Friday, January 30, 2015

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (1974)

Among the least impressive examples of the blaxploitation genre, this cheaply made and confusing crime thriller is allegedly set in 1956, but cultural anachronisms appear regularly, ranging from such props as the banana bicycle to various iterations of ’70s slang. Yet the inability to conjure realistic period detail is minor compared to the movie’s other problems. Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes is ostensibly about a crime lord who runs a numbers ring. Yet like many other crime-themed stories that are executed without narrative discipline, the picture wanders far afield of its principal subject matter, introducing such outrĂ© elements as a transvestite mob enforcer who enjoys slitting his/her victims’ throats. Similarly, lots of screen time gets consumed with irrelevant nonsense including belly dancing and an opium den. What any of this has to do with a numbers guy trying to protect his turf is anybody’s guess. Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes fails to impress on every technical level, with the shoddy photography burying story events in murky shadows while haphazard editing jumbles scenes together in a seemingly random fashion. About the only slightly amusing element in the picture is a run of colorful street names for characters, since Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes introduces viewers to DuDirty, Moma Lottie, Pasha, Sweetman, and, of course, Serene (the aforementioned cross-dressing killer). Leading man Paul Harris, who played supporting roles in a number of black-themed movies and TV shows during the ’70s, has a solid physical presence but very little charisma, and it says a lot about the picture’s quality that the actor with the best billing is Frank DeKova, whose biggest claim to fame was costarring in the silly ’60s sitcom F Troop. There are worse blaxploitation pictures than Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes, but not many—so only those determined to see every entry in the genre should subject themselves to this flick, which easily lives up to the second word in its alternate title: Jive Turkey.

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes: LAME

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