Jack’s Back

Forgotten DVD


11 June 2012| No Comments on Jack’s Back     by Sean Chavel


Devious mystery smartly told. Jack’s Back (1988, 97 Minutes, R) is an early James Spader starrer in a Jack the Ripper horror update. In contemporary Los Angeles, a serial killer imitates murders that took place one hundred years earlier. Flourishes of atmosphere and clever, instinctual writing pushes this flick above the usual pedigree. I admit, that after the 25 minute mark it started to lose me, but a whopping new twist comes into play that is a real head-turner. I was hooked from that point on.

We meet Spader as John Westford, a public physician at an L.A. clinic. He has an attached interest in a prostitute he knew growing up, and he is chagrined when she is turned away by his own clinic administrator. On the news reports, the police are expecting a fifth murder by the end of the night. The cops are racing against the clock, and all John has to do is stay out of trouble. James Spader also plays Rick Westford, whose tell-apart physical distinction is a scar under his right eye.

John hollers to eyewitnesses to call the cops, goes running with blood all over him, and is last seen at his clinic after-dark. Rick has telepathic visions of the murder, urgently gets involved in the inquiry, and then becomes a suspect. He is let go by police, but is tailed by detectives indefinitely. Cynthia Gibb plays John’s co-worker and then ally to Rick. Most average movies would make this relationship into a case of simple dressing (put in the film a sexy woman in distress!), but no, there is an interesting subtext going on here. Here’s a woman that was attracted to her colleague John, but now might find his brother Rick even more attractive in that dangerously alluring way (I mean he’s the dark side of James Spader, right?). She also has a convincing medical expertise that makes her very much a superior intelligence to match with Rick.

This is a real night owl’s movie. This is an L.A. street movie where the action, suspense and horror take place primarily after dark. Writer-director Rowdy Herrington puts in a faint, subtle fog in the nighttime scenes that give a tinge of extra peril. The melodrama is sometimes high melodrama. In other words, whatever clichéd stuff there is in the movie is done with a raucous, clamorous energy, i.e., high melodrama. But see it, at least, for the enigmatic layers of James Spader. He gave an underrated dual performance here.

Film Cousins: “Pandora’s Box” (1929, Germany); “Time After Time” (1979); “Raising Cain” (1992); “From Hell” (2001).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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