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A Dirge For A Dying America
AdamKey21 February 2004
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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Look back on your life torn asunder...then throw it into third gear and floor it.
Apollyon_Crash2 April 2004
Barry Newman is "Kowalski", an enigmatic figure who has tried everything in his life from stock car racing to the military, and failed at every one of his endeavors. Working as an auto delivery man, he gets an order to transport a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T to San Francisco, and makes a bet with a few friends that it can be done in an impossibly short time. After loading up on "ups" and throttling the car westward, he is soon pursued vigorously by the police and embraced by the public as something of a hero. During a time when national speed limits were all controversy, this film provides a compelling argument against them: A fast car in the hands of a capable driver is not dangerous. Even the police, so caught up in their own system, don't realize that they are the only ones causing accidents and endangering the public while blindly trying to keep up with and capture Kowalski.

While the film sounds at first to be a simple action film, it's really much more than that. Kowalksi's past is revealed little by little through flashbacks, making the film something of a character study. Kowalski's trip becomes a road trip of existentialism as he runs across various strange characters: Solitary hippies, gay bandits, a boogie-woogie snake handling Christian cult, and the blind soul station DJ (brilliantly played by Cleavon Little) who is attempting to guide him on his journey from within the car's radio.

Topping it off is a great soundtrack, breathtaking cinematography and direction, and automotive action that has seen no equal. This film manages to be both compelling and exciting. Just watch it already.

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The road can work on your mind.
L_Miller8 July 1999
Kowalski transports cars across the western US in 1970. He gets a gig transporting a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco and sets out at maximum warp, stopping only for gas and strategy. He commits no crime outside of speeding, and fleeing the cops who are trying to stop him simply because he will not stop. He finds allies along the way, including an old prospector, a DJ named Super Soul, and a hippie who seems to me to be an alternate ending to the life of Peter Fonda's character Wyatt in "Easy Rider". He drives and drives and drives until he meets his destiny in a tiny town on the California-Nevada border at 10:04 AM on some unnamed Sunday.

Why? Is it because of his past; ex-cop, ex-racer, tragically bereaved? Is it because of the truckload of speed he takes at the beginning of the movie (draw your own metaphors between Kowalski's internal use of the noun and external use of the verb)?

Or is it the road, the infinite expanses of the Southwest, the silence, the freedom, the sound of the motor surging, the tires spinning, the wheels gobbling up and sitting out the black asphalt? Who knows? Kowalski seems indifferent as to why he drives, only that he must drive, must evade, must get to where he is going and will not - can not - be stopped.

Do yourself a favor. Rent the original, don't see the '97 made for TV movie (it has some high points, but it's like watching the '99 "Psycho" before seeing the Alfred Hitchcock original). In fact, rent this and "Two Lane Blacktop" from Monte Hellman, and "Mad Max" and/or "The Road Warrior". Watch all of them in as close to one sitting as you can get.

If after watching these movies, you don't understand how they're expressions of the same call to the open road, return them and give up. Not everyone was meant to hear it, just like not everyone has perfect pitch or the ability to wiggle their ears.

This movie drove me (pun intended) to take the handle kowalski and buy a Challenger of my own (flame red, 1973, you see the 1970 R/Ts are very hard to get).

It probably won't do the same for you, but if you've ever been driving down the open road and wondered what would happen if you _didn't_ get off at the next exchange, in fact if you never got off at all, then this film is for you.

And I hope the next ignoramus who compares this masterful film to "The Dukes of Hazzard" loses his brakes and plows into a line of parked Harleys outside some bar with a name like Whiskey Junction or the Dew Drop Inn.
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Eyes chasing Eyes
tedg7 September 2009
Gosh, I had forgotten how powerful this is.

Seeing it again is a real lesson on how certain cinematic language, if presented purely, transcends. And for a US-made movie, it is pretty pure.

If you do not know it, the primary narrative is essentially no narrative: a muscle car speeding across the desert chased by police, initially for speeding and ultimately just to exert power. This fellow is Kowalski, a name imported from a landmark film. He simply drives. It is his life now. We see flashbacks. Find he was a Medal of Honor winner in Vietnam, a star racer and then a cop. There's a backstory about his being a good cop and turning in some rotten apples, so by degrees we come to understand the moral landscape.

