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DVD Review: Dreaming of the apocalypse in ‘Miracle Mile’

"Anthony Edwards in "Miracle Mile."

“Anthony Edwards in “Miracle Mile.”

(Courtesy of Kino Lorber)

When Steve De Jarnatt’s 1988 apocalyptic suspense film opened in Los Angeles the following year, it seemed like a maddeningly frustrating combination of intelligent, stylish filmmaking and incoherent plotting. What I took at the time to be plot problems, however, now are clearly part of the stylishness — that is, they perfectly mimic dream logic or, more precisely, nightmare logic.

Anthony Edwards plays Harry, a trombone player visiting L.A. for a gig. He meets Julie (Mare Winningham), a waitress with whom he has the sort of rapport that is movie shorthand for “made for each other.” They make a date for 1 A.M., when her shift at Johnnie’s (at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard) ends, but he oversleeps by three hours. While trying to contact her, he picks up a ringing pay phone and hears a frantic soldier saying that nuclear missiles have been launched. World War III is underway, and L.A. will likely be wiped out in about an hour.

He convinces the people in Johnnie’s, who scurry off in hopes of getting out of town in time. He needs to find Julie and then get to the airport to fly to a less likely nuclear target than L.A. The inside joke for Angelenos who know the turf is that, not only does he fail to leave town, but he doesn’t seem able to get more than a few blocks away from where he started.

“Miracle Mile” is full of unforgettable images that would be more at home in a dream, e.g., Harry wheeling Julie across Park La Brea in a shopping cart. It unfolds roughly in real time, creating an overwhelming sense of urgency.

The new Blu-ray is from a pristine print, and the transfer appears accurate. Kino Lorber has come up with more extras than one would expect, given the relative obscurity of the title. There are two commentary tracks by writer/director De Jarnatt, one with Walter Chaw, who has written an entire book about “Miracle Mile,” the other with cinematographer Theo van de Sande and production designer Chris Horner. There are 11 minutes of fairly trivial outtakes and bloopers, plus a variant ending with an extra shot that the producer vetoed. (In this case, the producer was right.)

Edwards and Winningham sit down together for a 12-minute interview, presumably recently recorded, given the extent to which they’ve aged. Best of all is a 15-minute cast reunion at the diner, with jovial reminiscences of the shoot.

Miracle Mile (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, $29.95; DVD, $19.95)
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ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).


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