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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » J.D.'s Revenge (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)
J.D.'s Revenge (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // November 14, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $24.67 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted January 15, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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THE FILM:

J.D. is back, baby, and he ain't got time for no ho-bitch standing in his way! Years after a gangster is wrongfully accused of murder and gunned down by New Orleans police officers, his spirit returns to pilot the body of a mild law student, Isaac "Ike" Hendrix. Dubbed a Blaxploitation horror film, Arthur Marks' J.D.'s Revenge surpasses those roots to stand on its own as an entertaining possession thriller. Glynn Turman is excellent as Ike, as is Joan Pringle as his newly suffering wife, Christella. The conspiracy at the heart of J.D.'s Revenge is suitably complicated but unravels with entertaining abandon as the spirit of J.D. burns out the rats who did him in. Arrow Video's new Special Edition is expectedly excellent, with restored picture and sound and a host of in-depth bonus features.

The film opens directly into a high-tension argument between a young woman and a well-dressed man in a 1940s slaughterhouse. They fight about a baby and revealing its paternity, and the man slashes the woman's throat, killing her. Local gangster J.D. Walker (David McKnight) arrives contemporaneously, learns the dead woman is his sister, Betty Jo (Alice Jubert), and is framed from the killing. The police don't stop to ask questions, and the man is gunned down. Thirty years later, Ike, Christella and their buddies attend a nightclub hypnosis event. There, the spirit of J.D. finds its way into Ike's head, and the unwitting host begins having intense headaches and flashes of the man scrambling his brain. Ike becomes violent with Christella, who takes refuge in friends, and goes crazy at work by taking a passenger in his taxi on a violent ride through a construction site. J.D., via Ike, is hell-bent on confronting two men involved in the conspiracy, Rev. Elijah Bliss (Louis Gossett Jr.) and his brother, Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard), so he can take them "to the killing floor."

If nothing else, J.D.'s Revenge is the rare possession thriller that uses Blaxploitation genre tropes effectively in telling its story of revenge and retribution. I expected the film to fall closer to genre lines, but found J.D.'s Revenge really stands alone as an entertaining thriller. Turman does a nice job playing the dual role, and McKnight, in his limited scenes, is unpredictably intense. I like the character of Christella, too, though her willingness to protect Ike from punishment recalls the problem of casual domestic violence in that era. Christella knows this new man is not her husband, and at least attempts to get him psychiatric help. She makes the mistake of chastising Ike for his new J.D.-approved hairstyle, which results in a violent response, but knows then definitively that Ike has been possessed.

Rev. Bliss has created himself a sham religious empire to hide past misdeeds, and J.D.'s Revenge reveals that he is the mouthpiece to Theotis' muscle. Scenes where J.D. comes through completely while challenging these brothers are entertaining, as are the reactions of those in the church congregation. I'm not sure I consider this a horror movie, but it is certainly entertaining. Although we don't see much of the actual J.D., it is clear from his limited appearances that he is not a man to be messed with. There's no particular reason given for why Ike becomes the vessel for this restless spirit, but universal themes of avenging misdeeds and not resting until justice is served resonate here. J.D.'s Revenge is a surprising mishmash of genres with strong lead performances and plenty of campy thrills.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Arrow Video created a new 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from a 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive that is largely impressive if you keep expectations in check. This is a low-budget ‘70s film shot on grainy film stock of the era, so it's only going to look so good. Cinematographer Harry J. May used a lot of soft photography, especially in flashbacks and during outdoor scenes, and some shots, particularly those with optical blending effects, look pretty rough. That's no fault of the transfer; that's just how it is. Colors are pleasingly bold and nicely saturated, particularly in brightly lit sequences. Fine-object detail varies, but is quite good in tight-angle shots. Black levels are decent, though there is some black crush. The grain is natural but does spike in nighttime scenes. The image is free of digital manipulation and compression artifacts.

SOUND:

The 1.0 LPCM mono track, which the notes indicate was created by MGM, gets the job done with clear dialogue and proper element spacing. The soulful soundtrack is nicely rendered, and effects have decent heft. I noticed no issues with hiss or distortion. English SDH subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray and a DVD copy and is packed in a clear, hinged Blu-ray case with dual-sided artwork. Inside is a nicely illustrated booklet with text and still images. The best extra is The Killing Floor (46:03/HD), a newly produced retrospective with interviews from cast and crew. You also get Here Lies J.D. Walker (17:42/HD), an audio interview with McKnight that plays over images from the film; a Gallery (1:05/HD); the Theatrical Trailer (2:08/SD); Radio Spots (1:49/audio only); and a bonus Trailer Reel.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Arrow Video has again created an impressive Special Edition of a genre film. This time the movie is J.D.'s Revenge, which mixes horror, Blaxploitation elements and possession-thriller jolts to entertain. The restless spirit of a ‘40s gangster inhabits the body of a ‘70s law student to seek revenge on the men who framed him for murder. This new edition includes remastered picture and sound and some good bonus material. Recommended.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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