There is only one other character, a blind black disk jockey who is listened to by apparently everyone. Guided by his eavesdropping on police radio, and some psychic ability.

This was after "Easy Rider" and instead of bold men moving into a life, we have life chasing an honest man. Same ethic, could even have been the same man. But he knows himself. He knows he is a cinematic creature, someone to be observed and dreamed about. He knows he carries his world with him. Always borrowed.

You can see Malick here, the notion that the character sees us seeing him, that he knows he is fictional and knows we think him not. You can trace it to the female version in "Thelma and Louise," where they have their end only because they know someone will watch. Its not like "Cool Hand Luke," or "Bonnie and Clyde" at all where the man decides. That comes from the Hollywood western.

Its derived from the "Breathless" tradition.

A good third of this film is spent on the "audience," the rural townspeople. These parts are filmed in a documentary style, with — it seems — real people who have come to watch the filming, having heard on the radio from a borrowed soul. They look dumb and bored, clearly with nothing better to do than watch, just like us.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Best carmovie ever
avril_shun29 November 2002
One thing I realised about carfilms, or whatever you might call them, is that a certain degree of monotony is always required (check out the wonderful Two Lane Blacktop too see what I mean). If you waste too much time with backgrounds, character development, story etc the really important stuff starts lacking (the car as an instrument of freedom, the road, the desert...). In this way Vanishing Point is the perfect carmovie: it's about the most monotonous, yet beautiful things i've ever seen! It's about:

1. The car

2. The road

3. The desert

4. The music

And nothing else! Some vague attempts are made to make a character out of Kowalski, but fortunely they're small in numbers. The car is the true main character of the film.

I recommend this film with all my heart.
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a legend of freedom, not anything else
ak064 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I don't agree with the other reviewers' comments. The car was beautiful, the sound track was fine, OK, but those are not what are left behind in my memory. I think rating this film as a road film or a car film is severely underestimating its value as a legend of "freedom", what 70s were all about. I first saw this film in my early thirties. I was fascinated by the simple yet powerful expression of the will to reach freedom. All the reactions of Kowalsky, the naked rider, the blind DJ, the store owner, etc, they were all after "freedom". And the possibility of being deprived of freedom is the reason why Kowalsky commits suicide at the end. I will remember it as a perfect legend of freedom, and, despite its simplicity, one of the best films ever made.
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Soul challenger
pullgees15 October 2003
The best road movie ever made. To appreciate it you have got to try and see it from the culture of that era. It is totally anti establishment as was the mood of half of America. So the police are all idiots, the 'good ol boys' are either violent rednecks or passive disapproving onlookers. Kowalski is going to give those mid west conservatives something they won't forget, he's going to shake things up for a day or two. Kowalski is simply the symbol of the many disenfranchised at the time. The story starts at the end. We hear a boring stifling radio news item on the price of grain. We see dreary looking bystanders who need to be turned on. Then Super Soul takes over the airwaves with his wild DJ antics and hippy music trying to jolt these people out of their fixed ways. The old and the new are clashing. This sets the mood we know from then it is rebellious. Other aspects the stunts the music the characters have been well covered below so there is no need to say more on that. Some have said that there is no point to this story or Kowalski's motives and have interpreted the title meaning that. But all a vanishing point is an artist name for the phenomena of perspective where two parallel lines seemingly meet and in the long straight roads of the journey we see plenty of vanishing points.
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An appropriate movie for the era
htmlhillbilly19 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers Alert More'n a few reviewers on IMDB have described Vanishing Point as being plotless and directionless.... They left out nihilistic and bleak.

But that seems to have been a theme during the late '60s and early '70s. Yes, Kowalski dies at the end (commits suicide, really). Just like the car going into the train at the end of 'Dirty Mary & Crazy Larry', or whatshisname getting blown off his motorcycle with a shotgun at the end of 'Easy Rider', or the lone survivor from 'Night of the Living Dead' being killed by cops at the end.... It doesn't matter what you've accomplished, what you've survived through, or how good of a person you are: odds are you'll be offed by a complete stranger for no damn reason, out of the blue. I will leave the parallels between this type of nihilistic thinking and the emotions surrounding a certain military conflict the United States was involved with at the time up to the individual.

