Timing is everything. The universe has existed for around fourteen billion years, the Earth for around four and a half billion of that, and life for around the last four billion. As a musician in a swing and jazz ensemble who has lived on the planet Earth for around thirty years, most of it alone timing is important to Harry Washello but sometimes it comes together just right, almost as though it were fate.
Wandering around the George C Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries next to the famous La Brea Tar Pits where the remains of animals have been preserved for centuries, Harry finds he finds his passage through the exhibits is being matched by an attractive woman, she noticing him as much as he notices her.
Outside, they talk and arrange a date later that night when she finishes her shift at Johnie’s Coffee Shop but sometimes timing works against fate, a power cut in Harry’s building meaning his alarm fails to go off. Three and a half hours later than promised he arrives at the diner but Julie has already left, understandably disappointed.
Calling her apartment he leaves a message and when the phone rings immediately that he hangs up he picks it up thinking it is her, but it is a wrong number, a frantic air force officer trying to warn his father of an incoming nuclear attack due in just over an hour. Sometimes timing is a bitch…
Originally released in the summer of 1989 and now available on Blu-ray from Arrow, Miracle Mile took over ten years for writer/director Steve De Jarnatt to complete from his original idea to getting it in front of an audience, a singular vision which languished in limbo with studios reticent to fund the project without demanding significant compromise from De Jarnatt which he was unwilling to make.
Undeniably a product of the eighties with its Los Angeles locations and Tangerine Dream soundtrack emphasising the dreamlike structure which gives way to impossible nightmare as Harry fights every circumstance to find Julie and get her out of the city, it is also ahead of its time in its unsentimental approach as the clocks count down and in the denizens of the city whose diversity is presented without any need for commentary.
With seven weeks of night shoots on the near-deserted streets of the city, most of it around the Miracle Mile district, told in real time the frantic pace sometimes approaches panic as the impossibility of the challenge sets in, finding provisions and a helicopter pilot at five in the morning, and as word of the imminent attack begins to spread the city awakens to a hysterical dawn of violence in a portrait of America which does not flatter the land of the free.
Starring Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham as Harry and Julie, stars of such eighties classics as Top Gun and St Elmo’s Fire, in an interview included on the disc they discuss their long friendship which predated the production, their familiarity around each other allowing their comfortable performances which carry the film despite their lack of rehearsal.
With roles for fifties B-movie legend John Agar, The People Under the Stairs‘ Kelly Jo Minter, The Purge: Election Year‘s Mykelti Williamson and Brian Thompson and O-Lan Jones of The X-Files and cut scenes included on the disc featuring Blade Runner‘s Joe Turkel and a slightly longer glimpse of Battleship‘s Peter Berg an early non-speaking role, like the tar pits themselves Miracle Mile is a time capsule ready to be reopened.
Also included are an extended newly recorded interview with De Jarnatt and a joyful reunion with many of the supporting cast returning to the principal filming location, among them Denise Crosby who hid her audition sheets for Star Trek The Next Generation while filming and Aliens‘ Jenette Goldstein, a childhood friend of makeup artist Gail Hogopian who share stories from their schooldays, a leavening respite from the inescapable nihilism of the feature whose message remains sadly relevant.