on 16 January 2011
I originally saw this road movie at the Odeon Cinema, Elephant & Castle, in the 1970's. It carried a 15 Certificate, and I recall that I was underage at the time, and worried that I might get sussed out by the ticket seller. The Odeon isn't there any more, but I'm glad that I was able to track down a copy of the movie!!
Its story, if there ever was one, involved Barry Newman having to deliver a Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Fransico. That doesn't really matter. It was an adrenaline rush, involving Newman driving an American muscle car as fast as possible. From out of nowehere, some bloke decides he wants to test his E-Type Jag against Newman's Dodge - as you do - and it all ends in tears for the Jag driver.
Pursued by cops, the only thing they have on Newman is speeding and careless driving!! It's a great film to put the brain in neutral, sit back with a few munchies and a few beers, and drool over the deep rumbling sound of the Challenger's V8 power unit! It was the end of the flower power era. There is a great soundtrack of blues, folk and rock 'n' roll. Oh, and Gilda Texier riding a Harley in the desert.
I wonderful, whimsical movie, but at the end, the good guy can't win. It was the early '70's. A Cult Classic!!!
Easy Rider may have somehow become the defining film of its day, heralding a plethora of clichéd road moves, but I'll stick with Vanishing Point. It may have been the inspiration for Smokey and the Bandit, which added jokes, beer and a happy ending to the equation, but four decades on it's aged much better than Hopper's drug-fuelled road trip thanks to a combination of great visuals and some great car stunts. On the debit side there's some very unfortunate gay stereotyping in one sequence and the Charlotte Rampling scene from the UK version (which, ironically, can now only be found on the US DVD) does unfortunately slow the picture down to a dead stop at exactly the wrong time, but as speed-fuelled nihilism goes it's still a great ride.
While the UK DVD only includes the trailer and the shorter American cut of the film, the Region 1 NTSC DVD is a much better proposition, including both the 98-minute US cut, the 105-minute UK cut, an audio commentary by director Richard C. Sarafian, trailer and two TV spots.
on 26 March 2013
This story combining as it does a driver with a troubled past ,a blind DJ, chasing cops an assortment of characters
encountered and a violent ending is just about as good as it gets. Cinemaphotgraphy is outstanding and this combines
with a soundtrack absolutely appropriate to the action bearing in mind this predates all the electronic effects and digital
manipulation that is now commonplace
on 2 January 2001
The Chase. The Desert. The Shack. The Girl. The Roadblock. The End.
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 ...
on 16 September 2002
This is it! Available at last on DVD, and for the first time in Widescreen! The counterculture movie that takes on 'Easy Rider' head to head, and creates a movie that is just as fresh and exciting now as it was thirty years ago.
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' :)
This road movie has a simple plot – a man bets another man that he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in just 15 hours, and with the aid of amphetamine pills and with the assistance of some interesting characters manages to stay ahead of the law and ‘sort-of’ finds what he is looking for. Barry Newman plays the driver, Kowalski with a lack of emotion consistent with a man only awake due to a periodic Benzedrine intake but the real star of the movie is the super-charged white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T he drives and the breath-taking car chases with the highway patrol in close pursuit. The cinematography and images of the barren desert landscapes are truly evocative, while the stunt work is just tremendous as the director skilfully alternates the frenetic car chases with scenes which definitely capture a certain time and place, in particular the naked lady on her motorcycle, accompanied by the contemporary music soundtrack. As Kowalski’s backstory is gradually revealed (through occasional flashbacks) we are invited to speculate as to the reason behind his behaviour and as the film nears its conclusion this troubled anti-hero, with an apparent contented smile on his face, appears to have found some sort of enlightenment. The film’s ending is as devastating as it is unexpected and in my opinion certainly deserves its status as a cult classic of its genre. Despite its obvious flaws, it is a remarkable piece of work.
Like most I saw the amazing “Vanishing Point” on television back in the Seventies when it already had built up a cult audience (I sought out Barry Newman films after that). And I’ve been lusting after it on the new format for years.