Um, anyway, about the movie. Hell yes I liked it. The Mopar muscle-cars of the era really were top of the line... I've never had a chance to own a Charger, but I've gone through various muscle cars from the Detroit Big Three, and the 1970 Plymouth I owned was by far the most satisfying for both speed and as a daily driver. Also like Kowalski, I have been driven slowly nuts by way of too little sleep and too much time isolated, living behind the wheel of a car, rarely having conversations with other human beings longer that 45 seconds... Stop to eat, and you realize your back hurts sitting in a 'normal' chair and your feet are out in front of you, poised above imaginary pedals.

The bet at the beginning of the movie --- what constitutes the basis for the 'plot' --- is absolute insanity: Driving from Denver to San Francisco in fifteen hours. This works out to averaging 100 m.p.h., not including stopping for fuel. (I've taken bets like this on a smaller scale: "I can get from San Jose to downtown SF in a half hour!" It can be done, but only if you're seriously unbalanced.)

I can also identify with what I imagine Kowalski's motivations are, especially his self-destructive streak: The realization that you're well past thirty, whatever past attempts at 'real' careers have been blown to hell (for whatever reasons), and hey... You ain't nothing but a fxxking delivery boy.

So yeah, I have a soft spot in my heart for Vanishing Point, but mostly due to a higher level of personal identification with Kowalski than most. I'm less likely to kill myself though: After years of covering 1,600 miles a week (without leaving California), I caught myself doing the Death-Stare on the road too many times, and it finally scared me.
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A great '70s movie
mikey_editor7 March 2006
This is the essential 1970s anti-hero movie. It is not supposed to make sense and I have often wondered if it were not meant to be someone's psychedelic dream. Nudity when nudity would not seem to fit; bad cops; beaten people out of sync with plot line. Sounds like a trip. The cast is excellent and this is one of Cleavon Little's last main roles as well as the last main role for the early love interest. John Amos is so underplayed he is almost unrecognizable, I'd love to see his commentary on the movie. And one guy is so ripping off James Dean (though as a racist) that it is unintentionally funny. I'd recommend it as an addition to any American tape library. A true cult classic.
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simply one of the best car movies of all time.........
il_smith8 February 2005
the plot summary covers the story and yes! there is a story wrapped around one long car chase. the speed is real, the NOISE is real, that Challenger leaves black lines on the road........ I saw it when it was first released (when I was young and silly) and then spent 15 years trying to track down a Video copy of the movie (made more difficult as it had to be a PAL copy). I got the video in the '90s and still watch this amazing film. People rave about the chase sequence in Bullitt or The French Connection. Vanishing Point takes that excitement and extends it. Simply a great car movie for those who like a great car movie.... watch it
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Could have been great...
headly6623 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Vanishing Point seems to be one of those films on the cusp between the 60's era psychedelia and the 70's tough guy cop chase movies. It has elements of both and could have been so much more had it focused more on the main character and less on the nonsense. In so many films of this type the lead meets up with the strangest people just to be strange and it adds little to the overall story. I recall the scene in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot where they encounter that crazy guy who shoots rabbits from his trunk and funnels the exhaust into the cars interior, why, we don't know and never find out. In Vanishing Point we have to two weird gay bandits in one of the most ridiculous scenes I have ever watched and a revival meeting in the desert that seems just thrown in and pointless.

The Dodge Challenger obviously is just incredible and is a star in it's own right and the shots of it screaming across the desert highways are just fantastic. I'm not sure of the whole delivery premise to begin with, he doesn't seem to care if the car is damaged, so why is he in a hurry to deliver it and didn't they have Dodge dealerships in CA in 1970???. Is it a death wish from the start? It's hard to see this now and realize that car was brand new and one of the true monsters of the road at the time. The movie is dated like most older films but I don't rate movies based on that, you have to take into account the time and not compare it to today.

