James Spader had the amazing ability to be both suave and creepy in a single smile. When he arrived on the scene in the late ‘80s, Spader brought a cinematic charm that blew apart the Brat Packers. He showed how those light weights couldn’t come close to the edge he put on Pretty in Pink and Less Than Zeroin supporting roles. Jack’s Back was his first lead role, but he still had to be a supporting character in a ripping thriller.
A hundred years after Jack the Ripper’s killings of hookers in London, someone in Los Angeles is celebrating the event by recreating the murders. The police are doing their best to catch the copycat because the final killing should take place that night. They don’t want this maniac to finish up and vanish into the underworld. Across town (James Spader) works for a clinic that reaches out to the impoverished of the city including the hookers. The head of the clinic isn’t happy that he’s going to the media to draw attention to their clinic. His fellow doctor Chris Moscari (Cynthia Gibb) likes his attitude and might be smitten. When Dr. Wesford visits a patient, he finds that she’s become the Ripper’s final victim. He also finds the man he suspects to be the copycat killer. A chase ends with Westford hung. The cops determine that Wesford’s the real killer and committed suicide to celebrate the end of his reign of terror.
There’s still an hour to go in the movie and the star is dead. What in the name of Janet Leigh is happening? Thankfully James Spader returns to the scene as his estranged twin brother. He’s an edgy guy who manages a shoe store. You can tell the twins apart because he has a scar and an earring. The doctor brother wore glasses and a Cubs hat. Why did he show up before the media reported his brother’s “suicide”? Turns out him and his brother have an odd connection that let him know something had gone horribly wrong. He had a flash of his brother’s final minutes and the image of the real killer. Dr. Carlos Battera (Robert Picardo) puts the shoe salesman under hypnosis to help him remember the vision. He knows the face of the kiler, but turns out the killer knows about him. The cops aren’t much of a help since they don’t want their locked closed case reopened. They even suspect the twin might have been the real killer. Nobody wants to help him clear his brother’s name except Chris.
Jack’s Back might not have been a success at the box office, but over the decades it gained a good following on home video. Spader became a major star of the screen with Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Secretary and Boston Legal. The VHS got plenty of rental action from new fans. Even now there’s got to be a few fans of The Blacklist eager to see young Spader pulling double duty as star and supporting actor while battling a Jack the Ripper wannabe. Writer-director Rowdy Herrington brought plenty of action and atmosphere to the low budget production. He allows Spader room to flow on the screen. Easy to see why Rowdy would immediately direct the cultural landmark that was Road House. Jack’s Back never lets up even when the cops keep thinking they have their man.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the smokey scenes and the exterior lighting bringing the right amount of shadows to creepy places. The audio is DTS-HD 2.0 that brings out Spader’s vocal differences between the twins. The movie is subtitled.
DVD with all the features of the Blu-ray except in lower resolution.
Audio Commentary from Rowdy Herrington lets him explain how a gaffer and key grip would become director and producer on Jack’s Back. This film ought to be an inspiration for anyone on a film crew that’s eager to make their own movie. Of course the key to having a film worth watching nearly 30 years later is a great actor who makes all your work worthwhile.
Trailer (0:57) sets up the action as the camera circles a barely awake Spader.
The Making of Jack’s Back (23:50) involves Rowdy Harrington putting the idea of twins and the 100th anniversary of Jack the Ripper. Turns out Herrington worked as a gaffer to director of photography Shelly Johnson so they knew how to work fast. They discuss Rowdy bringing out the best of his crew since it wasn’t a high paying gig. There’s talk of how Spader had a different approach to both twins so when he played the surviving brother, he creeped out Gibb with his attitude. Gibb appreciates the two different moods from Spader. Rowdy admits that Spader’s improv moment landed him Roadhouse. Don’t watch this before the film since the mysteries are exposed.
Jack’s Back allowed a double does of James Spader as he battles Jack the Ripper’s biggest fan.
Scream Factory presents Jack’s Back. Directed by: Rowdy Harrington. Screenplay by: Rowdy Harrington. Starring: James Spader, Robert Picardo, Jim Haynie, Rod Loomis & Cynthia Gibb. Rated: R. Running Time: 97 minutes. Released: January 26, 2016.
Tags: Jack's Back, Scream Factory