jake speed

In the adventure genre, Raiders of the Lost Ark remains king of the yarns, followed by Big Trouble in Little China and Romancing the Stone – and then everything else.

Jake Speed was one of the latter.

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical and minor VHS release back in the late 1980s, Jake Speed gets a June 2018 Blu-ray release through Arrow Video and yet another of those winning re-issues of cult classics that the label is renowned for. Alongside Big Trouble in Little China, it is one that will definitely be welcomed by fans of 1980s home video.

The story opens in Paris, when a young woman, Maureen Winston (Becca C. Ashley) is kidnapped by white slave traders Africa-bound. Her sister, Margaret (Karen Kopins) is determined to get her back and seeks the assistance of renowned adventurer Jake Speed (Wayne Crawford) to get into the lion’s den, after contact with his associate and sidekick, Desmond Floyd (Dennis Christopher). Before long, the trail leads them to Africa, but it transpires that Jake and Desmond might be as dubious as the very people she is trying to rescue her sister from….

Jake Speed certainly has its adventurous heart in the right place and, given the talent of Spielberg or Zemeckis, would have been a real treat if the script had been written a lot tighter than it is here. As such, it is a movie that takes a little too long to get going, before the real nitty-gritty of the action arrives in an admittedly pacey climax.

Part of the problem is that Crawford and Kopins lack the essential chemistry that Ford and Allen and Douglas and Turner oozed in Raiders and Stone. It is something that Crawford (who was also a co-writer and co-producer of the film) should have addressed at the script development stage.

The late John Hurt turns up in a thankless role as the villain, which is pretty much par-for-the-course; and probably one of those roles the late great actor took for the money in the decade, which yielded far better work from him.

On balance, Crawford’s Speed comes over like a cross between Jacks Burtons and Colton, but lacking the timing and quick-fire quip that heightened Kurt Russell’s and Michael Douglas’ performances.

The style of the performances is reminiscent of The African Queen and the context of the story reminds one of The Wild Geese, with an African revolution taking place as the backdrop to the adventure our heroes find themselves in.

The film certainly will find favour with cult fans and those who enjoyed watching this on VHS back in the day and there is added appeal with a post-Saturday Night Fever appearance from Donna Pescow (who played Annette in the disco film classic and seriously under-used here) Fans of Peter Yates’ Breaking Away (1979) and the cult horror film Fade To Black (1980) will seek this out for Christopher.

The location work, plus a score by Mark Snow (Hart to Hart, The X-Files), adds to the limited charm of Jake Speed. Not a bad film overall, but not in the league of those classic adventure hits mentioned at the start.