Clevon Little's role is just incredibly stupid with him feeling the drivers moves or whatever and the music they choose does not fit the scenario at all, you would of expected a much harder soundtrack. I'm still not sure why there is a soul station in the middle of nowhere, and it must have one powerful signal to reach such a long distance. In fact the music here is so bad and forgettable I can't imagine anyone listing it as part of the reason they like this film. A lot of movies from this era used groups they thought were going to be popular or are friends of the producer, there is not one hit from the 60's or 70's here except "Mississippi Queen" which is used for ten seconds and in the wrong place.

More weird to be weird is the naked chick but I guess there is a running theme of wispy blonds in his past, but how in the hell would she have a collage of his history?

The ending is so disconnected from the rest of the movie, the crowd awaiting his arrival don't even seem to be in the same scene and it ends so anticlimactically. Why did they suddenly use a Camaro to blow up instead of the Dodge, you can even see the letters on the side nameplate. The beginning had a good feel to it and I can't imaging how great this would have been had it been more structured and been a straight action film instead of trying to become some religious message wrapped in a Challenger.
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'70 Challenger R/T
sixbbl_6917 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Absolutely the best car chase movie ever done!!!

I not going to review this movie the same way the others above have...if you have read all the other reviews, then you know about the storyline....Well , here it is...if you have been looking for it since '71've found it...saw this movie at the theatre and then the drive in, on TV and finally now on this video...and as a is the extended version...with the missing scenes of Kowalski's girlfriend's drowning...this was edited out for TV...the car is a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T (road and track) was one of 5 cars used for the shooting of the movie.Some of the cars had 440 magnums and a couple were just 383 cars...there is also a 440 Six pack car that you can see the emblems on the hood in one scene. The car they used for most close ups was equipped with Rim blow steering wheel, 15" rallys, am-fm radio, power windows, solid white paint with stripe delete, power bulge hood, polyglas tires and a 4 speed trans with a pistol grip shifter .Barry Newman did some of the stunts himself, and many of the burnouts...I could go on and on but the only thing I can tell you is that I saw this movie when I was 14 and this movie has had a HUGE impact on my life. I have owned over 10 of these E-Body Challengers, including a factory white '70 440 SIX PACK R/T. This is the movie that made me love Mopar, I'm a Dodge fan for life. The '70-'71 Dodge Challengers are truly one of the most gorgeous cars to ever come out of Detroit, check their value in today's the way...the car that hits the dozers at the end is a '68 Camaro....Kowalski lives and Mopar Rules!!!!
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Gonzo movie-making at it's best
RNMorton12 October 1999
Barry Newman is perfect in an episodic movie about an ex-cop, now drifter/car ferryman, who takes a friend up on a timed race from Denver to San Francisco in somebody else's car. Once Newman is detected speeding, a lengthy car chase ensues that covers several states. Nice photography of the Open West; great, understated performance by Newman. Some of the movie is dated, and the blind-DJ subplot can be annoying, but the non-stop action makes up for it. Infrequent showings on TV for many years, so watch it or tape it on one of it's rare appearances.
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Iconic, classic, and a "gift" for Mopar
A_Different_Drummer22 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When Chrysler was first approached for this film, the executive who eventually green-lighted their participation could not believe that anyone would ever watch it. "It's basically a 90 minute ad for a car," he is reputed to have said. Understatement! This 90 minute ad became such a cult hit that an attempt was made to redo it (kindly notice my selection of the word "attempt" and we will discuss the remake no more in this life). Barry Newman had proved a reliable TV actor to that point, but no one had guessed that he would infuse the character of Kowolski with such (pardon the pun) drive. Don't want to give too much away on the off chance you have not seen this film yet, but other reviewers who have opined that this film is a metaphor for the demise of America (from the freedom of the open road, to a police state, with rules and penalties for breaking those rules) may not be far off the mark. See the original, not the AHEM-NEVER-TO-DISCUSSED remake, prepare for a look at the US when freedom was more than a 7 letter world, and prepare for what may possibly be Newman's best work in his career.
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More than just a car chase flick.
EbrosTheMonk22 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This movie held me spellbound the first time I saw it and is still capable of this after countless viewings. This is more than just a car chase movie, it actually has depth and a story to tell. The scenery of the great American West is also first rate and the soundtrack never fails to set the mood.

