7.2/10
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181 user 109 critic

Vanishing Point (1971)

During the 1970s, car delivery driver Kowalski delivers hot rods in record time but always runs into trouble with the highway cops.

Writers:

Guillermo Cabrera Infante (screenplay) (as Guillermo Cain), Malcolm Hart (from a story outline by)
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Popularity
4,439 ( 5)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Barry Newman ... Kowalski
Cleavon Little ... Super Soul
Charlotte Rampling ... Hitch-Hiker (scenes deleted)
Dean Jagger ... Prospector
Victoria Medlin ... Vera Thornton
Paul Koslo ... Deputy Charlie Scott
Robert Donner ... Deputy Collins (as Bob Donner)
Timothy Scott ... Angel
Gilda Texter Gilda Texter ... Nude Rider
Anthony James ... First Male Hitchhiker
Arthur Malet ... Second Male Hitchhiker
Karl Swenson ... Sandy McKeese - Clerk at Delivery Agency
Severn Darden ... J. Hovah
Delaney & Bonnie & Friends Delaney & Bonnie & Friends ... J. Hovah's Singers
Lee Weaver ... Jake
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Storyline

Kowalski works for a car delivery service. He takes delivery of a 1970 Dodge Challenger to take from Colorado to San Francisco, California. Shortly after pickup, he takes a bet to get the car there in less than 15 hours. After a few run-ins with motorcycle cops and highway patrol they start a chase to bring him into custody. Along the way, Kowalski is guided by Supersoul - a blind DJ with a police radio scanner. Throw in lots of chase scenes, gay hitchhikers, a naked woman riding a motorbike, lots of Mopar and you've got a great cult hit from the early 70's. Written by Matthew

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Watch carefully because everything happens fast. The chase. The desert. The shack. The girl. The roadblock. The end. See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sensuality/nudity and drug content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kris Kristofferson was considered for a part. His then wife, Rita Coolidge, has a small role in the film. See more »

Goofs

The snake-hunting old desert rat (Dean Jagger) mangles the name of the saguaro cactus as a tourist might do, pronouncing it "sag-where-ah." In reality, the "g" is silent and correct pronunciation is "se-war-oh"- - something a person who made his living off the desert, as he did, would certainly know. See more »

Quotes

Sandy: Kowalski, and the keys for a sawed-off weekend. Well you're both welcome.
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Crazy Credits

The Fox logo is shown without the fanfare making it one of the first times this has happened. See more »

Alternate Versions

UK prints run 106 minutes and feature an additional sequence with Charlotte Rampling as a hitch-hiker. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Christmas Cruelty! (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Mississippi Queen
Composed by Leslie West (as West), Corky Laing (as Laing), Felix Pappalardi (as Pappalardi) & David Rea (as Rea)
Sung by Mountain
(Courtesy of Windfall-Bell Records)
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User Reviews

 
A Dirge For A Dying America
21 February 2004 | by AdamKeySee all my reviews

Richard Sarafian's 1971 film "Vanishing Point" is, for starters, a fascinating study of those persons anthropologists sometimes term "marginal men"--individuals caught between two powerful and competing cultures, sharing some important aspects of both but not a true part of either, and, as such, remain tragically confined to an often-painful existential loneliness. Inhabiting a sort of twilight zone between "here" and "there," a sort of peculiar purgatory, these restless specters cannot find any peace or place, so they instead instinctively press madly on to some obscure and unknown destination, the relentless journey itself being the only reason and justification.

Disc jockey Super Soul (Cleavon Little) and delivery driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) are two of these specters, marginal but decent, intelligent men who can't or won't live in burgeoning competing cultures which in reality have offered them very little of worth or substance, despite their own personal sacrifices. Kowalski himself had tried to "fit in" with the Establishment as a soldier and police officer and later, attempted to do the same with the blossoming 1960s counterculture, but soon disappointingly found that they both were ridden with their own various forms of dishonesty and insincerity. Personal honor, self-reliance and genuine respect--Kowalski's stock in trade--were tragically valued very little by either, despite each one's shrill and haughty claims to the contrary.

Moreover, it's no accident Newman's character has a Polish surname; the Poles throughout their history have created a very rich and unique Slavic culture largely based upon just such a "marginality"--being geographically jammed between powerful historic enemies, Germany and Russia, and never being able to fully identify with either one, at often great cost to themselves. It's also no accident Little's character is blind and black, the only one of his kind in a small, all-Caucasian western desert town--his sightlessness enhancing his persuasiveness and his ability to read Kowalski's mind, the radio microphone his voice, his race being the focus of long simmering and later suddenly explosive disdain--all of the characteristics of a far-seeing prophet unjustly (but typically) dishonored in his own land.

The desert environment also plays a key role in cementing the personal relationship between and respective fates of these two men--to paraphrase British novelist J.G. Ballard, prophets throughout our history have emerged from deserts of some sort since deserts have, in a sense, exhausted their own futures (like Kowalski himself had already done) and thus are free of the concepts of time and existence as we have conventionally known them (as Super Soul instinctively knew, thus creating his own psychic link to the doomed driver.) Everything is somehow possible, and yet, somehow nothing is.

Finally, VP is also a "fin de siecle" story, a unique requiem for a quickly dying age- a now all-but-disappeared one of truly open roads, endless speed for the joy of speed's sake, of big, solid no-nonsense muscle cars, of taking radical chances, of living on the edge in a colorful world of endless possibility, seasoned with a large number and wide variety of all sorts of unusual characters, all of which had long made the USA a wonderful place--and sadly is no longer, having been supplanted by today's swarms of sadistic, military-weaponed cop-thugs, obsessive and intrusive safety freaks, soulless toll plazas, smug yuppie SUV drivers, tedious carbon-copy latte towns, and a childish craving for perfect, high-fuel-efficiency safety and security.

The just-issued DVD contains both the US and UK releases of the film; the UK release, I believe, is a much more satisfying film, as it has the original scenes deleted from the US version. As an aside, Super Soul's radio station call letters, KOW, are in fact the ones for a country & western station in San Diego.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 March 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Vanishing Point See more »

Filming Locations:

Page, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,585,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$12,442,673

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$12,442,673
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Cupid Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (DeLuxe)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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