Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “J.D.’s Revenge”

J.D.'s RevengeHard-working law student Glynn Turman is chosen to be a subject in a hypnotist act, and to the dismay of his wife (Joan Pringle) and friends, discovers that the experience has allowed the spirit of J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a violent New Orleans hood murdered in the 1940s, to take root and manipulate him into seeking revenge on his killers. The horror-show mechanics in this black-cast supernatural thriller from producer-director Arthur Marks, are wisely kept to a minimum in favor of building suspense and chills through pacing and performances, both of which are very good here: Turman, fresh from “Cooley High” and later a dependable character actor (“The Wire”), makes the transformation from Upstanding Kid to killer both believable and disturbing through his voice and bristling energy, and he’s well-matched by Louis Gossett, Jr. as a reverend with connections to J.D. Walker and TV vet Pringle as Turman’s infinitely patient wife. Like Jack Hill and Monte Hellman, Marks usually found inventive ways to work within the limitations of low-budget/exploitation fare, and his direction here is tight and modestly stylish (especially during the flashbacks to Walker’s murder), and gives his actors room do their work; interested parties should consider seek out some of his other titles, especially the cop drama “Detroit 9000” (a Quentin Tarantino favorite) and “The Monkey HuStle,” made the same year as “J.D.” Marks is featured in a lengthy retrospective featurette on the film, along with Turman, prolific editor George Folsey, Jr. (who cut and co-produced many of John Landis’ films) and writer Jaison Starkes; an audio interview with McKnight and numerous promotional items, including trailers for other Marks films, round out Arrow’s thoroughly appointed Blu-ray. Oh, and that’s jazz and Broadway composer-arranger Robert Prince handling soundtrack duties, not the late Prince, as is often reported.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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