**THIS PARAGRAGH MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS** The story of the main character, an auto delivery driver named Kowalski unfolds as he takes delivery of a white '70 Dodge Challenger which is as he puts it `souped up to 160' and proceeds to drive it from Denver to San Francisco. His plan, however is to do this in 15 hours to win a bet. As Kowalski makes his journey his life is revealed to us through flashbacks and recollections which are usually triggered by what is currently happening to him in real time. Through these the viewer learns that despite his apparent lawless behavior, Kowalski is a man of good character. One of the big things that drew me into this movie is that it doesn't hand you the explanations on a silver platter. Instead it allows you to think about it and draw your own conclusions long after you've seen it. Certain other reviewers here have already done a great job of touching on the philosophies of freedom and individualism prevalent in this movie, so I won't waste the time trying to top those. I'll add that I feel this is a type of an expressionist film. Kowalski is kind of an `Everyman' (I think people can relate to him) who is on a journey to find his place in the grand scheme of things. Along his path he encounters various characters that watch over him and help him along, but there are also those who wish to shut him down. Whether you think the conclusion of Kowalski's journey is successful or not is up to you.

Another big plus is the realism in the driving scenes, where the drivers are actually driving their machines and occasionally things happen like tires going flat or the car needs fuel. Most modern car chase sequences leave me wanting with all of the computer generated car moves and general lack of realism (no, you can't shoot a car repeatedly with a .50 calibre machine gun without harming the occupants or engine). I know they sometimes got it wrong back then too, doing things like obviously speeding the film up. In this one though, they got it right. The driving here brings us into that realm of manhandling 4000 lbs. of American Iron, in all the glory of big-block V8 roar, screaming smoking tires, and hands flying over the steering wheel.

Another thing that's cool to me about this type of movie is the appearance of the car. At the beginning, the car is resplendent in gleaming chrome and white paint. As the story moves along, the car gradually gets a more dusty battered countenance. I won't spoil the end, but those who've seen it know.

The final things that tie this whole thing together are the soundtrack and scenery. They seem to go hand in hand, from the upbeat rock & roll as Kowalski starts out to the stirring guitar strains during the thoughtful moments. I also cannot say enough about the scenery, which really sucks the viewer in. It ranges from the mountains of Colorado, across Utah and into the searing Nevada desert.

In closing, I'll say that this is one of my favorite movies. It won't be understood by everyone, but those of us who fantasize about getting in a classic car and blasting down an open two-lane highway devoid of SUV's, sport sedans and minivans will likely get it.
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Can you ever build enough speed on the road to escape your past & your pain?
tom-darwin7 April 2006
"Vanishing Point" asks the question and, like other films of this kind before "Smokey & the Bandit" brought the genre to an end, lets us ponder the answer on our own. Other than that, there's no point to this film except to demonstrate that the Challenger is one of the best-looking muscle/sports cars ever made. Get too far into this movie & you'll want to sell your children to have one. Kowalski is a '70s knight-errant, or a Greek mythological hero, just as you please. He rides his Hemi-powered steed on a quest to San Francisco, not for a "what," or a "why," or even for a lady fair, but only for "how fast." Does he seek redemption? Escape? Self-forgiveness? To stick it to the Man? Who cares? Knavish cops close in on him, lotus-eaters like Hovah (Darden) shun him, sirens (especially the stark-naked Texter, who would've stopped Burt Reynolds's Bandit faster than Sally Field ever did) want him to dally. Sharp-featured, Western character actor Anthony James has a hilarious, uncharacteristic turn as a gay hitchhiker. Humble, noble souls come forth to guide Kowalski like angels, including a scruffy snake-hunter (Jagger), chopper jockey & drug dealer Angel (Scott), and the blind deejay Super Soul (Little, who should've been a contender for the part of Howard Beal in "Network"). The Man's attempts to explain Kowalski are annoying distractions, so hit the "mute" button when you see scenes of cops in offices. And stop wondering why Kowalski, on his quest for speed, is always being overtaken & passed by other vehicles. Just put your brain in neutral, put your popcorn where it's handy, and buckle up.
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Don't Psychoanalyse
richardjohnmalin17 January 2002
Please oh please can people just WATCH this film. Forget all the symbolism. You know since I was a kid this seems to have been a topic of conversation with just about anyone who's ever seen it, you've heard it haven't you? The bar-room amateur psychoanalyst or the self proclaimed expert on human behaviour, all giving out opinions of dubious worth.

