One of the great things about my job writing for Comic Book Resources is that I meet many cool writers, and a lot of them have really good tastes. So I get introduced to a lot of cool stuff. The most recent example of this is Duane Swierczynski, writer of some Marvel Comics’ excellent “Cable” series and some kick-ass crime novels, introduced me to an obscure ’70s detective movie via his blog. I really enjoyed it. It was called “Hickey & Boggs”
“Hickey & Boggs” is a grim, violent, private detective movie starring . . . wait for it Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. Now my parents’ generation knew the Cos and Culp best as the stars of the old show “I, Spy” which I’ve never seen an episode of, but I hear it’s a pretty good and pretty serious show. I was introduced to Bill Cosby first through things like “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” and his classic stand up special “Bill Cosby Himself”. And of course later as Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show”. Robert Culp I knew best from his role as FBI agent Bill Maxwell on “The Greatest American Hero”.
Comedy was a big part of all of those things. So I wasn’t used to seeing either actor in serious roles. So it was fun to watch Cliff Huxtable say, “Mother fuck” and blow some guys away with his .357. Plus both actors nailed the serious scenes, Cosby especially. There’s a development in the latter half of the movie that leaves his character a haunted and angry man and the Cos nails it.
That’s not to say that there aren’t funny bits in the movie either. The chemistry between Cosby and Culp is very apparent. The movie is pretty bleak, but you buy that these characters are long time friends that will walk through hell for each other. This leads to some fun, joking moments that occasionally have a buddy picture feel.
Culp does double duty in the film as a director, and for a first time director he’s pretty damn good. There’s a lot of shots that give you extra information about the characters and the story and they do so subtly. The film rarely hits you over the head with anything. Plus the film’s action sequences: shoot outs at an LA football arena, a parking lot, and a climatic beach gun fight are all pretty exciting.
The story of “Hickey and Boggs” is admittedly more than a little complex and convoluted. The title characters are Private investigators hired to find a missing women. They’re investigation has many twists and turns and eventually puts them in conflict with both The Outfit (the all powerful ’60s-’70s incarnation of the mob) and a militant black power group. All of the connections in Walter Hill’s script can be hard to pick up on, but interesting enough they don’t really matter because at one point Cosby’s disillusioned character says of his job, “It’s about nothing anymore.” And a way he’s right.
What’s important about “Hickey & Boggs” is the journey these characters go on. It’s a violent one. It beats the hell out of them emotionally and physically and it’s pretty fascinating to watch. Like some of the best noirs it ends with the main characters trying to do what they feel is right and get some payback. And of course the end result is never what they bargained for.
Another fun aspect of “Hickey & Boggs” is that it’s filled with some recognizable actors, and a number of them would go on to bigger fame. Vincent Gardenia (Little Shop of Horror’s Mr. Mushnick) and James Woods play cops. Michael Moriarty (Law & Order) has hair in the movie and he works for the mob. Other actors with smaller roles include Ed Lauter ( character actor who’s been in a ton of stuff) as a cop and Roger E. Mosley (T.C. from Magnum P.I.) as a black millitant.
So if your fan of ’70s style noir and crime films do yourself a favor and see “Hickey & Boggs”. It’s a pretty great and entertaining movie. The DVD is out of print and from what I understand you don’t want to see it anyway because the picture quality is terrible. iTunes has a nice quality copy available to both rent or buy. That’s what I did and I wasn’t disappointed.
Thanks to my friend Trevor Snyder’s October Zombie-Thon feature at the 411 Mania website I’ve been turned on to all sorts of movies featuring the flesh hungry undead. I’ve also been encouraged to check out some films on my own. This weekend in honor of Halloween I checked out one of the entries in the growing Nazi Zombies sub-genre, the Scottish film “Outpost” starring Ray Stevenson of “Rome” and “Punisher War Zone” fame. It ended up being an entertaining film, but it’s flaws kept it from being a great one.
In the film Stevenson plays D.C., the leader of a team of mercenaries hired by a businessman to protect him on a recovery mission deep in the heart of an unnamed and war torn Eastern European country. Their destination turns out to be an abandoned underground outpost. D.C. and his men explore the titular outpost and discover a pile of bodies. They also turn up evidence that the facility was used by the Nazi’s for some mysterious purpose. Soon something begins kidnapping, torturing, and killing members of the mercenary army; an useen force that can seemingly disappear and reappear at will. As the attacks escalate D.C.’s client reveals the real purpose of his mission. He’s there to recover a device the Nazis hoped would create a race of invincible super soldiers. What it actually did was turn a platoon of vengeance hungry SS soldier into angry undead monsters.
The most intriguing things about “Outpost” have to be it’s tone and story. Some have classified it as a zombie movie but I think it’s more of a ghost story mixed with an action movie. It’s a low budget film and it’s very ambitious .You can see elements of movies like “Aliens”, “Dog Soldiers” as well as elements from various haunted house films. The actual back story involving what happened at the “Outpost” is cool in a pulpy weird menace sort of way. It feels like something out of a “Hellboy” comic. And there are some genuinely creepy and cool scenes, like when reality shifts ominously to announce the arrival of the full platoon of undead SS troopers, who then march on D.C. and his men
Where “Outpost” falls flat though is in some of the characters and the acting. Stevenson is pretty decent as D.C. Michael Smiley (Tires from the British sitcom “Spaced”) is entertaining as an ex-Scottish soldier and Enoch Forst who plays a former african child soldier turned Belgian Peacekeeper turned mercenary is also pretty good. Richard Burke’s American ex-Marine, Prior, comes off as a psychotic dick though and is more annoying than interesting. The rest of the cast is pretty generic for lack of a better term. They might as well have been wearing Star Trek style Red Shirts.
The other thing about the characters in the movie was they all had different and very thick accents. And unfortunately none of the actors in the movie were really good at speaking up or annunciating their lines. So even though the entire movie was in English there were some scenes where the dialogue was so garbled that I found myself wishing for sub-titles.
So Outpost is by no means a great movie, possibly not even a good one, but it was an entertaining way to spend a Friday night. There’s a sequel being developed that promises to expand upon the interesting backstory of it’s undead Nazi menace and I’ll definitely add it to my Netflix que when it becomes available.