White Line Fever

Cast:

Jan-Michael Vincent .... Carrol Jo Hummer
Kay Lenz .... Jerri Kane Hummer
Slim Pickens .... Duane Haller
L.Q. Jones .... Buck
Sam Laws .... Pops
Don Porter .... Cutler
R.G. Armstrong .... The Prosecutor
Leigh French .... Lucy
Johnny Ray McGhee .... Carnell
Dick Miller (I) .... Birdie
Martin Kove .... Clem
Jamie Anderson (II) .... Jamie
David Garfield (I) .... Witness Miller (as John David Garfield)
Ron Nix .... Deputy
Swede Johnson .... Hy

WHITE LINE FEVER has the distinction of being the first contemporary studio film to focus on the theme of the independent trucker and his/her lifestyle (perhaps inspired by the TV series MOVIN' ON, which debuted a year earlier). Most others, before and since, have been little more than standard formula action-adventure/comedy flicks with the trucking theme a mere novelty, something to capitalize on the CB trend - as so many did in the 70's. Sure, WHITE LINE FEVER features its share of "big rig movie" cliches - fights, chases, crashes - set to appropriately sprightly Dukes of Hazard-ish banjo music - and of course the now-familiar independent-trucker-fights-corruption storyline itself. But the performances of Jan-Michael Vincent (who also did all his own stunts in the movie), Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones and Sam Laws keep things believable and interesting; and, most importantly, the over-the-road sequences manage to convey something of the awesome solitude of the trucking lifestyle.

WHITE LINE FEVER is indeed a "B-Movie," but it's an above average B-Movie in its realistic treatment of the concerns of a new owner-operator's indebtedness to 'The Bank,' and in its depiction of the strain any relationship feels when one of the partners is on the road for weeks at a time. In fact, from the opening title montage (set to the catchy, slightly melancholic country-pop song 'Drifting and Dreaming' by Valerie Carter), to the scenes of the wife's unsatisfying factory job and her search for something better, it's clear that this movie has much more to say about relationships that one would expect in a "trucker flick."

Note also that this was one of the early directorial/co-writing efforts of one-time Roger Corman alumnus Jonathan Kaplan, who later won acclaim for The Accused. It seems to me that just as Michael Mann - working with a much bigger budget and bigger stars - took HEAT (1995) beyond the cops-&-robbers genre by fleshing it out with realistic relationship dynamics, so has Kaplan added some authenticity and dimensionality to what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill B-movie with the novelty appeal of big trucks.

Ultimately, however, this movie will probably find its only truly appreciative audience among those who already have an abiding interest in the truck driver mystique, and it's to that group that I would recommend this movie without reservation.