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I, the Jury

Kino // R // November 8, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted January 31, 2017 | E-mail the Author

Based on the 1948 novel, Richard Heffron's I, The Jury (1982) is the second adaptation of Mickey Spillane's pulpy revenge thriller. It's also the first appearance of hard-boiled detective Mike Hammer (Armand Assante), who's looking to avenge the murder of his one-armed vet buddy, Jack Williams (Frederic Downs). Along the way, he discovers secrets at a sex clinic run by Dr. Charlotte Bennett (Barbara Carrera) and a tail from the CIA, who may or may not use mind control when interrogating suspects. It's danger at every turn for Hammer, who beats off the ladies with a stick while doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants. The screenplay was penned by Larry Cohen, who lost the director's chair for arguing about a budget that ended up bankrupting the film's distribution company.

I, The Jury should be a lightweight and breezy viewing experience…and it actually is, at times. But the film's got a nasty habit of piling on too much extra junk in some of the wrong places: all that CIA mind control and sex clinic stuff was nowhere to be found in Spillane's source novel, while almost all of the nudity and violence has been amplified to levels you'd expect from an early 1980s production. For some folks, the latter might sound like a good thing---and to be fair, there's a certain campy charm to this over-the-top, unfocused production, driven by Assante's ridiculously confident lead performance---but the end result is an overlong, almost numbing onslaught of machismo that takes itself far too seriously almost every step of the way. It's not all unintentional comedy, of course, but I, The Jury is more Rambo III than First Blood...and honestly, which one would you rather watch more than once?

The performances are hit-or-miss, and some of the misses are pretty far off-target. Armand Assante's turn as Mike Hammer only fits if you're completely sold on I, the Jury's most over-the-top moments (I'm not), as his confident swagger almost borders on laughable as the problems pile up for our charming anti-hero. Geoffrey Lewis (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) shines in an extremely limited supporting role framed around an admittedly well-crafted chase scene. Paul Sorvino turns in a reliably good performance as Detective Pat Chambers, who reluctantly puts up with Hammer's smirking disregard of authority. Smaller roles, such as Williams' widow Myrna (Mary Margaret Amato), are distracting in their complete awfulness. This blend of pulpy dialogue, shoot-'em-up action, gratuitous nudity, made-for-TV locations, and way too much plot doesn't go down quite as easy as expected, creating a half-empty cocktail that's watchable at best and pandering at worst. However, you might love it for the same reasons.

20th Century Fox's "Cinema Archives" DVD-R of I, The Jury was released in early 2015 and marked the film's debut on DVD...and though I clearly didn't see it coming, Kino's new Blu-ray edition offers a suitable improvement in each and every department, from the A/V presentation to a new and exclusive feature-length audio commentary.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

Kino's Blu-ray offers a 1080p transfer that obviously beats Fox's single-layer DVD-R, though it appears to use the exact same source material. There's an improved level of image detail overall and the film's slightly overcooked color palette is handled more naturally this time around. As expected, contrast levels and touches of film grain are consistent from start to finish, although a few moments of noise reduction and edge enhancement give certain scenes a slightly processed appearance. This is a single-layer disc but compression problems aren't an issue, especially since it's pretty much a movie-only affair. Overall, this is a perfectly watchable presentation..and though I all but promised Fox's DVD-R was likely the film's last physical release, I'll have to make that claim a second time now.

NOTE: The promotional images featured on this page are strictly decorative and do not represent the title under review.

The audio is presented in its original DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio format (split mono, not stereo); there are modest amounts of depth at times, but I, The Jury sounds exactly like you'd expect for an action movie from t1982. Dialogue and sound effects are well-balanced and rarely fight for attention, while Bill Conti's smoky jazz score offers a few touches of subtle (and not-so-subtle) ambiance along the way. Defects are minimal and likely related to the source material, including a few bits of dodgy ADR and very slight hissing at times. Like the Fox DVD-R, optional English subtitles are not included, which makes the film's already overstuffed plot that much harder to follow.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The basic interface includes separate options for playback, bonus features, and chapter selection (there are 8), with quick loading time and minimal pre-menu distractions. This one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase and includes recycled poster-themed cover artwork. No inserts or slipcover are included, unsurprisingly.

Bonus Features

Unlike the Fox Cinema Archives DVD-R (which only included the film's Theatrical Trailer, returning here), Kino's Blu-ray serves up another fairly substantial bonus feature: an exclusive Audio Commentary with film historian Nathaniel Thompson and director Steve Mitchell (Chopping Mall), who also wrote and directed the forthcoming King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen. As such, a lot of this track covers the contribution of Cohen (who wrote the screenplay) and Mitchell does most of the talking, which results in an entertaining, enthusiastic, and informative session from start to finish. Even if you don't end up enjoying the film, consider listening to this anyway.

Final Thoughts

Even with an overstuffed plot that pads out many elements of Spillane's source novel, this second film adaptation of I, The Jury still feels paper-thin and inconsequential. The film falls back on cheap fan service that does almost nothing to advance the plot, which makes for a few stretches of campy, over-the-top fun...but the end result is ultimately deflating. Still, first-timers with a soft spot for down-and-dirty 1980s action might enjoy this 1982 cult production, and Kino's surprising but welcome Blu-ray package should satisfy die-hard disciples that snapped up Fox's Cinema Archives DVD-R two years ago. Featuring a nicely improved A/V presentation and a substantial new audio commentary, this disc comes Recommended to established fans only (newcomers should definitely rent it first).

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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