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This is gritty 70's B-movie action at its best. The CB radio craze was
at its height when this movie first came out (I saw it on a double bill
with "Jaws" at an outdoor)and the country was fascinated by the lives
of long distance truckers. There were also a lot of violent films
portraying the "little guy" sticking up for himself against the powers
that be. These concepts coalesce in this fast-paced and tough action
Carroll Jo Hummer is an independent long haul trucker whose whole life is tied up in two things: his wife and his truck The Blue Mule. He's no angel but he knows corruption when he sees it. When his greasy boss Duane (good ol' boy Slim Pickens) puts the arm on Hummer to deliver illegal cigarettes and slot machines, Carroll Jo refuses to go along. In doing so, he becomes an inspiration to other wildcat truckers looking to buck the system but he also becomes the target of a vicious campaign of intimidation endorsed by the corporate slimeballs in their ivory towers.
There's fist-fighting, road racing and down and dirty dialog galore as Hummer's war with his enemies escalates to "Walking Tall" levels. The concluding image of the Blue Mule smashing the glass emblem of the corrupt corporation is iconic.
This is a B-movie for sure and no Oscar contender, but the lives of the truckers are portrayed with some grit and realism. There's some breath-taking footage of cross-country journeys, particularly in a snowy Utah, and there's hardly a dull moment. Jan-Michael Vincent does fine as Hummer and it may be one of the best roles of his career (he did all his own stunts).
And how can you go wrong with a 70's cast that includes L.Q. Jones, Dick Miller, R. G. Armstrong, Don Porter, Kay Lenz, Sam Laws and Slim Pickens? Only obvious signs of sloppiness were a couple of shots where the boom mike or its shadow are visible. That's a minor quibble. If you're looking for a hell-raisin' bare knuckled story that pits a tough man against the odds, chances are this is what you are looking for.
This film catapulted Jan-Michael Vincent to stardom level for awhile, and contained a lot of good, exciting action scenes as well as politically correct assessment of some of the problems of independent truckers at the time. Of course, it contained some action and fighting scenes that are somewhat unbelievable, but in the context of the story, they work. Kay Lenz is the believable, not too lovely hero's wife who downplayed her attractiveness displayed in later films. There are lots of eye-pleasing shots of trucks and highway mayhem, and, of course, from a trucker and real-life perspective, lots of technically inaccurate scenes, but, all in all one of the very best trucking movies ever made -- and I've seen 'em all! Good cast, good flick. This $2 million film went on to be a big grosser.
This movie gave a slightly glamorized (and dirty) view into the world
of the American trucking industry circa 1973-75. Without crossing over
into making a film only truckers and their kin would enjoy, they kept
the story and the action fast-paced yet clear as to what is happening
unseen. It's not a "CB Fad" movie. A very "Americana" type film which
gives a terrific look at the middle American fighting for himself and
his ideals. Even though it is a semi-cheesy "B" movie by any standard,
the characters are easily related to and the storyline is easy to get
involved with, and the action is fun without getting too excessive
(gee- a trucker who isn't a gravity defying martial artist!).
Jan-Michael Vincent is at perhaps his best, with Kay Lenz as the perfect naggy whiny trucker's old lady- just cute enough to want to come home to. The musical score is cliché' by today's standards, but dead-on for that time. Some of the old country tunes actually sound pretty good even today (though the twang twang stuff, and the musically reproduced truck horns grew old after while).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the earliest -- and hence best -- of a handful of 70's trucker
movies, a once quite hot, but now hopelessly passé sub-genre which
beget a mixed bag of films which includes the stellar Claudia Jennings
vehicle "Truck Stop Women," the not half bad Peter Fonda pic "High
Ballin'," the great'n'gritty overlooked sleeper "Road Movie," Sam
Peckinpah's excruciatingly stupid "Convoy," the alarmingly atrocious
Chuck Norris chopsocky turkey "Breaker! Breaker!," and the sturdy
made-for-TV item "Steel Cowboy." Jan-Michael Vincent, whose career in
the Me Decade was all over the map, peaking with "The Mechanic" and
"Big Wednesday" and hitting a wonderfully wretched all-time low with
the gloriously godawful post-nuke sci-fi atrocity "Damnation Alley,"
here gives one of his strongest, most convincing and engaging
performances to date as Carrol Jo Hummer, an earnest, moral, youthful
independent Diesel driver who finds out that his employers are crooked
bastards who sell illegal contraband on the side. Greatly appalled by
this discovery, Hummer decides to blow the whistle on the entire
unlawful business, becoming a modern-day folk hero in the process and
subsequently putting both himself and his plucky wife Jerri (a
stand-out portrayal by the always fine and assertive Kay Lenz) in
Director Jonathan Kaplan, who was then on a real B-movie roll churning out such kick-ass exploitation flicks as "Night Call Nurses," "The Student Teachers," and "Truck Turner" on a regular basis, hits a brisk, solid groove at the very start of the film and masterfully sustains it to the thrilling end, expertly milking the forever effective and appealing "one lone little man against the big, bad system" populist hero subtext in Ken Friedman's tightly efficient script for maximum socko entertainment. Kudos also to the exceptional supporting cast ridden with familiar film faces: the late, great, ever-delightful Slim Pickens as corrupt truck stop manager Duane Haller, L.Q. Jones at his most sublimely slimy and serpentine as head heavy Buck Westle, Martin Kove as one of Westle's thuggish goons, R.G. Armstrong as a shifty, manipulative prosecuting attorney, veteran character actor Don Porter as the smug CEO who's running the whole no-count operation, frequent Kaplan pic co-star Johnny Ray McGhee as an angry black trucker, Sam Laws as McGhee's rascally lovable ol' coot pop, and the irreplaceable Dick Miller as fidgety, peppery gear-jammer R. "Birdie" Corman. Further enhanced by Fred Koenekamp's crisp, inventive cinematography, David Nichtern's stirring score, and Valerie Carter tearfully warbling the marvelously mawkish country-and-western weeper "Drifting and Dreaming of You" all of three times on the soundtrack, "White Line Fever" gets a hearty ten-four from your good buddy film critic as quintessential 70's drive-in cinema at its most bluntly exciting and unpretentious best.
