Wednesday, October 21, 2009

J.D.'s Revenge (1976)

This played at the New Beverly Tuesday night in a double bill with Blacula, and even though I hadn't heard of this movie before, I think it was the more entertaining of the two. It's a pretty simple set-up: nice guy Glynn Turman gets put into a trance by a Bourbon Street hypnotist and then gets possessed (as will happen) by the ghost of vengeful 1940s gangster J.D. Walker.

The trailer makes it look a lot sillier than it plays in the actual movie - director Arthur Marks allows the possession to sink in gradually over time (just as William Friedkin did in The Exorcist) so the audience isn't plunged too quickly into ludicrosity and zoot suits.

Ultimately, the movie is less about a spooky ghost story than it is about Glynn Turman biting deep into a double role and chewing hard. I can't think of many performances where it's so obvious that the actor is truly relishing the over-the-topness of their character, and Turman's joy in his performance as the totally unrestrained pimptastic J.D. is infectious. His outdated hairdo, not so much, but when he starts going all razor-happy and slashing the husbands of random women he just had sex with? The New Beverly audience ate that up.

Ultimately, J.D.'s Revenge doesn't take its premise very far, just deep enough to be a satisfying b-movie. With a little more effort and psychological character development, this could have been a classic.


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