Mill Creek re-releases the trucker classic with snazzy vintage VHS-style packaging
White Line Fever is a terrific example of the trucker subgenre that briefly appeared in the 70s along with a CB radio boom that went a long way in creating a highway community. Like Peckinpah’s better known Convoy (which followed in 1978), it’s a strange little time capsule that employs a ton of memorable character actors (picking up many from the waning Western genre), stands up for the working class, and features as its protagonist a normal trucker who inadvertently becomes the symbolic leader of a mobilization for justice.
Jan Michael Vincent stars as Carrol Joe Hummer, a military vet who returns from service to settle down with his wife Jerri (Kay Lenz) with hopes to start a family. He decides to go into business for himself as an independent truck driver, braving the risks involved and investing in a rig to call his own.
Despite having friends in the industry (a who’s who of great character actors like Slim Pickens, Dick Miller, and Sam Laws), Hummer quickly finds that the environment is more hostile than expected; and he’s pressured to transport illegal contraband which could cause him to lose his license — a career-destroying risk for an independent carrier. A rigged system ensures it’s impossible for him to find work, so he takes it the only way he can think of — by force.
White Line Fever escalates like crazy. Hummer extorts loads at gunpoint, gaining the support of other truckers who join what quickly becomes a growing movement against the corrupt captains of the industry and their goons (another great showcase of character actors like L. Q. Jones, R. G. Armstrong, Martin Kove, and Don Porter).
The film gets wild and action packed with lots of truck chases, but never with a gleeful or free-wheeling sort of tone. The threat level never recedes and every success makes Hummer a bigger and bigger target, getting into both physical and legal battles and putting a strain on his long-suffering wife.
White Line Fever is a strange little film that packs in a lot of action and somehow manages to be both very thoughtful and absurd; fun and action-packed but downbeat. It’s a throwback to the 70s for sure, because they sure don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Mill Creek Entertainment has released White Line Fever as part of their VHS-style vintage packaging lineup. This is their second Blu-ray release of the film, but as with the recent Silent Rage, marks the first standalone edition (the prior release was a single-disc triple feature with that film and Blind Fury).
I love the VHS-inspired artwork on the slipcover and am generally a fan of this aesthetic when used appropriately (which is to say for pre-2000 movies, not Kong: Skull Island). Inside, the Blu-ray case features alternative poster art (click through the image carousel to see packaging details). That said, if you don’t care about packaging and are only interested in the film, the cheap triple-feature is a better buy.
Picture quality is in line with expectations; this is a 70s movie and looks the part. The film does have a number of close-ups on its grizzled cast of craggly tough guys, and it’s here that you can see the best detail.
The disc includes subtitles which is always appreciated. They are a bit sub-par, having a number of transcription errors, but as Mill Creek is a budget label, I’m just happy to have them.
Special Features and Extras
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.