Ironically, this is the first movie where Jan-Michael Vincent discovered coke. Bad joke. It’s directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who was behind Night Call Nurses and The Student Teachers for Roger Corman, as well as the much more socially acceptable film The Accused.
Carrol Jo Hummer (Vincent) is an independent truck driver who just got out of the Air Force, where he’s considered a hero. All he really wants to do is come home and marry his girl Jerri (Kay Lenz, The Initiation of Sarah, House).
Soon, they’ve bought their own rig, the Blue Mule, and CJ announces on the CB that he’s available to start doing jobs. That’s when he finds out from his dad’s old partner Duane (Slim Pickens!) that the only hauls available are untaxed cigarettes. CJ refuses to do anything illegal, but then he finds out that the cops are in on the crime. He’s handcuffed to his truck and beaten nearly to death by Clem (Martin Kove).
CJ soon learns that he’s blackballed from working all around Tucson, so he grabs a shotgun and threatens Duane, who tells him that he’s only a pawn. He needs to talk to Red River’s manager Buck Wessler (L.Q. Jones, The Beast Within), who agrees to let CJ take a load to Dallas with his dad’s old friend Pops (Sam Laws, Truck Turner) along for the ride. They fight off some goons, but make the job.
Soon, however, CJ learns that Red River is a front for a corporation called Glass House which is in itself a front for the mob. His efforts to expose them and organize a union lead to him being framed for Duane’s murder, which is a pretty harrowing sequence of the older man getting run down.
On their way back from the trial, CJ and Jenni discover the body of Pops — who had been driving the Blue Mule — in their house. The independent truckers all attack the Red River drivers, which leads to a meeting with Glass House. CJ doesn’t trust their business practices and declines the offer, which leads to both him and his wife getting attacked in their own bed. She loses their baby and discovers that she’ll never be able to have children.
CJ goes insane and tries to destroy the office of Glass House, even taking a bullet to the head before crashing into their big sign. As he leaves the hospital, we learn that all of the other truckers are on strike in his honor.
Leigh French also shows up. She ties into trucker pop culture history not just with this movie, but with her appearance on the abortive TV pilot Goober & the Truckers’ Paradise, where Goober from The Andy Griffith Show would manage a truck stop. And as with most movies from Roger Corman alumni, Dick Miller makes an appearance.
Mill Creek has just re-released White Line Fever on blu ray, complete with awesome retro VHS packaging. The quality of the print is really good and while there aren’t many extras, it’s affordable.
DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Mill Creek, but that has no impact on our review.