HERE IS THE CLUE!..... It's a big one too! -------The title!.....There is no point... There.

Anyway back to the film. If you were thinking that I don't like it you're wrong because I think it's terrific. In fact it's brilliant, and not in some foot to the floorboards and brain out of the window way either. There IS a lot of meaning, albeit so jumbled up as to defy any reasoned explanation. So get the beers in, get your mates round and enjoy it--all 500 Horse Power, the gleaming chrome, the V8 rumble,the cool DJ, the clanking bulldozers, the surreal nudist and the full circle ending. Like I said, pointless. Brilliant. Memorable.
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Vanishing point.
sfredman5625 February 2005
Many people don't know where the radio d.j. was broadcasting from in the movie. He was broadcasting from the then closed Goldfield Hotel, in beautiful "downtown" Goldfield Nevada! I should know! I was a resident in this picturesque little town of 110 people (in 1971). The Goldfield Hotel has since found new life as a restored historical landmark. The town itself has surged in population due to new mining processes, and the re-opening of the long closed mines. During the movie, a scene picturing the front of the "Green Frog Market", you will see the faint glow of a freckle-faced, red headed little boy, gazing out of the's me!! This movie was quite exciting in a town of 110 people!
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Vanishingly Little Point
paul2001sw-129 August 2004
'Vanishing Point', a chase movie from the early 1970s, can be easily related to other films of the same (or similar) genres. From its predecessor 'Easy Rider' it takes the bleak beauty of western America, a rollicking soundtrack and a structure whereby the continuum of life on the road is punctuated by emblematic, but vague, encounters. Like Spielberg's 'Duel', it is minimalistic in form. But it's outlaw philosophy has more in common with later, sillier films like 'Smokey and the Bandit' and 'The Cannonball Run' (in 'Easy Rider', the heroes simply want to mind their own business; but in 'Vanishing Point', beating the system is the end in itself). This might make the film seem more political, except for the complete vapidness of its central concept: that "freedom" can be defined as the right to burn enormous quantities of oil at life-endangering speeds (indeed, it appears that one of the ways in which the mainstream has persecuted our hero is to attempt to prevent him from driving when drunk). One could say that this film proceeds under the false cloak of counter culturalism, while selling us the same macho dreams as any mainstream Hollywood product. Yet without the pseudo-philosophical justification, this is a movie without point or purpose, whose central character acts without any rational motivation.

For all that, the chase itself is gripping, though it's strange (especially for a European) to see what qualified as a sports car in America 30 years ago: this one has huge front and rear overhangs and ridiculously soft suspension. But the worst thing about this movie are its bizarre diversions from the main plot, which include: the cheesiest love scene I can remember; a strange, homophobia-tinged encounter with a couple of gay would-be car-hijackers; a racist attack, apropos of nothing; and, most oddly of all, a meeting with a motorcycling, naked blonde in the middle of the desert. The surprise ending which follows all this might have had an impact if the film that had preceded it had anything to say.

