Wednesday, May 29, 2013
DEADHEAD MILES (1973) - Vernon Zimmerman
Another Malick-related curiosity, another miserable copy. Thanks to Netflix's sudden vanishing of this Alan Arkin trucker comedy from their catalog earlier in the month, I was forced to watch Deadhead Miles the old-fashioned way...an edited, commercial-laden A&E Channel airing poorly dubbed to VHS and uploaded to YouTube.
At least Malick's full name made it to the credits this time as sole writer, something he may or may not be happy about given the end result. Is Deadhead Miles terrible? No, it's an agreeable road picture, loopy and rambling as road movies tend to be. Arkin's character Cooper steals a rig from the mob after they kill a guy to grab it in a fake roadside accident. He sets out on the road to pick up some work, picks up long-term hitchhiker Paul Benedict (of The Jeffersons fame) instead. Cooper meets assorted other oddballs and character actors along the way, steals the provisions he needs, dispenses a little trucker wisdom, sings a few country songs. Is it Convoy or Thieves' Highway caliber? No, definitely not. Probably closer to White Line Fever. There's even a song called "White Line Fever" near the end credits.
Once again, the Malick touch is hard to spot here, other than some folksy dialogue. The primary reason to watch Deadhead Miles is Arkin. If you're a long-time Arkin fan as I am, it's a pleasure to watch him play wildly against type. A textbook Brooklyn Jewish man as Southern-fried long haul trucker? Sure, I'll buy that. But only if it's Arkin who's doing the driving.