But the 2009 American BLU RAY issue on Image Entertainment is REGION A LOCKED - so it won't play on our machines unless they're chipped to be 'all regions' (which few are). And it looked to stay that way for ages…
However Fox has lined up a bunch of BLU RAYS in Steelbooks for issue in May 2014 – and “Vanishing Point” is among them (“Big”, “Speed”, “Legend” and the original of “The Day The Earth Stood Still” are some of the others).
So finally we're going to get to see it on this side of the pond. And about bloody time too!
on 20 March 2013
Honestly, this was a thoroughably enjoyable film. Despite the numerous "chase" scenes, this is actually quite a slow movie which examines the American pscyhe of the day through the life of the driver, Kowolski, as he barrels across the US, chased by various law enforcement agencies.
The scenery is stunning, the characters are well developed, and even the music (which isn't really my thing) fits well. This is a subtle movie and if you are watching it as an "action/adrenaline" flick you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a character movie that offers an insight into the post woodstock generation, then you will love this.
The occasional smattering of very fine breasts is appreciated too.
on 26 November 2012
The best most concise review of this film is given on the cover of the V.H.S. tape, I can only hope it has not been removed for the D.V.D. cover. Here it is. THE CHASE. THE DESERT. THE SHACK. THE GIRL.THE ROADBLOCK. THE END. Those who have seen the film would agree, those who have not seen would agree with this by the end of the film. I have not seen the girl on the motorcycle on 'where are they now', but neither have I seen Erica Roe recently.This film shows the complete breakdown of a film caricature in real time in a real life. The whole point I believe is that worryingly this could be you. For those students of life and those who know this could never happen to them WATCH THIS.
..the four-wheeled version in Richard C Sarafian’s 1971 film Vanishing Point. Of course, Sarafian’s film can be read as either an existential treatise on Vietnam, civil rights, peace (CND symbols liberally plastered), the summer of love, flower power and Jesus-loving, drug-fuelled hippydom ('Drop out and join the cause’) or simply a high-octane blast for petrolheads as Barry Newman’s Vietnam vet, ex-cop, ex-racing driver Kowalski speeds from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco purportedly to deliver a white Dodge Challenger (his constant companion) but in truth on more of a spiritual journey of self-discovery. And Vanishing Point certainly provides much spectacular entertainment as our anti-hero rumbles that V8 gloriously in his attempts to outrun cops (car or helicopter-based), defying certain death repeatedly in the process (stunts courtesy of Carey Loftin – he of Bullitt and The French Connection fame).
Sarafian and cinematographer John A Alonso also created an impressive visual spectacle with lingering close-ups of the speeding muscle-car as it is pursued (frequently off-road) across the desolate desert landscapes of Colorado, Nevada and Utah – calling to my mind the likes of Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop and Spielberg’s Duel (said director being a big fan of Sarafian’s film, apparently). Vanishing Point also scores highly on setting up Kowalski as the tale’s 'hero’, an 'innocent man’ (in the public’s eyes) being persecuted by cops – or the 'last American hero’ as described by Cleavon Little’s blind negro DJ Supersoul (who is beaten up by vengeful thugs in one of the film’s darkly satirical moments, as Bob Segarini sings Dear Jesus God in the background).
Being a 'road movie’, Sarafian’s film is episodic and narrative-(and dialogue-) light. Indeed, outside of Newman and Little the only other acting turn of note is that delivered by Dean Jagger’s kindly prospector and snake-catcher. Also, given the political undercurrent it is also very much a film 'of its time’ and its ‘hippy/free love’ milieu is reinforced by an eclectic soundtrack featuring Delaney & Bonnie (who appear in the film singing as part of a Christian commune), Red Steagall, Kim Carnes, Mountain and Big Mama Thornton. And, the film certainly does spectacular and enigmatic better than it does ‘romance’ – these interludes are embarrassingly corny (hopefully deliberately so!). That said, however, Vanishing Point remains a mostly original, frequently exciting, highly symbolic watch.