Tuesday, November 26, 2013

J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

          An imaginative mash-up of blaxploitation and horror, this New Orleans-set thriller concerns a mild-mannered law student who gets possessed by the spirit of a 1940s crook intent on payback against a murderous hoodlum. Featuring a fair amount of visual panache—think sepia-colored flashbacks and tricky mirror shots during which the protagonist sees another face instead of his own reflection—J.D.’s Revenge is consistently entertaining even though the storyline is alternately murky and overwrought. Much of the film’s potency stems from its nasty depiction of the hero’s behavior while possessed—the hero beats up a senior, slaps around and rapes his girlfriend, and nearly murders a dude by slashing him repeatedly with a straight razor. Whatever its faults, J.D.’s Revenge can’t be accused of timidity.
          Glynn Turman, the amiable star of Cooley High (1975), plays Isaac, an unassuming guy who’s stressed out from his studies but happily involved with an understanding girlfriend, Christella (Joan Pringle). One evening, Isaac and Christella attend a hypnosis show at a Bourbon Street club. While he’s hypnotized, Isaac is invaded by the spirit of J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a criminal who died violently. As the movie progresses, Isaac suffers repeated episodes during which J.D. overtakes Isaac’s body, causing Isaac to act with uncharacteristic savagery. Christella gets the worst of it, receiving two nasty beatings during sexual assaults. Furthermore, Isaac—while under J.D.’s control—tracks down the two men who were present when J.D. died. J.D.’s murderer is a gangster named Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard), and that man’s brother is a gangster-turned-evangelist named Rev. Elijah Bliss (Louis Gossett, Jr.). The plot gets unnecessarily complicated whenever the Bliss family is involved, but repeated flashbacks to the awful moment when both J.D. and his sister were murdered underscore why J.D. is so hungry for revenge.
          Screenwriter Jaison Starkes loses the thread of the story at regular intervals, relying on such inexplicable contrivances as J.D.’s spirit wasting time on adventures before tracking down his enemies; additionally, it’s hard to accept the idea that Isaac escapes police capture despite committing multiple heinous acts. Nonetheless, if one can ignore the picture’s myriad logical lapses, J.D.’s Revenge offers plenty of lurid thrills. The image of slight Turman strutting around in 1940s gangster garb while menacing people with his straight razor is unnerving, and the rape scenes are horrific. Plus, even though most of the film’s performances are perfunctory, Gossett is electric in all of his scenes, whether he’s frenetically testifying through church sermons or channeling anguish during the finale.

J.D.’s Revenge: FUNKY

1 comment:

rob! said...

I have never seen this movie, but dear Lord is that poster gorgeous.