Vanishing Point is clearly the four-wheeled version of Easy Rider. It is rootless, a wide-pan journey through the empty wastes of the sparsely-populated and unknown western United States, conjuring-up a sense of no belonging anywhere, no home, no place in Life (the I-am-hopelessly-lost tyre-tracks criss-crossing in the desert) - in fact, the definition of a road movie.
Filmed in brilliant technicolour and accompanied by a terrific, atmospheric soundtrack of the free-lovin' and hirsute age: Jesus freaks and hippy chicks join for a melodic and harmonious celebration of both the concept of Freedom and the spirit of Freedom. Car-delivery driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) bets he can drive the magnificent supercharged white Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in a mere 15 hours. Instead of sleep, food and drink Kowalski swallows Bennies. These keep him going, but do these cloud his mind and judgement ...?
For Kowalski has A Past. As he evades or breaks through every police pursuit, speed trap, dragnet and roadblock, police bulletins inform the viewer that he served in the US Army with distinction in Vietnam (before the USA's main commitment 1965-71), being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. Then as a police officer in San Diego, where he rescued a young female suspect from assault and rape (by a brother officer) ... which cost him his badge and Dishonourable Discharge. Then as a racing driver, and a pretty darn good one, too, until his licence was revoked. And he lost his girlfriend to a surfing accident. Clearly sensitive, Kowalski is - perhaps unsurprisingly - also a deeply-troubled soul.
Whose cause is taken up by blind Black radio DJ 'Super Soul' (Cleavon Little) of KOW FM. 'Super' feels an affinity with the Last American Hero, the last free spirit, and raises Kowalski to cult hero status. Much to the chagrin and spite of one Nevada cop in particular (has Paul Koslo ever played a nice guy?), who assembles a few rednecks and brutally beats up jive-talkin' and free-spirited 'Super Soul' while the assembled townsfolk look on.
The sparsely-populated wastes of the western United States - the last free space in the country - is home to strange Americans. Dean Jagger is a rattlesnake trapper, who trades the serpents for coffee, flour and loadsa beans, son, from questionably-Christian J. Hovah and his travelling faith-healing singers. And drop-outs - well, this is 1970, the tail-end of the Flower-power 'Sixties: when the Revolution failed to happen, the groovy guys & chicks headed West to found their own commune societies (like in Born On the Fourth Of July), like the Pioneers a century before them. Unforgettably erotic on the motorcycle, young Gilda Textor (the girl Kowalski rescued years back) shows him cut-outs and pastings of his career-destroying good deed. Touchingly, she wishes to reward his integrity. Touchingly, he declines. 'Nobody Knows' sings Kim Carnes over the closing credits.
California. Sunday 5:04 p.m. The cops did not stop the Free Spirit ...
Barry Newman plays Kowalski, the 'Last American Hero' thundering through the deserts of the American west, pedal firmly to the metal.
Kowalski has made a bet that he can deliver a customers supercharged Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in just fifteen hours... an impossible task that is made even more unlikely by the legions of Highway Patrol officers who are determined to halt him.
A fantastic film, easily one of the finest road movies of all-time, and definitely among my top five favorite films. You won't be dissapointed with this purchase!
A funked out soundtrack and the most spectacular car chase this side of the original 'Gone in 60 Seconds'.
Thank you 20th Century Fox!
Now all we need is a release for 'Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry' :)
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