The only real reason for watching this film today is as a period piece, a strange mix of reactionary and hippie values that clearly mark it a product of its time. But freedom does not mean irresponsibility; nor does irresponsibility in itself bring freedom, however oppressive we find may the life we are expected to live. Watch 'Five Easy Pieces', a timeless classic from the same era, for a real exploration of these themes.
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car chase masterpiece
kennycj3411 January 2006
The finest period piece ever. This film so encapsulates the decades I grew up in. The stereotypes portrayed remain true to this day. The cops are corrupt, the racists are ignorant and the true believers in true freedom are overwhelmed in the end... sigh. Some things never change, my friends. Read Edward Abbey for further insight to this spectacularly polished and perfect low-budget movie. The film "Lonely are the Brave", starring a very young Kirk Douglas and and even younger Walter Matthau is a close parallel in gorgeous black and white. It is based on "The Last Cowboy" by Abbey, but his masterpiece "A Fools Progress" illustrates -almost as completely as "Vanishing Point"- the heartbreaking philosophy that mourns the final death of true freedom in the one Empire that claimed to champion it.
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excellent evocation of the 70s, freedom , cheap gasoline, and no technology!!
colfair7 November 2005
I saw this film in 1971 and was blown away by the thing, it was very enigmatic, the viewer had to actually THINK ! about the plot. There were so many gaps in the plot, it was hugely open to personal interpretation. Kowalski had no first name, he had no reason to rush the delivery journey, he had no reason to die! I can remember the elation of seeing the chase scenes for the first time and remember the fact that NO special effects were used, the car did exactly what it said on the box ! Excellent film (sad and pointless, but excellent) oh yes , and music to take you right back when. To this day, the 1970/71 Dodge Challenger R/T is THE coolest car on the roads (sorry, Bullitt fans). This film Is dated ,but thats not a bad thing, For all the advances of film technology, they couldn't better this when they made the 1997? remake, it was TOO user friendly, all the gaps where filled in, (name, motive,etc)and it became just another chase movie. This original was probably the first real road movie of modern times, also, SUPERSOUL, so hip, so camp, so funky, so 70's.
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Too much an artifact of its time... *SPOILER*
FeverDog19 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Ok, I just rented Vanishing Point based on my roommate's constant raves about it. Well, I'll be the first to admit that I just don't get it.

I've read other comments alluding to its allegorical Christian and post-60s subtexts. Fine. But for a film to work metaphorically, it needs to work on a literal level. What we have here are details that don't make much sense. Does Kowalski really hear Cleavon Little in his mind, or the radio? (It's hard to believe that a Denver radio station's output can reach all the way to Nevada.) What's with the racist attack on Little at the station? (The bluntedly obvious irony of the attack juxtaposed with a "Love Everyone" tune aside, the purpose of the scene failed to enlighten me or propel the story.) What's with the choir in the desert? What's with the naked chick??? And all the flashbacks and police reports didn't tell me a whole lot about what makes this guy tick. What is the point of this movie??? That men desire the open desert road with no societal restrictions??? Don't stop the presses...

Anyway, like I said, I'm probably not tuned in to its message (I never cared for Easy Rider, either.) Vanishing Point was made three years before I was born, and perhaps I needed to have experienced the era to appreciate something like this (this may be why I adore Almost Famous, Dazed and Confused, and Woodstock so much for their nostalgia purposes - jeez, how much do I wish my parents conceived me twenty years earlier!) I do, however, admire the filmmaking techniques of this time, especially the downbeat endings (I'm a big fan of They Shoot Horses, Don't They), which is why I saw the crash coming from so far away, I had time to trim my nails and read my EW.

Cool car, though.

So, if somebody can clue me in, drop me a line. In the meantime, I'll just keep spinning my Zeppelin and Who CDs, and remember a past for which I wasn't present.

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Good DVD
hamanncrosscreek22 February 2004
Just received a DVD of this film and was pleasantly surprised. The image is restored and looks great. After years of watching grainy and scratched prints its nice to see it as it was in 1971. Theatrical trailer and two TV spots are included. Commentary by Richard C. Sarifian brings some insights into filming locations, the various actors, etc. (Gilda Texter was severely sunburned during her desert motorcycle ride and she was girl friend of actor Paul Koslo who also appears in film.) And a story of a prostitute befriended by the crew,who stole the last remaining challenger. (eight were used, only one survived.) She was caught sometime later. The real treat is actress

Charlotte Ramplings missing scene near the end of the film. While it really adds nothing to the story,its nice to finally see the missing footage after thirty years. There are also some striking images of the challenger at daybreak in that previously missing scene. The only thing lacking is commentary from the STAR of the film, Barry Newman,which would have made this a Great DVD.
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An epitaph to the Muscle car era.....
sp_m_h31 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Much has been written about this movie, so the story is well known. The main character is a man known as Kowalski who delivers cars for a living. He has done other things though. He was a Vietnam veteran, a former car and bike racing driver and an ex cop, but in the film he collects a car on a Friday night in Colorado to drive it back to San Francisco, California, in 15 hours. ( a journey of some 1200 miles ).

