(US - 1989)
Written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt. Cast: Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, John Agar, Lou Hancock, Mykel T. Williamson, Denise Crosby, Kelly Minter, Kurt Fuller, O-Lan Jones, Robert DoQui, Earl Boen, Danny De La Paz, Claude Earl Jones, Alan Rosenberg, Diane Delano, Alan Berger, Brian Thompson, Jenette Goldstein, Edward Bunker, Howard Swain, voice of Raphael Sbarge. (R, 88 mins)
Despite rave reviews from critics, MIRACLE MILE wasted no time vacating theaters as quickly as possible. Opening on May 19, 1989, the last weekend before that year's big summer kickoff (back when Memorial Day weekend signified the beginning of the summer movie season) and the same day as the immortal ROAD HOUSE, the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder comedy SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, the inferior horror sequel FRIGHT NIGHT PART II, and the teen comedy HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE, it landed with a thud in 15th place. A box-office bomb, MIRACLE MILE has gone on to become one of the essential cult films of the 1980s and has just been released on an extras-packed Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. An apocalyptic AFTER HOURS or DR. STRANGELOVE remade as a meet-cute date movie that also prefigures Don McKellar's 1998 film LAST NIGHT, MIRACLE MILE has lovestruck trombone player Harry Washello (Anthony Edwards, also the star of HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE) charming waitress Julie Peters (Mare Winningham) after spotting her at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. As Julie goes to her night shift at a coffee shop, Harry tells her he'll meet her outside when she's off at midnight, but a power outage causes him to oversleep and he doesn't get there until nearly 4:00 am. Julie's long gone and after leaving a desperate message for her, a romantic comedy enters the TWILIGHT ZONE as he picks up a ringing pay phone. On the other end of the line is Chip (voice of Raphael Sbarge), who's calling from a missile solo, frantically explaining that the nukes have been launched and they've got an hour before they hit. Chip thinks he's talking to his father, but dialed the wrong area code. Chip's ranting goes silent when Harry hears gunshots, followed by a voice warning "Forget everything you've heard and go back to sleep."
|Steve De Jarnatt at a recent MIRACLE MILE screening|
COHEN AND TATE, THE TIME GUARDIAN, and the Nicolas Cage-eats-a-cockroach classic VAMPIRE'S KISS. They never had a moneymaker after THE LAST EMPEROR, and by the time MIRACLE MILE came out in 1989, nearly two years after it was shot, Hemdale was starting to run on fumes before sputtering to a quiet end in 1994 with the animated film THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN.
SORCERER). It's a distinct product of its era--with pay phones, TV stations that sign off after 2:00 am, and the all-consuming fear of nuclear war--but it's aged very well. Sure, some of the visual effects reveal just how little money with which De Jarnatt had to work, and the fashions unquestionably date the film in the late '80s, but the best things about it stand the test of time, particularly the vivid performances of the cast. Everyone from Edwards and Winningham down to the character player with the smallest bit all get their moments--from the ensemble at the diner (most of the surviving supporting actors all reunite for a group interview on the bonus features) to '50s western and sci-fi hero John Agar, who's just terrific as Julie's grandfather, setting aside his 15-year argument with his estranged wife (Lou Hancock) as the two reconcile on what Harry knows will be the last night of their lives. MIRACLE MILE is a film that has stuck with the few people who saw it in 1989, and it's obviously an important one to everyone involved (Edwards and Winningham also have an intervew on the Blu-ray), all of whom look back on it with nothing but fond memories and are clearly happy that its reputation has grown.
(US - 1988)
Directed by Steve De Jarnatt. Written by Michael Almereyda. Cast: Melanie Griffith, David Andrews, Ben Johnson, Tim Thomerson, Pamela Gidley, Harry Carey Jr., Brion James, Michael C. Gwynne, Larry Fishburne, Marshall Bell, Jennifer Mayo, Cameron Milzer, Robert Z'Dar, Jack Thibeau, Howard Swain. (PG-13, 99 mins)
Prior to MIRACLE MILE, De Jarnatt made his feature directing debut with CHERRY 2000, a dystopian action sci-fi romance that at times seems to be going for some ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI-style eccentricity. Orion Pictures had no idea what to do with CHERRY 2000, which completed filming in 1985 and saw its release date shuffled multiple times throughout 1986 and 1987 before it was shelved indefinitely. Orion ultimately released it directly to video in November 1988, seven months before the already-completed MIRACLE MILE hit screens and just a month before star Melanie Griffith's breakout, Oscar-nominated performance in Mike Nichols' WORKING GIRL.