Tuesday, October 13, 2020

JACK'S BACK (1988) Blu-ray Review

SCARE-A-THON Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 12
Total First Time Views: 6
Amount raised for BOXVILLE: $831.84

Jack’s Back (1988) d. Rowdy Herrington (USA) (97 min) (2nd viewing)

In 1888, a homicidal maniac known as Jack the Ripper was responsible for the murder of anywhere from five to 14 murders in the Whitechapel and surrounding areas of London. A century later, a copycat is echoing the Ripper’s modus operandi down to the finest details throughout the red light districts of Los Angeles, leaving a trail of bodies and nary a clue. When a med school student, John Westford (James Spader), stumbles across the latest crime scene in progress, he finds himself the killer’s next target, arousing the interest of twin brother Rick (also Spader) who discovers that he might know the murderer’s identity through an unexplained psychic link. Unfortunately, Rick also finds himself to be the LAPD's number one suspect, and only with the aid of John’s fellow classmate Chris (Cynthia Gibb) might he be able to find the Reborn Ripper and clear his name.

Before he entered the pop culture Hall of Fame with the ever-enduring slice of cheese known as Road House starring Patrick Swayze, writer/director Rowdy Herrington made his feature debut with this not-bad little thriller that serves as a fine showcase role for his up-and-coming young star. Spader, who had not played a lead since 1985’s Tuff Turf, had been making quite a name for himself as a standout supporting actor in Pretty in Pink, Mannequin, Less Than Zero, Baby Boom, and Wall Street, and was now given the chance to carry a film as well as play the two, count ’em, two lead roles.

"I'm dangerous."

Spader is actually far more successful as the squeaky clean idealist John than he is as “bad boy” Rick with requisite leather jacket, earring, and perfectly placed scar below his right eye. Both characters have that same aloof outsider arrogance that the actor has made his stock in trade over the past three decades, with the main difference being that John is likable and nerdy while Rick seems permanently bummed out that his hair mousse is overpriced which, you know, makes him dangerous.

The impossibly cute (pre-Death Warrant) Nixon was best probably known at the time for her four-year run as Holly Laird on TV’s Fame and she’s the perfect non-threatening Dr. Watson to Spader’s amateur sleuth; smart, sassy, and somehow still wholesome in her matching white slip and panties. The supporting cast includes Robert Picardo (The Howling) as the requisite red herring head shrinker, Rod Loomis (The Beastmaster, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is suitably odious as a power-hungry professor, and Chris Mulkey (Twin Peaks) does his best with the stereotypical ineffectual dum-dum cop role.

This served as one of celebrated cinematographer Shelly Johnson’s early film credits, although he spent the better part of the next decade in TV-movie jail before breaking back onto the silver screen with Jurassic Park III, which led to The Wolfman, Captain America: The First Avenger, and the second Expendables movie. Despite the slick 1980s low-budget feel, Johnson does a fine job throwing the colored gels and deep shadows around to keep things lively. And while some might argue the taste of using Paul Saax’s droning “Red Harvest” song over the beginning AND end credits, it’s a tune that stays with you and sets a low-key atmosphere of dread.

Fans of Spader, Gibb, and Herrington would do well to check this one out, along with fans of ’80s thrillers without all that nasty sex and violence.


NEW High-definition transfer from the original negative
NEW Audio commentary with writer/director Rowdy Herrington
NEW “The Making of Jack’s Back” with Rowdy Herrington, producer Tim Moore, actress Cynthia Gibb and director of photography Shelly Johnson (24 min)
Theatrical Trailer

Jack’s Back is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:



No comments:

Post a Comment