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J.C

Code Red // R // July 20, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 1, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

This 1971 Avco Embassy Pictures production was directed, co-written and produced by William F. McGaha, who also happens to play the film's lead, a young man with a giant beard named J.C. Masters who loves acoustic guitars and marijuana. The son of an evangelical Baptist minister, he loses his job as a carpenter and, after reading all sorts of negative headlines while on the can, sparks a joint ,has a vision and basically decides that wants more out of life than what the establishment thinks is best for him. So J.C. leaves home and becomes a biker, eventually putting together a biker gang and becoming its de facto leader.


After cruising around the state and hoping to just "be free," he decides to take his crew back to his small southern home town in hopes of seeing some change ensue. The town's Sheriff, Grady Caldwell (Slim Pickens) and Deputy Dan Martin (Burr Denning) are stereotypical, racist redneck types and they do not take kindly to the arrival of J.C. and his multiracial gang of hippie biker types. In fact, before you know it, J.C.'s black friend David Little (Hannibal Penney) has been arrested on some trumped up charges and tossed into the local slammer. This, of course, inspires J.C. and his crew to set into motion a plan to bust David out of prison and save his hide, but that definitely isn't going to happen with more than a few complications…


Advertised with a one-sheet that proudly declared "J.C. And His Disciples Were A Gang Of Broads, Bikes And Blacks," it's clear that McGaha was trying to use the biker movies that were popular at the time as a way of telling a story about the importance of social justice and the evils of racism. That message is in there, but it doesn't take much to relay that message. McGaha's character may or may not be Jesus Christ incarnate. The movie alludes to this periodically throughout its running time, right up until it's final scene, really, but not much really happens in this regard. Most of the time, J.C. and his pals are hanging out having some acoustic jams or riding their hogs around the south just being free, padding the movie quite a bit and not really adding anything to the story.


So if J.C. doesn't necessarily have the most engaging narrative ever filmed, is it still worth seeing? If you're into weird, and sometimes very nonsensical, cinematic oddities and counter culture relics from the early seventies, yes. Never mind the fact that J.C. poops with the door to the bathroom wide open (presumably so that we can the headlines on the newspapers that he reads which wind up upsetting him so much!), and he's got awful taste in hippie folk rock. He means well and his mission, whatever exactly it might be, is clearly one of righteous intent. That's probably all we really need to know, as far as the story goes. J.C. is out to try to do some good, and he's doing it without the aid of the establishment church but instead with the help of disenfranchised types, the kind of people that the established church wouldn't necessarily welcome with open arms into their sanctuaries.


The acting here is questionable. McGaha is amusing to watch in the lead but he's clearly too enamored with the script to be too concerned about his own acting here, because he's all over the place and not always the most convincing messianic figure. Still, he's weirdly watchable in his own unique way. Slim Pickens, by far the biggest name associated with this film, and Burr Denning are both decent enough as the sleazy racist cops and supporting work from hippie biker gang members played by Hannibal Penney, Joanna Moore and Max Payne is fine.


The Blu-ray

Video:

Code Red brings J.C. to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative that, oddly enough, seems to have been provided by Studio Canal. Taking up 23.9GBs of space on the 25GB disc, the transfer is a good one. The image shows the natural film grain you'd expect it to but very little print damage, just some small white specks now and then. Detail is quite good, colors are handled well and black levels are strong. Overall, this looks really good.


Sound:

The only audio option provided is an English language track in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced. There are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion and the score sounds pretty nice.


Extras:

We get a trailer for the feature and bonus trailers Guyana Cult Of The Damned and Werewolves On Wheels that's it as far as the extras go.


Final Thoughts:

J.C. might not be a particularly subtle film but it's a pretty entertaining and interesting product of its time despite its clunkiness. Code Red's Blu-ray release is light on extra features but the presentation is solid. Recommended for fans of seventies biker films and exploitation oddities.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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