Movie Project #1: Vanishing Point [1971]

Due to the overwhelming success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Vanishing Point [1971]

Vanishing Point [1971]
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Genre: Action/Drama
Starring: Barry Newman, Cleavon Little and Dean Jagger
Runtime: 106 minutes

I miss owning a car.

Vanishing Point has re-emphasized that point for me, and I really want to hit the open road again.

There’s something to be said about just driving through open terrain for long stretches at a time, especially when you are behind the wheel of a souped-up car. That’s the case for Kowalski (Newman) and his white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. He has accepted an assignment that requires him to deliver the Challenger to San Francisco from Denver in one weekend. That’s not enough for Kowalski, however, and he takes a bet to get the car there in 15 hours or less (an especially difficult task for that time period).

Why the hell not? The dude can drive.

Vanishing Point [1971]

Hopped up on speed pills, Kowalski effortlessly weaves in and out of traffic, carefully dodging construction areas and evading the police. Those in the way have less than desirable results, often leading to spectacular crashes. It’s exhilarating just to watch the professional at work.

We don’t learn much about Kowalski, and he really doesn’t have much to say. A few brief flashbacks show that he is a Vietnam War veteran, a former race car driver and former police officer, but they don’t provide an extensive amount of depth. This isn’t a big deal because it’s easy to empathize with the man who is just looking to finish his job.

Vanishing Point [1971]

Despite spending most of his time driving, Kowalski manages to meet/connect with a few people along the way. Most important is Super Soul (Little), a blind radio DJ who hears of Kowalski’s high speed chase and encourages him to keep going. As any driving aficionado understands, good music is essential to enjoying the journey. Super Soul is enigmatic and delivers the audio goods on his end, with a soundtrack that has cuts from Bobby Doyle, Delaney & Bonnie and Mountain, to name a few.

It’s easy to see why Vanishing Point is considered a cult classic today. There’s the breathtaking cinematography that proudly shows off the American Southwest. There’s the white-knuckle racing and the relentless chases. There’s a killer and diverse soundtrack. Consider me the latest fan to the ever-growing Vanishing Point collective. This is a damn fun movie, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off my project.


26 thoughts on “Movie Project #1: Vanishing Point [1971]

  1. Matt Stewart says:

    Wow, this sounds really good! Ia ctually had never even heard of it before, though 😦

    great review my friend, i’ll be sure to check this out!

  2. Pete says:

    Nice! Put this on my Lovefilm list as soon as I saw it on your Movie Project list. Always great when a film lives up to it’s reputation. Looking forward to seeing it!

  3. Chris says:

    Vanishing Point has been on my watchlist sice Drive came out, looks like an entertaining ride. The Driver (1978) I’ve heard is also an influence for Refn’s Drive.

      • Eric says:

        I’ll have to look into The Driver as well. I noticed some immediate similarities between Vanishing Point and Drive, particularly the quiet protagonist and the opening chase scene.

  4. ZombieBodhi says:

    Great movie. Funny because I was never really into these types of car movies until I saw Death Proof and had to watch Vanishing Point since it was referencing it in the movie. Also interesting that people are comparing this to Drive, which I haven’t seen yet, so will definitely add that to my list.

    • Eric says:

      Oh man, you definitely have to check out Drive. My favorite movie from last year. I really ought to revisit Death Proof… it has been years since I saw it, and now I would actually be able to get the Vanishing Point references, heh. Thanks for stopping by, man!

      • le0pard13 says:

        Yes, please revisit ‘Death Proof’, Eric. I think it is an under-appreciated QT film (along with its VP references). And not a bit CGI — just an old-fashioned, loving homage to that sub-genre of film with some truly death-defying car stunts in vintage muscle cars. Plus, it has my fave Kurt Russell chewing the scenery in the rare villain role (which makes me curious if he’ll be a good or bad guy in ‘Django Unchained’ this year.)

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