Blu-ray Review: J.D.’s Revenge

In the early ’70s, movies truly changed as distributors finally discovered that black people would like to go to the movies and be entertained with black actors. After the box office success of Shaft, Cotton Comes to Harlem and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, distributors and studios of all sizes were looking to get urban action on the screen. American International Pictures was one of the leading places in producing films for this new market and creating stars out of Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Pam Grier. The films were noted for having amazing and funky soundtracks. Sadly things ground to a halt as critics such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton protested subject matter and demanded more minorities were hired behind the scenes. The studios didn’t want the headache and moved on to making movies about white people being terrorized by bears, rats and killer whales. Before the era came to an end in 1976, audiences were treated to a tale of killer coming back from the grave to even the score in J.D.’s Revenge.

Isaac Hendrix (Cooley High‘s Glynn Turman) is a fun loving college kid in New Orleans who drives a cab at night to pay his way through school. One night he goes out with his wife as Christella (The White Shadow‘s Joan Pringle) and gets dragged on stage to be part of a hypnotists act. When he’s under and told to experience the coldest place he’s ever been, he gets visions of being in a slaughterhouse and a woman being slashed. During the rest of the night, he keeps getting visions. Turns out the visions belong to a dead underworld figure named J.D. Walker who was killed a few decades back. His spirit slowly takes control of Isaac as the mild manner guy changes dramatically into a nasty man who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Isaac sees his new face in the mirror and it shocks him. When he visits a hospital to see what’s wrong, the doctor thinks the kid is burning out from school and work. He’s prescribed smoking a little weed. But this doesn’t cure his problem. He becomes completely possessed. Why is J.D. back. He’s there to settle a score that involves Reverend Elijah Bliss (An Officer and a Gentleman‘s Lou Gossett Jr.), his brother Theotis Bliss and J.D.’s sister. There’s family business at the core of this mystery of possession.

J.D. Revenge came at the end of the era, but doesn’t play like the finale. Turman gives a highly realistic double role as he goes from sweet kid to hardcore J.D. The same can be said of Pringle not knowing which man is in her husband’s body. There’s a bedroom scene which emotionally turns as husband and wife turns into J.D. taking over. Gossett preaches and works the house like he should have just gone into the church business. Arthur Marks and screenwriter Jaison Starkes didn’t crank out a cliché driven programmer to grab those last ticket dollars. There’s nothing formula on the screen. The twists make us wonder if Isaac will escape from this possession nightmare. This a ghost story that seeps from the spirits of New Orleans. J.D.’s Revenge remains an engrossing horror story that just doesn’t want to let go of you.

Louis Gossett, Jr, Glynn Turman, Joan Pringle

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p resolution lets you enjoy the views of New Orleans including the Superdome which still had the new stadium smell. The audio is LCPM mono. The levels are fine so you can tell the voices of the ghosts. The movie is subtitled.

DVD has all features of the Blu-ray.

The Killing Floor (46:03) includes Arthur Marks, writer Jaison Starkes, editor Geoge Folsey Jr and star Glynn Turman discussing how the film was created and its impact. This is essential in showing how even though Marks was a white guy, he collaborated with Starkes, a young black writer. While critics of this era want to act like it was just old white guys making films with only black actors, in these brief few years minorities were gaining more roles in the filmmaking business. Once it ended, it the opportunities quickly dried up. Starkes went on to write the cult basketball classic The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh starring Dr. J. Turman does a great impersonation of AIP’s Sam Arkoff. This documentary gives a deeper understanding of the film and its creators.

Here Lies J.D. Walker (17:42) is an audio interview with David McKnight. He talks about making the character frightening. He nailed the role by shutting a door during the audition. He talks about having to infect Glynn Turman. McKnight has a long career with numerous TV shows include Hill Street Blues and Boston Legal.

Gallery (1:05) are photos from the production.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08) promises big trouble is coming to the screen.

Radio Spots (1:49) are pretty intense to imagine hearing this on the AM in the middle of the night. They double featured J.D.’s Revenge with Coffy.

Arthur Marks Trailer Reel includes Bonnie’s Kids, Bucktown, A Woman For All Men, Friday Foster and The Monkey Hustle. A few of these are the red band trailers so they aren’t for all audiences. Amazing to think Marks worked with Dolemite. Marks was a top tier director of drive-in fun.

Arrow Video presents J.D.’s Revenge. Directed by: Arthur Marks. Written by: Mike Hodges. Starring: Louis Gossett, Jr, Glynn Turman, Joan Pringle and David McKnight. Rated: R. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: November 14, 2017.

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