scotch blend (not that I was ever a drinker of any note, but I use to be a stock person at a liquor store a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away)
  • the parking section for the setup and shoot-out at Dodger Stadium was number 32--which is an athlete number of note, especially for L.A. sports fans: Koufax, Magic, Bill Walton (UCLA), Marcus Allen (as a L.A. Raider), and the pre-notorious O.J. But, that was long ago and that parking lot has changed some--that section # no longer exists
  • the early 60's cars for each of our antihero P.I.'s are a perfect symbol for their down-on-their-luck and out-of-fashion status within the story and this genre in the 70's: Hickey's white Chevy II and Boggs' blue T-Bird (both in beat-to-hell vintage condition)
  • when Boggs seeks a replacement vehicle (and it's the exact same car), the used sales lot he buys it at is not a actual one: the filmmakers used the same Inglewood Oil Field that's been used in many a movie shoot (i.e., the Victory Motel for L.A. Confidential); even author Robert Crais used the location for the climatic shoot-out in his book, Sunset Express
  • lastly, the closing title sequence is a perfect one for this film (in the contrastingly somber tradition of film noir): after Boggs (smartly) picks up the fence's untraceable money and trudges after his partner, the camera beautifully tracks right as it follows the survivors into the background of the setting sun--while in the foreground the lens gathers in the juxtaposed deadly wreckage of the story's other principle characters, who are now strewn about the beach

I really hope one day the legal tangle that's keeping this great film from a proper DVD release gets straightened out. Film and noir fans should see it on a disc with a remastered picture and the extras it deserves. The free stream of this movie, though it has commercial breaks, is the full theatrical release and is a pretty pristine print. Playing it on full screen mode softened it only a mild bit. What's interesting is Amazon is now offering H & B on their Video on Demand service for rent or purchase. So maybe this film is starting to get the attention it warrants. Either way, I'd like to send a big thank you to Corey for sending me Duane's post and to Terrill Lee Lankford for listing the Fancast link in his keen comment.

Note: a great looking print of Hickey & Boggs is now on

Hickey & Boggs

(click to go to it)

BTW, the title of this post is a portion of dialogue - Boggs' earlier answer to his partner Hickey's lament:
It's not about anything.
Oh, yes it is, Hickey. Yes it is.

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  1. First off, the thanks all start with you. Without you, I would probably have read Duane's blog but not followed up on it. But thanks to you, I already knew where he was coming from re this movie.

    And thanks also for IDing Hickey's car for me. I kept getting distracted by Boggs's T-Bird. (What a machine!)

    And being a lifelong Rams fan, I love the line when Hickey tells Boggs, 'We're looking for Mary Jane Bower, not Roman Gabriel.' Wish I could have seen more of that football game.

  2. The Chevy II was something I spotted early as rode in one as a kid. One of my mother's siblings had that same model and drove me around in it.

    As another lifelong Rams fan, I remember fondly being taken to the Coliseum as a kid by one of my uncles to watch their exhibition games in the late 60's. Later, my cousins, uncle, brother and I went to some of some the Rams playoff games. Unfortunately, I was there in the seats at the NFC Championship game, Jan 4, 1976, when we were stunned by the Cowboys 37-7. And it still stings!

    Thanks, Corey.

  3. Ouch! What a painful memory. The only Rams game I've ever attended was an exhibition game between the Rams and Eagles that - for some reason I don't recall - was held here in Columbus in The 'Shoe. I think Dieter Brock was the QB then. Talk about painful.