Jack’s Back (1988)

I’m kind of obsessed with young James Spader. Let’s face it, in movies like The New Kids and Tuff Turf he exuded either a coked-up menace or hardscrabble heart that’s hard to beat. Here, he plays two roles. First, he’s a young doctor that becomes a suspect in a series of Jack the Ripper copycat murders. But then he dies — and his twin brother may or may not be the true killer.

Written and directed by Pittsburgh native Rowdy Herrington (Roadhouse, Striking Distance), this film also stars Cynthia Gibb (the TV version of Fame), Jim Haynie (the dockmaster from The Fog), character actor Robert Picardo and Rod Loomis (Zed from The Beastmaster).

Harrington wanted the movie to be titled Red Rain and for the Peter Gabriel song to be in the film. However, this was his low budget debut, he couldn’t get the rights, so he had a song composed called “Red Harvest,” which sounds exactly like the Gabriel ditty. However, the studio felt that the title had nothing to do with the movie, so they renamed it.

The story isn’t any great shakes: the good twin has found one of the victims before becoming one himself, while the troubled brother becomes the prime suspect. It’s also one of those movies packed with red herrings and endings that aren’t endings. So it’s kinda sorta an American giallo — minus the black gloves, inventive camerawork, fashion and neon colors. But the story — where a protagonist is dragged into a situation that he must investigate himself — comes off that way. And despite all the things I’ve said above, I ended up enjoying this one.

Spader is great — he always is — and you have to wonder about Cynthia Gibb’s character. It seems weird for the same woman to be involved with two brothers, but I guess identical twins makes that a little easier, if no less creepy.

You can get this from Shout! Factory or watch it on Amazon Prime.

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