Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - HICKEY & BOGGS, RUNNING SCARE and AVENGING FORCE on Blu-ray ""

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - HICKEY & BOGGS, RUNNING SCARE and AVENGING FORCE on Blu-ray

HICKEY & BOGGS (1972; Robert Culp)
Just like Charles Laughton before him, Robert Culp only directed a single feature film. And like Laughton (with NIGHT OF THE HUNTER), it's good stuff.
HICKEY & BOGGS is a gem of an underrated 70s movie. I must give Quentin Tarantino the credit for making me. Aware of it years ago via some screenings he had of the movie and how I had heard about his declaration of love for it. It wasn't until a few years after that that I caught a screening of it and then later saw it on MGMHD or TCM or something. You see, it hadn't gotten much of a home video release. At one point there was a crappy DVD which was recently (the past few years) followed by an MGM MOD dvd, so this Blu-ray was beyond welcome. 
Hickey and Boggs are old-school detectives. Like their cinematic predecessors before them they charge a daily rate onus expenses. In this case it's $200 per day (which is commented on as  having been effected by inflation early in the film). 
While they feel slightly more modern than Elliott Gould's Marlowe in THE LONG GOODBYE, it wouldn't feel to strange to see Hickey or Boggs bump into him in a bar somewhere or on the beach. Both THE LONG GOODBYE and HICKEY & BOGGS are great Los Angeles detective movies and just great Los Angeles movies in general. One of my favorite mileus in films is L.A. in the 1970s. There's just something about it that makes me want to step into the frame and live in that world. A lot of people (myself included) have great nostalgia for that grimy, dirty New York City that was captured on film in the 1970s. I never even got to see the city in person until around 1996 and I regret that. Same goes for Los Angeles though. Especially since having moved to California in 1999, I have come to appreciate the city much more and have developed a sincere affection for the way it was captured in movies in the 60s and 70s (and earlier). Seeing Elliott Gould or Bill Cosby or Robert Culp running or driving around the same streets that I drive on all the time is a delightful thing I must say. My the city has changed, but there's something kind of magical about it that endures. Anyway, the bottom line is that this is a very solid detective movie and a good Los Angeles movie. It has its humorous moments and also some very dark moments. It carries with it the tradition of the gritty old noirs of the 40s and 50s. The supporting cast is stellar and will have you grinning each time you see another "that guy" actor appear onscreen (Michael Moriarty, Ed Lauter, Vincent Gardenia, Roger E. Moseley, Bill Hickman and of course James Woods).  The disc looks good (featuring the photography from legendary DP Bill Butler). Buy it.

RUNNING SCARED (1986; Peter Hyams)
The "Buddy Cop" movie is one that has endured for a long time. It's easy to see why. As a culture, we seem to very much enjoy stories about police officers and investigations (and also crime). We also obviously love comedy on a large scale so the buddy cop film is a good fit for both of those requirements. Though there were movies of this type before 1986, I think a lot of people think of LETHAL WEAPON (which came out in 1987) as one of the front runners and more memorable early entries in the 1980s rise of popularity in the genre. Sure, I love Riggs and Murtaugh as much as the next guy (in fact my son requested to watch LETHAL WEAPON 3 just last night), but I think Hughes and Costanzo are just as endearing a couple and less often talked about. I personally have fallen in and out of love with Billy Crystal and his comedic stylings over the years. I think I am currently in a renaissance phase of affection for him based on his work in the MONSTERS INC. movies, but watching RUNNING SCARED again reminded me what I used to love about him. He can be a great smartass. Early on in the film, Hughes (Hines) and Costanzo (Crystal) show up to a crime scene and immediately start harassing the cops who are handling it. Costanzo and one of the cops clearly have an antagonistic relationship and he even remarks that the guy should "Go put your nuts in the microwave". This line always makes me snicker and reminds me that movie dialogue has moved away from the word "nuts" being used to describe the male anatomy. We are much more in a "balls" phase right now and while that is endlessly amusing, I do miss the days of "nuts" being referred to regularly in cinema. Another thing I appreciate about RUNNING SCARED is that it is a Chicago movie. Like HICKEY & BOGGS shows love for L.A., RUNNING SCARED does so for Chicago. Chicago is a good city for movies and there have been many great ones that have taken place there. I think I also like the idea of a snowy-scape for a cop movie to take place in. Just helps makes things a little drearier and more menacing somehow. Lastly, you gotta love this cast. Not only are Hines and Crystal wonderful together, but the other actors (Dan Hedaya, Joe Pantoliano, Jimmy Smits, Jon Gries, Steven Bauer and the lovely Darlanne Fluegel) are all next-level character talent and elevate this movie to a fantastic place. Oh lastly, I almost forgot, I liked the trend in the 1980s of having a song and a movie tied together like Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" is tied to this film. I used to love seeing bits of movies that were included in the music videos for these kinds of songs (see below for the "Sweet Freedom" video).
RUNNING SCARED is one of the best buddy cop movies around and this Blu-ray looks good and is worth picking up. 

