Wednesday, December 6, 2017

J.D.'S REVENGE (1976) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

J.D.'s REVENGE (1976) 
Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A/B
Duration: 96 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Arthur Marks
Cast: Glynn Turman, Louis Gossett Jr, Joan Pringle, Fred Pinkard, David McKnight, Carl W. Crudup, Alice Jubert

Directed by Arthur Marks (Bonnie's Kids) and starring Glynn Turman (Gremlins) J.D.'s Revenge (1976) is a slice of supernatural blaxploitation, the tale of a meek man named Isaac Hendricks (Turman) living in the New Orleans in 70's who becomes possessed by the spirit a violent gangster from the 40's after a night out with his friends. He along with his girlfriend Christella (Joan Pringle, Original Sin), and friends Tony (Carl W. Crudup, The Monkey Hu$tle) and Sheryl (Barbara Taske) are out for drinks at a club which lands him on stage as part of a hypnotist act, but the experience opens him up to the possession. During the possession Isaac relives the murder of the gangster, J.D. Walker (David McKnight) who is framed for the murder of his own sister Betty Jo (Alice Jubert, Friday Foster), and is now out for revenge against  brothers Elija Bliss (Louis Gossett Jr., Jaws 3) and Theotis (Fred Pinkard), the murderers who are still very much alive. 

The film opens with a prologue of the murders at meat packing house in the 40's, the vintage look is achieved with that Vaseline smeared lens effect with a great throat slash that I found absolutely haunting, done in slow-motion it all has to do with the performance  and eyes of actress Alice Jubert who played Betty Jo. Additional flashbacks of the murders as experience by Turman's character are juxtaposed with scenes of cows being bled and hot blood flowing down the floor drains, it works to great effects, I loved it. 

Turman's Isaac is a law student who drives a Taxi by day,  nice guy who turns vile as he becomes more and more possessed by the spirit of the violent Walker, beginning by mistreating his girlfriend, and then there's a cab ride with an old lady in the backseat of his cab, he starts driving like a maniac which causes the passenger to be banged around in the backseat, smashing her head into the window, he then stops and drags her from the taxi, leaving her bleeding on the ground in a shady area of town. Isaac begins to dress, talk and act like the 40's gangster, putting him on a path to exact his revenge on the Bliss Bros. 

The movie is low on exploitative elements, we get some razor-blade violence and plenty of nudity, but it seemed pretty tame. Even the supernatural elements are not over-the-top, the transformation and possession are achieved by Turman through performance, we don't get any green spewing vomit or heads turning around, not even something flung across the room by an unseen force, just a straight-up physical transformation of character which was awesome. He's plenty bad-ass with a straight-razor, his signature weapon, no need for supernatural special effects, this guy was just straight up scary. Turman does a phenomenal job juggling the two personalities, turning from loving man to vile abuser at the drop of his fedora hat, and being remorseful for what his alter-ego has been up to when he is taken over.    

Audio/Video: J.D.'s Revenge arrives on dual format DVD/Blu-ray from Arrow Video in both region A/B formats, sourced from a brand new 2K restoration and framed in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) looking quite nice. The source shows some softness and white speckling, a brief glimpse of some fading but overall this looks great, the grain is nicely managed and the fine detail and textures look great in-motion. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 track, it's free of hiss and distortion, limited in it's range but nicely balanced and crisp, optional English subtitles are provided.

Onto the extras we get a 46-minute making of doc featuring screenwriter Jaison Starkes, director Arthur Marks, editor George Folsey Jr. and star Glynn Turman - it's a fine companion piece to the film with Turman going into how he achieved his character on screen, the transformation process and what it was like working on the film in New Orleans, plus we get input from the director and screenwriter. We also get an 18-min audio interview with actor David McKnight who played J.D. in the flashback scenes, speaking about his time on the film. The disc is finished up with an Arthur Marks trailer reel, a trailer for the film and radio spots, an image gallery and the retail copies features a booklet and reversible artwork which were not sent to us for review, just the disc.  

Special Features:

- Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
- The Killing Floor - A brand new retrospective documentary on the making of J.D.'s Revenge featuring Screenwriter Jaison Starkes, Director Arthur Marks, Editor George Folsey Jr. and Actor Glynn Turman (46 min) HD 
- Here Lies J.D. Walker - A rare audio interview with actor David McKnight(18 min) HD  
- Image Gallery (65 Images)HD 
- Original theatrical trailer (2 min) 
- Radio Spots (2 min) HD 
- Arthur Marks Trailer Reel: Bonnie's Kids (3 min), Bucktown (2 min), A Woman for All Men (2 min), Friday Foster (3 min), The Monkey Hu$tle (2 min)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet containing new writing by Kim Newman, author of Nightmare Movies

J.D.'s Revenge (1976) is a thoroughly entertaining supernatural revenger, well put together and never a dull moment, anchored by a great cast and highlighted by a menacing dual-performance from Glynn Turman, a great detour from the usual soul cinema offering of the era. 

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