James C. Clay // Film Critic
Boutique Blu-rays can get expensive. If you’ve ever tried to snag a Criterion, they will easily cost you $25-$40 when the Bares & Noble sale isn’t going on. Scream/Shout Factory releases cost around $20-30, and the aftermarket value can get pricey on eBay. While we love those companies and the films they offer, you have to pay a bit of a premium, and that can grow tiresome as far as the Blu-ray budget is concerned.
About a year or so ago, I discovered the folks over at Mill Creek Entertainment, and my home entertainment life has been greatly improved ever since that day. The company has been specializing in deep cuts like SONGWRITER (starring Willie Nelson), old favorites like THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (starring a very young Christian Slater), and ’90s classics like CAN’T HARDLY WAIT.
You can stream all day long, but you won’t find these kind of old school films on Netflix. Complete with a price that ranges from $8-$15, depending on where you purchase, these are (dollars for donuts) one of the best values in the Blu-ray market.
Each month, Mill Creek has been releasing these throwback Blu-rays from the Columbia Pictures/Sony vault. This month, they released four titles that have an eclectic range, from teen exploitation cinema like THE NEW KIDS (read our review of the film here), to indelible romantic comedies such as ROXANNE.
Although they are lacking in special features, the releases come with these incredible retro slipcovers that resemble old school Columbia VHS releases, complete with stickers and all. Today we want to give a special shout out to these releases.
Steve Martin coasted through the 1980s and 90s being everybody’s favorite surrogate dad and professional worrier. But in this romantic comedy, Martins writes a modern take to the Cyrano De Bergerac stor. It’s hands down one of the most charming romantic comedies ever put to film.
You may know this film as that one movie where Steve Martin has a big nose. However, he gives one of his most clever performances of his entire career. Martin plays C.D. Bayles, a small town fire chief who has wit of a stand-up comedian and the acrobat skills of a traipses artist. This killer combination brings him respect and admiration around town, but his big nose gets in the way of him finding love… until now.
He takes a shine to Roxanne (Daryl Hannah), a woman who has just moved to town to track a rare comet. The two hit it off, but there’s something keeping them from lighting a spark – and that is Bayles’ new dopey fire recruit, Chris (Rich Rossovich), who’s smitten for the budding astrologist. With C.D.’s way with words and Chris’ hulking good looks, they just may be able to woo Roxanne into their arms.
The story, of course, is incredibly problematic when you look at it through 2019 eyes. Roxanne is more than just a prize to be won, and Hannah’s performance matched with the outright effervescent feeling that Martin’s script provides rises above all these faults into a damn-near perfect film.
WHITE LINE FEVER
This film takes us back to the days where men broke their back throwing fists and driving thousands of pounds of cargo down that endless highway. With a killer title and a square-jawed leading man in Jan Michael Vincent (AIR WOLF), this is a quotable deep cut we are so glad was unearthed.
Carol Jo (Vincent) is back from Vietnam and is looking to get back into the trucking business started by his deceased father and his partner Duane (a very goofy Slim Pickens). CJ quickly discovers that his former partners are dabbling in shipping illegal cargo on the behest of the shady Red River corporation, led by Buck (L.Q. Jones). Hellbent on keeping his significant other, Jerri (Kay Lenz), safe, he goes on a one-man crusade to make an honest living in order to pay off his big rig called The Blue Mule.
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan (1987’s PROJECT X), this is a real meat-and-potatoes type of film. It’s hilariously conservative and absurdly committed to its morals. And the action is filled with several perilous stunts. WHITE LINE FEVER is unintentionally hilarious, and has a strange cast of characters plucked right out of THE DUKES OF HAZARD. Give it a shot; it’s worth the trip.