Mr. T
Created by John D.F. Black

No, not that pretentious, jewelery-bedecked buffoon with the mohawk from the Rocky films and TV's The A-Team. We're talking here about the theoretical hero of Ivan Dixon's early seventies blaxploitation flick Trouble Man.

This MR. T, as played by Robert Hooks, is a superslick black troubleshooter who finds himself caught between two warring gangs. But doncha worry 'bout a thing, because this dude's about as tough as they come. The tagline even warned, "Mr. T is cold hard steel! He'll give you peace of mind...piece by piece!" and that about sums up his character. Less than a year after Shaft rocked the world, T is already a parody of the quintessential blaxploitation hero, a badass motherficker complete with $600 three-piece suits and a snazzy $10,000 Lincoln Continental.

Of course, he was raised in the streets, but we're assured "he's been a man since he was a kid!" and that "If you rub him the wrong way, he'll blow up in your face!"

Screenwriter (and executive producer) John D.F. Black's big claim to fame was that he helped "blacken" Ernest Tidyman's script for the original blaxploitation flick, Shaft. And that's more or less what you get here -- gone are many of the nuances and ambiguities of that landmark film. Instead, we get action, and plenty of it.

There's a pretty gruesome (but effective) fight in an elevator, and a few other good scenes. That's no doubt due to director Dixon's background as an athlete and stunt double -- that background also served him well in his work on such action-packed TV shows as Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files and the theatrical release The Spook Who Sat by the Door. But the scenes don't really go anywhere, mostly because the script is essentially just your standard ode to guns, sex and drugs.

There is one other interesting tidbit connected with this film, though. Marvin Gaye (who had a bit part in the film) did the music, working as both a songwriter and score composer. After all, Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes were both doing it, so why not Marvin? The result was moody and funky in parts, but the only real highlights were the funky 'T Plays It Cool', and the sax-dominated 'T Stands For Trouble' and the anguished, overwrought minor hit 'Trouble Man."

Nothing that would make people forget Shaft or Superfly.



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