White Line Fever (1975)
It’s been well over twenty years since I’ve seen the story of Jan-Michael Vincent and his rig “The Blue Mule.” I loved seeing this as a kid on late night TV all those years ago and I’ve learned that I still love this tale of a young man fighting against crooked money men who run the trucking business in Arizona.
In a collage of photos over the opening of the film we see young Jan-Michael and sexy Kay Lenz celebrating the years of youth and marriage. From there it’s time to discover there dreams and passions. Buying a new rig they embark into the trucking business where Jan-Michael’s father had made a living.
They are about to see that things have changed when going to meet Slim Pickens who handles the shipping yard. Sure Slim is still a good old boy in a cowboy hat and suit but behind him L.Q. Jones is pulling the strings on transporting illegal goods. Honest working Jan-Michael stands his ground refusing play along and before he knows it he’s been busted up pretty good by one of L.Q.’s henchman, Martin Kove.
It doesn’t take Jan-Michael long to realize he’s been blacklisted and in a testosterone fueled scene he pulls out a shotgun and practically scares Slim out of his Nudie suit. With a snide grin L.Q. gives him a trailer to haul leading to another top notch action sequence out on the highways involving dueling rigs. This would be a good time to point out that the musical score by David Nichtern during these sequences really gets the pulse racing.
Joining Jan-Michael during his action sequences is his fathers old driving partner, Sam Laws playing “Pops” who is wonderful here and throws a bit of a race card into the dramatics when his own son thinks his father shouldn’t be hanging with the good looking white boy Jan-Michael.
Other truckers are taking notice of Jan-Michael’s stand against Jones and the real money men led by another mean S.O.B. when he wants to be, R.G. Armstrong. R.G. and his money men Lord over the industry in what is termed as the “glass house.” When murder and intimidation begin to take their toll, the script leads Jan-Michael into a variation on the vigilante theme that was so prevalent in the decade of the seventies.
The ending of his rampage is not to be missed and for those that have seen this film before you’ll know exactly what I am talking about in one of the damnedest stunts we are not likely to ever see again in our current CGI world of film.
Fever was directed and co-written by Jonathan Kaplan who also gave us another vigilante themed title just the year before with Truck Turner. He’s recently been credited as the producer of a documentary titled, That Guy Dick Miller. Miller is a well known character player having a long association with Roger Corman. In White Line Fever, Miller plays a trucker named Roger Corman. Love the in jokes.
Great job here of casting members of the Sam Peckinpah stock company to play our country bad asses. L.Q., R.G. and Slim. The only rascal missing is Strother Martin. Any one of these actors make any film that much better. Gives you a rooting interest when they show us their nasty sides.
Jan-Michael Vincent is one of those Hollywood actors that I just hang my head and wonder how it could all go so wrong in real life. On screen this guy had so much charisma during the seventies. I would catch his flicks on TV growing up in the early eighties when he had his Airwolf TV show. I was a fan. Sadly, it wouldn’t be long before one newspaper article after another told of his spiraling off screen problems leading to his downfall.
Looking back at films like this, The Mechanic and Damnation Alley still give us that ultra cool presence he easily displayed on screen with the winning smile to go with it.
This is a must see for fans of seventies action films. Check it out or revisit this ass kicking flick like I just did. Worth the time. Think I’ll go watch again!