JAKE SPEED (Arrow Video Blu Ray Special Edition) -original release New World May 30, 1986. Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen .105 minutes. PG $39.95 REGION A/1. Blu Ray released December 2019
JAKE SPEED is a super fun action adventure film that never takes itself too seriously and lets you in on the joke. Indeed, the whole film is based upon the idea of “What if the heroes we read about in pulp fiction existed”? This flick makes the whole premise work.
A young woman, Maureen Winston (Becca C Ashley in her only theatrical role) is abducted while she is in Paris by white slavers (a plot later used in the better known TAKEN, Fox,2008). Her family back in the United States are understandably upset. Maureen’s parents (Monte Markham, PROJECT X, Paramount 1968, and Millie Perkins, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Fox,1959) blame Maureen’s sister Margaret (Karen Kopins, ONCE BITTEN, Goldwyn,1985) for encouraging her to go out and see the world.
Margaret’s crusty grandfather (Leon Ames, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, MGM,1946) says that there are very few real men anymore, such as Remo Williams, or Jake Speed. He feels Jake Speed would be the best man to handle this.
The thing is Maureen discovers that Jake only exists in a series of pulp novels that her grandfather reads. Or does he?
A note is slipped under Margaret’s door that instructs her to go to a bar at the San Pedro Docks at midnight if she wishes to find her sister. Going along is her friend, Wendy (Donna Pescow, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, Paramount, 1977).
The bar is the type of dive that might make pirates feel unsafe. They are soon joined by Desmond Floyd (Dennis Christopher, BREAKING AWAY, Fox,1979) and Jake Speed (writer producer Wayne Crawford, who also co-wrote /co-produced the indie hit VALLEY GIRL, Atlantic, 1983) himself.
It seems that they base their pulp stories upon actual events and that Margaret’s story connects with a case that Desmond and Jake are pursuing , involving white slavers in Africa and Jake’s arch-nemeses, the gleeful Sid (John Hurt, ALIEN,Fox,1979) and his somewhat foppish brother Maurice (Roy London, one of the top acting teachers in Hollywood ,who died in 1993 at only age 50).
London was the subject of a 2005 documentary
What follows are a series of wildly over the top adventures that Margaret becomes part of as a struggling country’s different faction fight a Civil War all around them. John Hurt looks like he is having the time of his life playing the baddie, and he never takes his character too seriously (though when he slits the throat of an innocent civilian near the end, it is a bit of a shock).
Shooting in Africa gave the picture much grander production values than a medium budget picture of the time would have had filming elsewhere. Plus, as we learn from the disc extras (more later in the review), they were given use of actual military vehicles, troops and helicopters, mixed in with some amazing Australian stunt people.
Watch for one little editing boo boo near the end at the airport, where all the background extras behind John Hurt stand perfectly still and then start moving as if they got their cue late .
The film was released by New World Pictures while COBRA (WB) and TOP GUN ( Paramount) were dominating the U.S. box office in May 1986. JAKE SPEED was not a successful picture, making most of it’s money on it’s release to video and cable. There were plans to make more but the failure to find a wide theatrical acceptance put an end to that idea.
New World did do a clever bit of promotion for the film, releasing an actual paperback on June 1,1986 by Gold Eagle/Harlequin, under the pseudonym Reno Melon, which is the fake name Jake and Des’ author their pulp novels in the film. The thing is, they should have released the book in advance of the film, not after it had disappeared from theatres.
I have to admit that I have been a fan of this film since it first came to video on the old New World Video. This new Arrow Video Blu Ray is an incredible improvement over any prior release on this film. Arrow Video has gone back to the original 35mm interpositive prints and given it a 2K Hi Def (1080p) clean up that makes this picture look even more impressive. The stunning African vistas and colors show that more care was given to this movie than one would assume from prior prints.
The mono sound from prior releases has been cleaned up and given a lot more audio punch (2.0 stereo), with the crashes, punches, gunfire and music all jumping out at you while still never overpowering the tongue in cheek lines as the film zooms along.
There are optional English subtitles that are easy to read and follow the action and dialogue quite accurately.
Other Extras include –
PAPERBACK WISHES, CINEMATIC DREAMS– a brand new Ballyhoo Motion Pictures interview with director Andrew Lane. Ballyhoo Motion Picture extras on any disc are always top notch and this one keeps the fine record by the company.
Lane and Crawford worked together since 1977 (starting as a writing producing team on the 1977 Dimension Pictures’ TOMCATS). Their idea was to make each succeeding picture just a little bit better, culminating with JAKE SPEED. They worked upon a few more films after this, but none seemed to be as personal as this picture.
THE HARD WAY READS BETTER-Another made for this release Ballyhoo Motion Pictures extra, this time producer William Fay offers his insights into making JAKE SPEED, including budget restraints, and other problems of having to bring practically all equipment into the country to make the picture.
The Blu Ray Sleeve has a reversible cover, with newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys, whose magnificent work has graced several other collectible Arrow Video releases.
This is a fun independent action adventure that merely asks that you relax and have a good time.
-Kevin G Shinnick
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