Given the car he is driving, a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440ci V8 with a 4 speed manual transmission, which is also allegedly " hopped up to over 160 ", it is technically achievable, however, as he will be driving mainly on the back roads, no one seems to think he can do it. To help him, he visits a friend at the start and take a supply of speed and then gets on his way. And then the fun begins.

So what is the movie really about?....Well, if you read all the other comments, and I recommend you do, you will see the main points of the plot and events, etc, so I wont be repeating these here, but to me, none of them get to the real raison d'etre of Kowalski and the movie.

You first have to look at the time period in the US in 1970/71. The Vietnam war was still ongoing and by then the protest against it was very wide spread. In addition, there was still a very strong racism element and the US was in effect a Police state, only much more so than today.

Then there was the Muscle care era which was at its peak in 1970/71, but by 1973, it was all but dead as emission laws made many of the big block engines illegal. The 70 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 ci V8 was one of the fastest in its day and with a 4 speed manual transmission was good for around 375 bhp in stock form, however, we are told that it is hopped up to do over 160 mph, ( standard was around 140 mph ) although no details of how it is tuned are given other than a couple of cops saying it is allegedly supercharged.

Then he have Kowalski himself. On face value it would seem he has been a failure throughout his life ( well the bits we get to see in flash back ), but is he really?....No. The way he drives the Dodge shows you that he is in a different league to the cops and like all racing drivers, instead of slowing down, he changes down and accelerates to even faster speeds, so he isn't simply a good driver, he is a great driver. One of the very best.

He doesn't just drive the car, he becomes part of it and it becomes part of him. He knows that whenever he changes down a gear or two, he has rocket like acceleration that will get him out of trouble and when the roads get closed off, he simply takes it out into the desert. As Super soul says, Kowalski is one of the last great American hero's and that is what the movie is really about.

It is an epitaph to the last of the real hero's, Kowalski, the last of the real muscle cars and the last blast of a freedom that the police are trying to destroy. Kowalski knows that, just like the muscle car, his time has come and gone, so he pushes himself on an almost impossible journey that he knows will end in his death. After all, what is there to live for. Nothing except the speed and the race, and so at the end we see him smash into two bulldozers rather than surrender.

On face value, this seems madness. He could easily stop and although he might be imprisoned for a while ( or maybe not as he hadn't really done anything wrong ), he would get to drive again, but for Kowalski its not so simplistic. He is on a one way journey and this is evident by the flash backs to the past events in his life.

We see him as a racing car driver, a bike racer, when he was a cop and the death of his beloved. He whole life story is laid out along the road, so it is obvious that death is the only destination. This is further confirmed when we see the naked chick shows him all the news stories she has collected about him long before this journey. Its like she is an Angel saying, this was your life Kowalski.

There is also the scene not in the US versions ), where he picks up a female hitchhiker ( death ) who spends the night with him and then mysteriously disappears before he wakes. Kowalski knows its coming, but rather than fear it, he drives into the next world at maximum speed, smiling and with him dies the last of the great muscle cars.

Whether you agree with my synopsis or not, this is one of the great movies of all time and if you do nothing else in your life, you have to see this film and preferably on a big screen with surround sound.
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one of the handful of films that made an early impression...
nates-214 August 2005
My Dad was a local drag racing hero in Gastonia NC in the 1960's. He was (and still is) a Mopar man. So whenever a car movie came out featuring a 'Cuda, Charger, or Challenger, we piled up and went out, usually to the drive-in.

In 1973 I turned 10 yrs. old, and we saw Vanishing Point when it was released, so I musta' been 8 or so, way too young to get anything but "oh boy, fast car" out of it. However, somehow, I got it. Not the 'religious" symbolism, but the fact that I was seeing - no - experiencing a counter-culture film. As an 8 yr. old, it FELT like what I later found out it was supposed to be; a cool, hip, statement on the after-effects of the late '60's turmoil.

Throughout the next 30 years, because the movie did not raise a fuss, I felt like it was MY cool secret - just me and my Dad. I could vividly remember many scenes in my head (in my 20's and 30's) without ever seeing the movie again.

A film that enters your head off and on for 30+ years after seeing it once as a small child, is a testament to the power of a great film. It just goes to show that you don't need a fabulous script with big name actors and beauceats (boo-koos) of special effects to make a truly memorable film.
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