Release Date(s)1988 (January 26, 2016)
Studio(s)Palisades Entertainment (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
Jack’s Back is an overlooked gem in the pantheon of psychological thrillers from the 80s and the 90s. James Spader pulls double duty as a doctor who appears to the authorities to have committed suicide. Alternately, he also portrays his twin brother, who begins seeing flashes of his brother’s death and quickly realizes that he was actually murdered, possibly by a Jack the Ripper copycat. Although Siskel and Ebert gave the movie praise, it wasn’t received well by the general public and quickly fell through the cracks.
Most folks would be quick to judge or dismiss Jack’s Back due it being Rowdy Herrington’s directorial debut, the man who would go on to direct a movie disliked at the time but ultimately held up as a cult favorite: Road House. I would go so far as to call Jack’s Back Herrington’s most interesting and well-executed film. It’s a fairly straight and effective thriller, with some intense moments, good performances, and a plot that will keep you guessing. Also in the cast are Cynthia Gibb, Robert Picardo, and Rod Loomis (who some may recognize as Sigmund Freud from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure).
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation is sourced from a “high definition transfer from the original negative.” Keeping its low budget origins in mind, it’s likely the strongest presentation of the film. Grain levels are a little inconsistent, but there’s definitely some excellent fine detail on display. The color palette isn’t lush, but it’s reproduced well, with nice skin tones. Black levels are deep with decent shadow detailing, and both brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. It’s also a very clean transfer with little to no print defects leftover. The lone audio track for the film is an English mono 2.0 DTS-HD mix. It’s straightforward, with very little to offer in terms of ambiance or dynamic range, but dialogue is always clean and clear, and both sound effects and music have ample room to breathe. Subtitles are also available in English for those who might need them.
The extras selection isn’t crowded like other Scream Factory releases, but there’s some good stuff here worth checking out. There’s an audio commentary with Herrington, as well as The Making of Jack’s Back, which contains interviews with Herrington, producer Tim Moore, actress Cynthia Gibb, and director of photography Shelly Johnson. In addition, there’s the original theatrical trailer, as well as a DVD copy of the movie.
Jack’s Back is no lost masterpiece but it has more to offer than most would lead you to believe. It has enough variation in its material, compared to other thrillers, to give it decent legs to stand on. Scream Factory finally rescuing the film from VHS obscurity, and giving it a good spit and polish on disc, is long overdue. Just having it readily available in this kind of quality is terrific.
- Tim Salmons