During the boom period of the ‘70s, Blaxploitation films covered pretty much any genre and story type you can imagine. J.D.’s Revenge is one of the horror gems. It tells of the titular New Orleans hustler, J.D. Walker, murdered in 1942, taking possession of straight arrow student Isaac Hendrix to enact his revenge on the man who killed his sister and framed him for the murder. But Walker is no hero, instead he’s a brutal criminal and as he takes Isaac over he wreaks havoc on Hendrix’s life. For reassessment purposes, time has been unkind to many of these films, leaving them to be very much a product of their era. However, there’s a significant number that not only present us with a time capsule of attitudes and influences but stands as great films.
Happily, J.D.’s Revenge is one of them. It might seem like a silly idea, but the film takes the concept totally seriously. Hendrix is a fine young man with a girlfriend who loves and supports him, good friends, and a great future ahead of him. Well-rounded characters give us a reason to care as Walker rips apart Isaac’s life and there’s several scenes that remain genuinely uncomfortable to this day. Turman is phenomenal as Hendrix and Walker, his performance utterly gripping and convincing. He’s supported by an excellent cast, with Pringle as his horrified girlfriend Christella matching Turman beat for beat. The script by Jaison Starkes is relevant, subtle, challenging and ambitious, telling a clear story but full of commentary. Arthur Marks made some great films around this time and his direction here is flawless. The soundtrack by Robert Prince is unsettling, and all the elements that make up the film go towards ensuring J.D.’s Revenge is almost entirely successful. The only caveat is the ending is a little too neat but it’s a small point.
For this Arrow release, the film has been given a 2K restoration and compared to previous conditions of the film it’s beautiful, complimenting the direction, editing and production design as it should be. The extras are good too. There’s a 40-minute plus brand new making-of involving Turman, Marks and others that’s genuinely interesting. We get an audio interview with the ‘real’ Walker, actor David McKnight, a gallery, radio spots, the trailer for the film plus a nifty addition in an Arthur Marks trailer reel. First pressings also get a booklet with writing by Kim Newman too.
Its appeal is certainly wider than simply a Blaxploitation curio and it transcends any labels to be a great thriller, horror film and social commentary. This new release just amplifies that quality. Highly recommended.
J.D.’S REVENGE (1976) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: ARTHUR MARKS / SCREENPLAY: JAISON STARKES / STARRING: GLYNN TURMAN, LOUIS GOSSETT JR, JOAN PRINGLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW