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Scream Factory’s Jack’s Back Blu-ray Release
A forgotten thriller featuring a Jack the Ripper copycat killer offing women in 1980s LA, and it happens to star James Spader as twins.
Published on January 29, 2016 | Filed under Review
Jack's Back

In 1989 Rowdy Harrington would give the world a film titled Road House, it would be instantly met with critical praise and adoration from audiences all over. Well, maybe not quite instantly. But, it’s hard to argue against Harrington giving us something truly special via Dalton and Co. Only a year prior, however, Harrington wrote and directed a small and ultimately forgotten thriller that features a Jack the Ripper copycat killer offing women in 1980s LA. And it happens to star James Spader as twins.

Jack’s Back is seldom talked about in regards to Harrington, Spader or even 80s thriller cinema in general. I’m not quite sure why as it’s not all that bad. Spader broods and stares with finesse, turning in a stoic meets manic performance that only he can deliver. As mentioned, he does play twins though that isn’t as significant an element of the film as something like, say, Double Impact. This should definitely be more referred to as the Spader “Jack the Ripper” movie rather than the Spader “twins” movie.

And that’s where this unfortunately falters. Harrington lays far too much out at the get-go, with each development in the killer’s identity being obvious far in advance. The mystery here is pretty non-existent and anyone looking for grue or other excess will be left sorely disappointed. But this is Spader’s show and he dominates every scene that he’s in, which is most of them. I really want to love the 80s Jack the Ripper flick starring James Spader and from the writer/director of Road House, but I can’t. That said, it doesn’t deserve to be as relegated to the sidelines as it has been for the past couple of decades. It’s a silly, predictable piece of genre cinema that doesn’t wear out its welcome and, if nothing else, contains a great performance from an actor who rarely gets his due.

Jack's Back

Scream Factory have brought Jack’s Back to Blu-ray for what appears to be the first time and it is stated to be sourced from the original negative. The color palette here is skews very dark, with a lot of the film taking place in low lit interiors or outside at night. As such, the blacks are deep and everything seems faithful to its source. Grain is inherent and organic – though it does get more prominent in truly dark scenes – and damage is never an issue. Audio is in 2.0 DTS HD MA and I had no issues with the track. Music and dialogue come through clearly and balanced, with no popping, hissing or distortion of any kind present. Some of the dialogue can be on the low end, but that has more to do with delivery than any fault of the track.

Extras start with a commentary with Harrington. He’s a talkative host and keeps things lively and informative. We also get a twenty three minute “making of” which features new interviews with Harrington and members of the cast and crew. There’s discussion of the genesis of the film and issues with the production. The final extra is a theatrical trailer.

Jack’s Back may not live up to its premise and/or other work from its writer/director, but it’s a fun, lean piece of genre cinema that deserves more of an audience than it has gotten over the years. Scream Factory have given it a solid A/V presentation and a couple quality supplements that should please fans. Recommended.

Justin holds degrees in film preservation from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and film studies from Keene State College. He writes the Geek Weird column for Geek New Wave and is currently writing a book on XXX parody films. He is a projectionist at Jacob Burns Film Center and regularly haunts NYC movie houses showing any type of genre/trash cinema.
Justin LaLiberty

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