Title: Jive Turkey a.k.a. Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (1974)
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Tagline: “It’s niggerish.”
Favorite Quote: The song, “I’m niggerish.”
Plot Synopsis: At the beginning of the movie it claims to be based on actual events but I have my doubts. It also claims to take place in 1956 even though in every way, shape, and form it is so clearly 1974. The way people dress, the way they talk, their attitudes, everything says this is a film that takes place during the seventies. As far as the overall plot goes, like with many bad movies, this one makes very little to no sense. It is mostly centered on this crime king pin guy “Pasha.” He runs something called “the numbers game.” For those of us who are unfamiliar with poor urban organized gambling we are never given an explanation, or even a single clue, as to just what the hell the numbers game might be. But one way or another Pasha runs the numbers and he stays out of the other rackets like drugs. Two forces converge to bring an end to Pasha’s high class (you’ll have to take the movie’s word for it) lifestyle leaving him with the options of fight, fly, or die. Naturally this wouldn’t be much of a movie without any conflict so Pasha decides he will fight. The first force of opposition is a rival gang and its local leader Tony (we’re expected to believe they’re Italian, again you’ll just have to take the movie’s word for it) who is no longer satisfied with their drug money and wishes to replace Pasha as the city’s sole provider of the number’s game. The second force Pasha must tangle with is City Hall itself. The mayor is up for reelection and the people are fed up with the violence that has gripped their city. (again this is more of a seventies theme and there is no explanation for this violence as it looks to me like most of the gangs are minding their own business and there seems to be no reason for the civilian carnage witnessed at the start of the film) In his battle with City Hall Pasha has the advantage as the Chief of Police is on the take and warns Pasha of eminent raids. He also explains to Pasha that if he were to only sell out some of his employees by allowing them to get arrested then the heat would die down. Instead Pasha repeatedly uses his money to get his men out of jail. In his fight with Tony he is at a significant disadvantage. Not only is he busy dealing with the pigs but Tony has a rat amongst Pasha’s ranks. Every move Pasha makes Tony knows about it. The movie is the incoherent and bizarre tale of the events that spring from this major conflict. For Tony things are personal which causes him to make mistakes, for the city it’s a race against time and a way to bring the niggers down a peg, and for Pasha it’s a fight for survival. Who will win out? You the viewer, that’s who.
A Movie as Great as its Name
Review: This is one weird-ass movie brimming with transvestite assassins, crazy original songs, and all of those wonderful little moments or even just shots that serve as the bad movie fans’ reason for existence. It has all the bad movie archetypes such as terrible dialogue that makes no sense 90% of the time and is often spoken in the most ridiculous ways for no apparent reason. (Mamma Lottie) It has technical issues like the boom mike appearing in shots and it has logic and logistical issues up the whazoo. Including that bad movie classic, completely unnecessary fist-fight scene where the characters have guns they could use. Some other highlights include a Human-Koala hybrid and, this film’s most impressive feat, a scene in Hell. I’m sure it can’t be easy getting those permits from Satan but somehow they did it and Mamma Lottie’s opium den is a scene straight out of the second circle of Hades itself. For those who enjoy movies where they will find themselves constantly struggling with what is going on and just trying to get the movie in general this is a perfect film. As with many bad movies the biggest appeal of this film is the great moments they provide. Whether they’re awkward, silly, pointless, or just plain stupid they are those few seconds of footage that makes our hearts swell and our tummies jiggle with laughter. And they all stem from the films that took themselves seriously all the way to the end but just couldn’t pull it off. Experiencing these moments is often like wading through waist-deep sewage looking for diamonds. You will often find some but was it worth the ride? Well with an only 86-minute runtime and some very unique content interspersed throughout an awesomely bad movie I can say safely that Jive Turkey is worth it. Not only is it fun on it’s own but it is also rife for riffing. While watching I was a bit restless but the more time passes the more I enjoy the movie. Others who have seen the film sound the same; it grows on you long after the credits have finished rolling. I hope I have not over-hyped the movie too much because even I (at first) was a little disappointed when the film wasn’t quite what I had expected after hearing tales of this film’s greatness. Just let go and let Jive Turkey do its magic.
Questions: While watching your mind asks dozens of little questions but the big ones that last even after the movie is over will likely include:
-Just what the Hell is this “numbers game” everybody’s supposedly playing?
-So was Sweetman Serene? There are three different names credited for two roles and during that Sweetman flashback sequence there’s a shot of Serene and they each had the same mole on their cheek. And apparently I was mistaken but I originally thought the undercover cop was Sweetman. I guess that’s why I wasn’t shocked when it turned out he was the rat. Why else would they focus on him all the time? I guess I was wrong about the cop but now there’s the question about the Sweetman/Serene connection.
-So Tony and Pasha grew up together? How does an Italian white kid and a poor black kid living in Chicago roughly around the 1910s end up sharing a childhood together?
-A powerful black lawyer in 1956?
-Just what the fuck was the deal with Serene anyway? I guess the mystery is the appeal but you could do a whole movie about her/his back-story.