White Line Fever (1975) — Too proud to bend, too tough to break

“This ain’t the ladies room. Come on in.”

Skip’s rating: Calling all Jan-Michael Vincents.

Skip’s review: Trucker movies are a weird breed. They are time capsules capturing the zeitgeist of the American blue-collar ‘70s, and I suspect that sociologists will use them as tools to research the cultural malaise at the intersection of cowboys and hippies, where slowly the gilded fantasy of a righteous yesterday moldered into the decaying hands of a bitter tomorrow.

Even amongst the faded, rose-colored memory of its peers, White Line Fever seems hopelessly démodé. Our protagonist Carrol Jo Hummer (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a man out of time. He believes that the world is just. He believes in law and order. He believes in providing for his family, but not at the expense of his ethical and moral boundaries.

What CJ learns, at the hands of ’70s sleazeball Duane Haller (Slim Pickens) and his boss Buck (L.Q. Jones), is that the only way to make a decent living is by being indecent. Unfortunately for all the hotshots and bigwigs in our story, this doesn’t jive with CJ or his fellow “gearjammers,” and a nice man becomes a dangerous one when you back him into a corner.

After being tasked with delivering contraband by his new employer (and I should add here that it’s very difficult for me to take Slim Pickens seriously when I’ve only ever seen him as a bumbling fool in Blazing Saddles), CJ ruffles a few feathers by causing a ruckus and making it very clear that the law means something to him. After being roughed up by Buck’s goons, and being refused work, CJ takes matters into his own hands by taking a work order at gunpoint.

The rest of our story is typical “good guy fighting for what is right, but will it cost him everything?” fare.

White Line Fever is the earliest example of trucksploitation I’ve seen, and while I’m not as well-versed on the genre as I’d like to be, it seems to have one characteristic that differentiates itself from other films of this era.

Carrol Jo Hummer only breaks the law because he has to. He still believes that the world is fair and that good people win. It seems that, as the ’70s progressed, our blue-collar heroes became a little more jaded than Mr. Hummer. They openly break the rules for business and pleasure. They understand that no one is looking out for them, and that they have to make their own rules to succeed.

Overall, this is a fine film, and a decent introduction to trucksploitation if you’re hoping to watch the genre in chronological order. There are earlier examples, but you likely won’t miss anything by starting here. Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit both released after this film, and their protagonists lack the Boy Scout optimism of Carrol Jo Hummer.

The pacing is a little odd, as it seems that there are points of escalation that then de-escalate before ramping back up again. You’d think after running out on your boss after telling him where to stick it, and subsequently being beaten up by your co-workers (with the help of a dirty cop), you wouldn’t then show back up at work like nothing happened.

But then again, we aren’t all Carrol Jo Hummer.


  • The director of the film, Jonathan Kaplan, has a few interesting things to say about this film.
  • Regarding the straight-laced morality of the main character, Kaplan said “I was trying to counteract the right-wing vigilantism of some of the pictures that were around at the time.”
  • He also said that Columbia Pictures executive Peter Gruber wanted a trucker film because of the success of Truck Turner, despite the film having absolutely nothing to do with trucks (but is instead the nickname of the protagonist). Studio execs, amirite?
  • This film is often compared to the 1973 classic Walking Tall, as they’re both stories of good guys on quests to show the corrupt system what’s what.

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