Hooptober 8.0 – J.D.’s Revenge (1976)

Being Bonus Film #1 for Hooptober 2021

We’ve hit the bonus rounds for Hooptober 2021! These will be a little more brief – just general impression of the three “extra credit” films assigned for those who can get through the marathon. First up is J.D.’s Revenge, a blaxploitation horror film that is better than you would think. Directed by Arthur Marks who made his mark in television as well as earlier fare like Bucktown and Detroit 9000. You have to wade through some gratuitous violence against women (a staple of the time) but overall this is a sharp film that uses New Orleans as something other than a bayou swamp, with some great performances, including an early showing from Louis Gossett Jr.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: Isaac “Ike” Hendrix is working hard, driving a cab and putting himself through law school, his fine wife Christella by his side. One night he goes out with some friends where he takes part in a hypnotist’s show. During the act he’s possessed by the spirit of J.D. Walker, a 40s era gangster hustler sociopath who was shot and killed after witnessing the death of his sister in a butcher’s slaughterhouse. Ike slowly falls under the spell of J.D., who has unfinished business taking revenge on those who wronged him so long ago. Problem is, J.D. is slowly taking over Ike’s life, making him more and more violent. Can he get rid of J.D. before things go too far?

The whole of J.D.’s Revenge centers on Ike’s ability to sell the slow change over to the nasty psychotic J.D., and Glynn Turman is fantastic showing a real change when he’s under J.D.’s power. He also sells the humanity and terror of losing yourself to the dark power, and how that affects his relationship with the equally great Christella (played by Joan Pringle). This may be a blaxploitation film, but everyone involved is treating it as something larger, something better and that elevates the material to a degree.

If there’s a stumbling block, it’s simply the norms for the time the film was made. Although the violence moves there story forward, it’s more than a little painful to watch, especially a harrowing scene where Ike, possessed by J.D. has some hard, terming sex with Christella and then later in a drunken rage beats her throws her off. The slaughterhouse scenes look real, and there’s a queasy sense to them being used as flashbacks to the murder that sets J.D. off.

Look, J.D.’s Revenge isn’t Shakespeare, but it’s a hell of a lot better than wealth you expect from a low budget blaxploitation film. If nothing else it’ll show you a powerhouse performance from Glynn Turman.

And Louis Gossett Jr. with some hair. Sometimes.

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