Saturday, April 1, 2023

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

I mentioned yesterday that among the movies I watched off the streaming services included a new-to-me blaxploitation movie that sounded interesting. That movie was Jive Turkey, originally released under the title Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes but streaming as Jive Turkey, which you should be able to find on TubiTV.

The movie, released in 1974, tells us at the beginning that it's based on a true story, not that I believe this, and that it's set in 1956, although you'll hear the characters state often enough over the course of the movie that it's 1956, much the way Bette Davis in Jezebel tells us she doesn't have to wear white because dammit, it's the 1850s! How backward and not with the times can you be?

Anyhow, getting back to Jive Turkey, Pasha (Paul Harris, who actually did some serious work in movies like All Night Long) runs the numbers racket, at least for the blacks, in an unnamed midwestern city, although car license plates all imply it's somewhere in Ohio. The bigger Mob outfits in Chicago are getting interested in expanding, and now they've come to Pasha's small corner of the world. Big Tony (Frank DeKova), representing the Chicago interests but having known Pasha from back in the day, meets with Pasha to inform him that Chicago wants to bring Pasha's group into the syndicate. This, of course, is an offer that Pasha can't refuse, although he wants to.

Pasha refuses by getting up, and leaving his girlfriend Serene with Big Tony's bodyguard. Serene responds by taking her ring and slashing the bodyguard's throat with it, killing him! It should go without saying that this is going to leave Pasha a marked man. It's bad enough that he said no to Chicago; but having killed another gangster out in public means that the police and politicians are going to get involved. Although, to be fair, the politicians were going to get involved anyway since it's an election year.

Pasha does have friends on the inside, and it's suggested to him that perhaps he should give up a few small-time underlings so that the politicians can show the voters that they're doing something. Pasha isn't so certain he wants to do that. And he has to worry about Fat Tony and the Chicago men, who want to get revenge. They get to somebody inside Pasha's organization, although their plan isn't necessarily to kill Pasha as to kill one of the second-in-commands. An eye for an eye, after all.

Jive Turkey is a movie that's a bit hard to do a review on, or at least a synopsis of, in part because the movie has fairly obvious budget-related problems. The big issue in that regard is a screenplay that doesn't seem to be well-focused. It also doesn't help that apart from Harris (and I suppose DeKova in his limited screen time), the acting is sub par. That's a shame, because watching the movie, you can clearly see it's the sort of thing that has potential, and could have been helped if it had studio backing to come up with a good screenwriter to fix the problems. That, and better production values.

As things stand, Jive Turkey is an interesting mess, but also not the movie I'd pick to try to introduce people to 1970s blaxploitation.

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