Wednesday, March 24, 2010

RIP, Robert Culp

The fine television and film actor Robert Culp has died at age 79, I'm sad to report.

Although Culp appeared in many films during his acting career of more than fifty years, it is television where he made his bones. Culp was a ubiquitous guest star on television dramas, most notably his three appearances on THE OUTER LIMITS, including the stunning "Demon With a Glass Hand," which was directed by Byron Haskin (WAR OF THE WORLDS) and written by Harlan Ellison. Almost as great as "Demon" is "Architects of Fear," in which Culp plays an American scientist who is transformed into a monster in order to fool the world's superpowers into coming together to fight a common enemy.

Culp was also a regular on the underrated western TRACKDOWN, the groundbreaking 1960s spy series I SPY, and the 1980s superhero takeoff THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. He also appeared several times on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND as the father of Patricia Heaton's character.

In addition to acting, Culp was also an excellent screenwriter, penning episodes of THE RIFLEMAN, CAIN'S HUNDRED, TRACKDOWN, I SPY, and THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. For an excellent history of Culp's three-year run as the star of I SPY, track down (no pun intended) his audio commentaries on Image's I SPY DVDs, which are among the most detailed and candid histories of a television series I've encountered.

Culp also directed one film, and it's one of the best crime dramas ever made by a one-time director. 1972's HICKEY AND BOGGS reunited Culp with his I SPY co-star Bill Cosby as down-and-out private detectives looking for a missing girl and $400,000 from a botched bank robbery. It's a fascinating and downbeat story with terrific action sequences, including exciting shootouts in the L.A. Coliseum and the Dodger Stadium parking lot. It isn't easy to find today--it's never been released on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray--but fans of the private eye genre should keep an eye out for HICKEY AND BOGGS. MGM HD has aired a very nice hi-def print of it.

For more on Robert Culp, see this post on THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, this post on his 1981 TV-movie KILLJOY, and this post on the I SPY novels.

1 comment:

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
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