Trouble Man (1972) – By Duane L. Martin

 

Mr T. (Robert Hooks), is a cool private eye who’s tough as nails, has a heart of gold, and a thing for the ladies. He operates out of an office in a pool hall, and has just been hired by Chalky (Paul Winfield) and his partner Pete (Ralph Waite) to get to the bottom of a string of robberies that have been hitting their floating crap games. T demands a high price, but pays the price when he takes the case and someone sets him up for murder. Now he has to get to the bottom of it before the people who set him up make him the next victim.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this film, but it turned out to not only be a lot of fun, but it was well written and had a strong story…with one notable exception that I’ll get to in a minute.

Robert Hooks was consistent with his character, and really brought out all the personality elements that were contained within the role. For example, he deeply loves his girl Cleo (Paula Kelly), and his friends are golden to him, especially the pool hall owner, who he’s particularly tight with. When he found out a baby that got injured in a slum lord’s building, he went to the guy who managed the building and threatened him in no uncertain terms to get him to pay for the hospital bills and to fix up the building. He did that for free, but he doesn’t always work for free. If you’re not a friend, then T’s services come at a high price, but he’s got three things that make him worth the price – he’s tough, he’s smart, and he’s cool. Hooks was very successful in delivering on all of these aspects.

The cast had some very recognizable faces in it as well. Harrison Page, who played Captain Trunk on the television show Sledge Hammer played a fake cop in this film. Nathaniel Taylor, who played Rollo Taylor on the show Sanford and Son played one of the random gangster thugs who tries to kidnap Mr. T and doesn’t meet with a happy end. Paula Kelly, who played Mr. T’s girlfriend Cleo, has appeared in many notable films, including Soylent Green and The Andromeda Strain, as well as tons of other television appearances in various shows throughout the years.

The action in the film is rather cheesy, as one would expect. One scene had a particularly funny moment when Mr. T punches one of the henchmen and the guy goes down with all the drama of a fat woman passing out in a fit of religious ecstasy at some revival meeting.

Now, about that one thing that didn’t really fit in the story. Mr. T loves Cleo. She’s his number one girl, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from hitting on other women…and sleeping with them. In fact, the very beginning of the movie has him leaving some random girl’s house, and at the end of the movie he ends up hooking up with some random female cop from the records department at the police station. It’s like…ok, he sleeps around. I wonder if he and Cleo both have a doctor on standby with a full stock of penicillin? God knows what he’s picked up out there that he delivered straight to Cleo later on, but that’s not part of the story. That’s just some silly thought I had going on in my head.

This new release from Kino Lorber includes audio commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Howard S. Berger, as well as a trailer gallery. The restoration of this film looks quite nice, and the sound is great as well, with the exception of the music being considerably louder than the dialog. Some volume normalization would have been helpful there.

One final note of interest. This film was directed by Ivan Dixon, who played Sergeant James ‘Kinch’ Kinchloe on Hogan’s Heroes. He has a rather large number of directorial credits in both film and television, which I wasn’t aware of until just now when I looked it up.

I can’t talk much about the story without giving away the mystery aspects of it, but to sum it up, it was well written, well acted, and quite entertaining. I have no problem at all recommending this film to anyone who likes these blaxploitation movies from the seventies. In fact, this is one of the best ones I’ve come across.

If you’d like to know more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website at: https://www.kinolorber.com/film/TroubleMan