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Some Things To Know About Trick Baby

By Sandra Mitchell


Some of the more explicit Blaxploitation films do not make the most common themes of these kinds of movies central to the plot. The best of them nod at the traditional issues that abound in black exploitation movies, mostly those that are made making use of things that surround the culture and society of African Americans. Unlike the general exploitation genre, however, this is does not have derogatory underpinnings.

There is one film that might have risen above the rest, as differentiated by the common run of movies here. The film in question is Trick Baby, released in 1972, with a story taken from the novel of a famous black author named Iceberg Slim. The novel is really a very moving tale about African gangsters, something the feature was not able to be.

The movie is about the relationship between two black male con men who are planning their biggest con. These are Blue Howard and White Folks, hustlers working in Philadelphia, the latter being half white and therefore could pass for a white man. This is central to all their cons, and also their ace in the con that they are planning.

Of course racial dynamics propel the plot here, and these are mostly a given from a novel that was based on the real experiences of author Slim, a former pimp before he made bestselling novelist in the African American writing genre. These are delineated well enough in this film, although black men themselves who watched the central role of Folks were let down. Again, there was a lack of intensity and nothing of masculinity present in a half white character.

White Folks is the product of a black woman who had a baby from a white customer, thus the title. The accident of birth becomes the locus through which both film and book moves, although in the movie the intensity was seen as lacking. Production went ahead to complete a feature that works with subjects easily told through the visual medium.

In this regard, this feature can be explained, because to intensify or deepen the focus on Folks would have made some people squirm. With the lack of honest friction or real issues about racial conflict, the movie went on to become a somewhat feel good crime movie that dissolved the issues out of hard focus. The theme of black crime might have been well told, if not for the way the focus became the driver for the film.

Movies always tend to dehumanize a story so that the visual language becomes the moving element for any moviegoer. This defect is still present in modern entertainment industry, no matter the many new, great films that have supposedly transcended this lack. Mostly, the industry helps create movies that in the end only have that undercurrent of a hustle, a con that exploits the public.

The said plan by the protagonists is nearly derailed by a man with Mafia connections they victimized before. The twist is a classic cliche that happens before endings, something that critics have to howl about, even as the producers will go with it in the end. Maybe there was the idea to provide impact for the film in the box office sense all the time.

Thus, director Larry Yust thought it best to soften blows made by the story itself to be more acceptable to the general public. This is one organism that has an oh so sensitive stomach while allowing blasphemy to be its constant companion. And black experience is too much of a punch in the gut that it needs watering down.




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