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Kiel Martin, best known for his role on Hill Street Blues, stars as Johnny O'Brien, a hustler and a con man. His friends call him White Folks and his enemies call him Trick Baby. Both names come from the fact that he is the son of a black prostitute and a white john, and his complexion is so light he passes for white. White Folks' pale complexion allows him access to the white world, where he and his black partner in crime, Blue Howard (Mel Stuart), prey upon unsuspecting marks. Things take a turn for the worse when Folks and Blue unknowingly con the uncle of a mobster and find themselves on the run from the Mafia.
Based on the novel by Iceberg Slim (a.k.a. Robert Beck), Trick Baby was one of the handful of blaxploitation films of the 1970s that was adapted from the work of popular black fiction writers. For all the films produced during the era, relatively few were based on the popular crime novels that were also being published, with Trick Baby being the only work of Iceberg Slim to ever make it to the screen.
Trick Baby is a solid film. Of course it doesn't totally stand up to Iceberg Slim's novel – but what film does stand up to the original book? Still, on it's own, the film manages to be entertaining. Kiel Martin delivers a great, believable performance in the role of White Folks. Even better is Mel Stuart as Folks' older mentor Blue. Stuart is probably best known for his recurring role as Henry Jefferson, brother of George on All in the Family. There's a natural chemistry between Stuart and Martin, which creates the foundation on which the rest of the film is built.
One of three blaxploitation films recently released by Universal – the other two being Willie Dynamite and That Man Bolt – Trick Baby is a welcome addition to the still sadly lacking collection of black action film of 1970s currently on DVD. Clearly Universal realizes there's a market for these films, but the lackluster packaging speaks of laziness and lack on inspiration. Nowhere on the packaging of Trick Baby does it even mention Iceberg Slim, or the fact the film is based on his critically acclaimed best-selling book.
Trick Baby is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image transfer is very good. The picture itself gets a bit too dark at times, but that is actually a result of inadequate lighting, and not the result of a bad transfer or poor master.
Trick Baby is presented Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
There are no extras on Trick Baby.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]