My dad took me to see this movie in the theater in 1975. I was around 7 years old. I guess I remember it most because it was one of the first movies my dad took me to see. It is definitely a tough guys movie. The violence portrayed in the film stayed with me for years. Especially the scene where Slim Pickens is thrown in front of a speeding semi truck. I've seen the movie many times on television since 1975 and have grown to appreciate it more. Not being close to the trucking industry, I don't know how accurate a picture it paints for today, but I believe it hits pretty close for 1975.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILER ALERT! Great action flick with well-written characters, often compared to "Billy Jack" and "Walking Tall." Fistfights and tough guys galore, Kay Lenz looking adorable, what more could you ask for? Climactic scene of Jan-Michael Vincent's "Blue Mule" diesel tractor truck barreling through a guard shack and becoming airborne is one of the most memorable bits of 70's action cinema. Highly recommended by me.
I saw this film years ago at the cinema. On the big screen it was fantastic and since then I have been waiting for it to be released on either video or DVD. Its a very simple story about a lone trucker. He's an honest man looking to make an honest living but ends up fighting the corrupt system, a true classic of the seventies. The acting is acceptable, the director resisted the temptation to over play the main characters role. The film rolls along at a fairly good pace and is for the most part quite believable, the finale has the hero driving his truck through a large sign in a highly symbolic gesture. If this film was to be remade today I am sure the acting would be much better, the action scenes much more explosive and I am sure it would have the standard sex scenes. However White Line Fever is a classic of its time and in my opinion a remake would never match the originals simple plot and drama without adding too many unnecessary distractions. There have been very few good trucking movies ever made, so hopefully this one will be re-released.
I love 70's cult cinema, I adore trucker movies and I absolutely worship Jan-Michael Vincent whom I consider to be one of the few genuine dukes of coolness amongst B-movie actors. In other words, the chance of me personally disliking anything about "White Line Fever" were very slim! So if you're looking for a natural and 100% unbiased review, perhaps it's better to read someone else's because I truly love this type of exploitation trash. This is one of Jan-Michael's better performances, for sure, and also one that perfectly fits together amongst some of his other contemporary and sadly underrated gems like "Shadow of the Hawk" and "Vigilante Force". Vincent's character Carroll Jo Hummer returns home from the Vietnam war and intends to pick up his family life again. Just for fun's sake, try to compose a list of ALL the 1970's movies that start with the protagonist(s) returning from 'Nam and trying to pick up their lives again! Hummer's father was a respected trucker in rural Arizona, but he died and Carroll Jo wants to continue the family's trucking tradition. He marries his high-school sweetheart Jerri Kane and together they invest all their money in a cool truck named "the Blue Mule". Finding work isn't really a problem, but the Arizona trucking business is being controlled by corrupt and fraudulent big shots who insist on smuggling stolen and illegal goods. When Carroll Jo refuses to be part of these crimes, he quickly finds himself boycotted and in severe financial issues. When he attempts to fight back, along with a chosen few other earnest and old-fashioned truckers, the crooked magnates don't even hesitate to attack his wife and unborn child. Okay, admittedly "White Line Fever" contains rather too many tedious parts simply showing trucks on the road and the screenplay is chock-full of clichés, but the whole ambiance and settings are irresistibly 70's. The action sequences are quite rough and violent, which certainly isn't a point of criticism coming from yours truly, and the climax sequence is a wonderful example of imaginative symbolism. Handsome Jan-Michael also receives excellent support from a nice assembly of reliable B-movie actors like Slim Pickens, LQ Jones and Dick Miller. Many fans of cult and exploitation cinema refer to "White Line Fever" as the best trucker movie ever made. I think they might be right...
I think this movie gets better on the second viewing. When I first sat
down to watch this, I was expecting a drama. Then it turned into a
violent action movie. Then we were back to a drama. Then we were in a
labor movie. Then 70's whacka whacka-guitar action moment again. Chase
scene through cardboard boxes. Then hospital drama again. Whew!!!
Anyway, JMV is great as Carrol Jo Hummer! He's a born action star, and
he looks the part in this. His girl friend (Kay Lenz) is adorable. I
would have rather had a more basic drama, as these two actors really
have great chemistry on screen. Don't get me wrong - the truck chase
scenes are great too, but the bad guys in this movie kind of suck.
Their wardrobe is horrible, and you don't really know why they are
persecuting Carrol Jo so much. There are some pretty violent moments
that take you off guard. They kill off a couple of fun characters for
no reason. And the end - after the great truck crashing into the sign
moment - really makes no sense at all.
Just take this for what it is - a strange 70's action movie with good eye candy in it!
So I said "It better not end like this" and it did, a very
disappointing end but towards the finish of the movie you could see the
directors panic as he struggled to find an ending so I was aware that a
'bail out' was on the cards. To be fair even I half way through the
movie I thought how on Earth are they going to end this.
A unique trucker movie inasmuch as Trucker movies are usually a lot lighter this has some very dark and heavy moments which in turn keeps the viewer unsettled which is only a good thing in an action drama.
But the Director needs to look up the word 'Revenge' in a dictionary or at least ask Charles Bronson (Once upon a time in the west) how it's done.
The entire cast put in a good performance and the script and pacey direction keep things moving. JMV was great.
Plus some nice old seventies American Trucks.
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