Budget studio American International Pictures made a great many contributions to what was dubbed the Blaxploitation genre. I was surprised I had not known about 1976’s J.D.’s Revenge until recently, as I have watched many films in this niche and I also try to watch every AIP release I can find.
Many of the pictures in this genre are strictly for entertainment, whether it is action, horror or martial arts. This one does something a bit different, as it looks like horror on the surface, while being a more serious and contemplative film underneath.
Glynn Turman stars a cab driver trying to put himself through law school. His girlfriend is supportive and intelligent, and I liked watching their interaction before things get bad.
And they will get bad. While being hypnotized on stage as part of a nightclub’s act, he becomes possessed by the spirit of J.D. Walker, who died decades prior. We see flashbacks through the movie of the events right before the end of J.D.’s life, though we are only shown what the movie wants us to see. At the end, an additional perspective will completely change what we think had happened.
Turman is fantastic in this film. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as I had seen him in Cooley High. But here he is an entirely different character than Preach. In fact, he is really two different characters, and it is astonishing how differently he speaks, and even carries himself, during the moments J.D. takes control.
And some of those possession scenes lead to some deeply uncomfortable moments. I hadn’t previously considered how even consensual sex with somebody who is possessed would actually be rape. Then there is another incident later which is outright attempted rape.
These scenes, and others, would be completely repellent if it wasn’t for the tone of the picture. This is yet another confirmation of my belief that what occurs on screen is not as crucial as how it is portrayed.
All of the performances here are solid, especially Louis Gossett Jr as a preacher. Joan Pringle as Turman’s girlfriend is another standout as a notable strong female character for the era.
I’ll wrap this up with my usual random observations. A night on the town at the beginning has two couples going from a strip bar to the nightclub with the hypnotism act to a disco. I’m surprised they didn’t stop for dinner at a fondue place along the way. And the fashions throughout are fascinating, including Pringle’s best friend, who I thought was wearing gay pride fucksocks in one scene. And typical of movies of this era, every character’s blood type appears to be “tempura paint”. Lastly, a meat packing warehouse in the recurring flashback is so gross that every set from the Saw series called and said to clean it up a bit.
I’ll admit I had to do some metal reconciliation to deal with select scenes of J.D.’s Revenge, a couple of which I felt I simply had to accept in order to move on. Admittedly, if the tone had been off, I would have been repulsed. As it is, I found this to be a more serious Blaxploitation effort than I have come to expect from the genre, and I recommend it to the curious.
Dir: Arthur Marks
Starring Glynn Turman, Joan Pringle, Louis Gossett Jr.
Watched on Arrow blu-ray