Special Features:

-A solid audio commentary track from Peter Hyams. He's an intelligent and thoughtful dude and has a lot of things to say about all aspects of the making of the movie from the casting, the location, script and music. Good track.
-a vintage "On Location" promotional featurette (7 mins). This little "making of" includes behind the scenes interviews and video with Crystal, Hines and Hyams.
-Billy Crystal Outtakes (5 mins) - more behind the scenes video of Crystal just being silly on set. He makes a Joan Blondell joke here which I very much appreciated.

Bonus - Billy Crystal promoting RUNNING SCARED on Letterman in late 1986:

Bonus #2 - "Sweet Freedom" - Michael McDonald:

AVENGING FORCE (1986; Sam Firstenberg)
While this movie is something of the odd man out in this trio, I think it fits with the other two somehow. This is an exciting release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics for many because as much as it may not be a "classic" in the traditional sense, it represents one of the first Cannon Films movie releases on Blu-ray from the young label. AVENGING FORCE will hopefully be the first of several Cannon releases they put out (I'm really hoping for a Blu-ray of 10 TO MIDNIGHT among others). This also represents (to my knowledge) the first stateside release of AVENGING FORCE on home video since VHS which is pretty cool. What the film is is kind of the Cannon Films version of the "Most Dangerous Game" story. For some folks that description alone should hopefully be enough to draw your interest, but for those that remain skeptical I understand. The only downside is that the movie takes a tiny bit longer than I'd like to get to that classic plotline. Thankfully Michael Dudikoff and Steve James make a nice set of buddies together and that eases the impact of extra padding. Basically, James is a fella running for senate and is targeted by a loony right-wing faction led by John P. Ryan. Dudikoff is good friends with James so they get entangled with the nutjobs together. The opening/setup business is a little clunky, but once the movie hits its stride it gives you everything you'd want from an entry in the Cannon Films canon. The old VHS cover made sure to highlight Dudikoff using a crossbow, which is certainly a worthy trademark of the movie. Of all the popular martial artist/actors of the 1980s, I have always felt Dudikoff and his films get underrated a bit. Steve James is certainly underrated as well. He's kind of a middle ground between Carl Weathers and Ken Foree and a wonderful action movie actor. As I said, Dudikoff and James make a nice duo and I hope AVENGING FORCE sells well enough to warrant more movies like it getting Blu-ray releases, especially from the Cannon films library. Just seeing the Cannon Films logo on Blu-ray was a treat for me I must say.

Special Features:
KL Studio Classics have put together a nice special edition that I am sure fans will appreciate. The supplements include:
-An Introduction by director Sam Firstenberg (2 mins). He counts this as perhaps his best film and he goes into why very briefly.
-An audio commentary with Sam Firstenberg and star Michael Dudikoff.
-An on-camera interview with star Michael Dudikoff.

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