By: Sarah Weinman
August 19, 2017

One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite neo-noir movies from the Sixties (1964–1973).



Al Hickey (Bill Cosby) and Frank Boggs (Robert Culp) are private eyes with unpaid bills, busted marriages, line-etched foreheads, and flasks ready for drinking. They have an assignment: find a woman named Mary Jane and the four hundred grand from a recent bank robbery. And they have an attitude: “It doesn’t mean anything”, Hickey says again and again.

In a movie full of chills — the muscle-bound heavy taking apart a Barbie doll with the loving indifference only psychopaths possess; a middle-aged gentleman sunning himself in a skimpy bathing suit, taking in nearby children; a nihilistic ending — the creepiest moment in Hickey & Boggs happens around the 24-minute mark. Hickey returns home, and hears the shower running. Stealthily, he opens the bathroom door and walks in; the shower curtain is closed but for a crack. The camera pans back to Hickey: a light fills his eyes and a leer crosses his face.

Then, Hickey shouts, “hello!” His estranged wife, Nyona (Rosalind Cash) moves the shower curtain to cover herself. “You think this is so funny, don’t you,” she cries. “Hand me a towel.” It’s supposed to be a light moment — one refracting Cosby and Culp’s work together on the 1965–1968 show I, Spy. Perhaps the scene was improvised, as others in the film were.

When Nyona dies, later, there’s a terrific scene between the detectives — Boggs wheedling a stone-silent Hickey to talk. We are supposed to feel for Cosby’s character, permanently severed from his family, this death above all his fault. Except: that leer. It speaks of Cosby’s utter ease with power over women. It makes us wonder what Culp, his longtime friend, co-star, director, knew of the limits and depths of that power. It makes us think of all the women — not just the women in this movie — dismissed as “that bitch” or “she wanted it” or “had it coming.”

Hickey & Boggs flopped at the box office, and Cosby retreated to his pre-I, Spy persona as America’s Dad. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids premiered in 1972, The Cosby Show in 1984. But the truth was right there — in Hickey & Boggs — for us to see.


KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Kio Stark on THE KILLERS | Alix Lambert on BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | Judith Zissman on ALPHAVILLE | Mark Kingwell on HARPER | Lynn Peril on BLOW-UP | Devin McKinney on SECONDS | Drew Daniel on BRANDED TO KILL | Luc Sante on POINT BLANK | Gordon Dahlquist on LE SAMOURAÏ | Alice Boone on LE CERCLE ROUGE | Brian Berger on COTTON COMES TO HARLEM | Adrienne Crewe on PERFORMANCE | David Levine on THE FRENCH CONNECTION | Dan Fox on GET CARTER | Melissa Gira Grant on KLUTE | Brandi Brown on SHAFT | Kaleb Horton on FAT CITY | Peter Doyle on THE GETAWAY | Sarah Weinman on HICKEY & BOGGS | Annie Nocenti on BADLANDS | Josh Glenn on CHARLEY VARRICK | Gary Groth on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE | Lisa Jane Persky on THE LONG GOODBYE | Mimi Lipson on MEAN STREETS | Sherri Wasserman on SOYLENT GREEN.

MORE MOVIES at HILOBROW: KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: 25 neo-noirs of the Sixties (1964–1973) | James Parker’s BOURNE VARIATIONS series | Alix Lambert’s SÉRIE NOIRE series | Jacob Mikanowski’s SCREEN TIME series | Josh Glenn’s SHOCKING BLOCKING series | Joanne McNeil’s ALL MY STARS series | MORE: including dozens of HILO HERO items on movie directors and actors.


WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Codebreaking, Movies

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