The car featured in the film is a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, with a 440 cubic-inch V-8, and not a 426 Hemi V-8 (as is often believed). Eight white Challengers loaned from the Chrysler Corporation were used during the filming.
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Sarafian states on the commentary that eight '70 Dodge Challenger R/T's were actually utilized during production and when filming had wrapped, only one Challenger R/T remained.
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The squad car rollover was anticipated by stuntman Carey Loftin. He'd warned Sarafian and John Alonzo. Sarafian joked "Now I'll know where to put the camera."
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Director Richard C. Sarafian's original choice for the role of Kowalski was Gene Hackman, but the studio, "20th Century Fox," insisted on using Barry Newman if the movie was going to be made.
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The color white was chosen for the car simply so the car would stand out against the background scenery in the movie. White was not symbolic in any way. The director says this in the DVD commentary.
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In 1997, the British rock band Primal Scream released their 'Vanishing Point' album, which features several dialogues sampled directly from the movie and was reportedly conceived as "an alternate soundtrack to the movie".
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The 2004 music video for Audioslave's "Show Me How to Live" is an homage to, and follows the plot of, this film. It features clips from the film intercut with scenes of the band in a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T replicating scenes of Kowalski.
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Interestingly, the speedometer and tachometer are never shown - only the fuel gauge.
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In one desert shot it shows the Challenger as right-hand drive.
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Charlotte Rampling had a role as a hitchhiker who Kowalski met while en route, but her scenes were deleted before the US release. The scenes were included for the UK release. The DVD release includes both the US and UK versions.
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According to Sarafian on the commentary, he made the film on a budget of 1.3 million. Sarafian also admitted that he had surpassed the allotted budget by $80k due to executive producer Richard Zanuck taking a liking to the film. Zanuck then hired eight different teams of Dolby artists to bring a visceral aesthetic to the Challenger. In the end, Sarafian lost 2.5 points which he joked were "Vanishing Points!"
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When Sandy (Kowalski's supervisor) is being interviewed by the media, various bikers are seen. Sarafian states that they moved from location to location in tandem with the crew. Even partying together with the crew. Sarafian is visible in the scene as the dark haired man in a beige ten gallon hat.
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The Guns N' Roses song "Breakdown," from their 1991 album "Use Your Illusions II," includes Axl Rose quoting the "There goes the challenger" and "But it is written" monologues.
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Kris Kristofferson was considered for a part. His then wife, Rita Coolidge, has a small role in the film.
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Gilda Texter spends 100% of her screen time completely nude. Contrary to her character, Texter would spend most of her career in movies dressing up characters, as a costume designer/costumer/costume supervisor.
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The on-the-spot TV news "interview" early in the movie for KLZ-TV in Denver was actually done by the real KLZ-TV news anchor at the time in Denver, Bob Palmer - playing himself. He died in 2008.
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Entertainment Weekly ranked this Number Two on their "Guilty Pleasures: Testosterone Edition" list in their March 30, 2007 issue.
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Dean Jagger (the snake charmer/prospector) and Barry Newman (Kowalski) shared the same birthday: November 7th.
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The Challenger had Colorado plates: OA-5599
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Scene where Kowalski talks to Jake on the phone after he arrives into California was originally longer. It had an establishing shot showing Challenger driving to the phone booth in the middle of nowhere. Sarafian was disappointed after the scene was cut down, because he felt it added more surreal moment feel to the film. There were more similar scenes which were cut out of the film, like for example Kowalski looking into his rear view mirror and seeing posse on horses chasing after him during one of the chase scenes.
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There were many rumors over the years about what happened to all eight 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum cars used in the film, like how they were returned to Chrysler after filming who sold them or how they were sold by studio on salvage auction, but in one of the interviews before his death director Richard C. Sarafian revealed the actual truth. All Challengers were returned to Chrysler, seven out of eight were damaged after being put through a lot during filming and only one was returned in good condition, however after they saw the film they were "pissed because their cars were in a movie that promoted drugs and running from the cops", so they crushed all eight. Ironically, Vanishing Point was huge reason why Challenger became popular as one of the best muscle cars, and even today both the film and the car have great cult status.
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A 1967 Camaro shell (ie with no engine) loaded with explosives was used for the final crash. You can see the "Camaro" fender nameplate upside-down in the lower left corner of the screen after the crash.
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The hitchhiker in the uncut version is Charlotte Rampling was "Death" as she tells Kowalski that he's slipped her grasp a few times over the years and that he is expected soon to meet her for the final time. On the DVD there are two versions of the film
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Actor Barry Newman, and others, have said the hitchhiker, played by Charlotte Rampling, is meant to represent Death. Evidence of this is proven in the U.K. release of the film, which includes Rampling's scene. Kowalski is very near to Cisco after his last phone conversation with Jake on Saturday night. However, in the U.K. version, after he picks up the hitchhiker, he smokes pot, despite declining the offer several times before during the course of the film. Kowalski is forced to pull over, where it is implied he and the hitchhiker make love before he passes out until the next morning. Because he stops, the CHP is given plenty of time to place the bulldozers in the road to block his path, and he later kills himself by crashing into the bulldozers head-on. If he hadn't met the hitchhiker, "Death," Kowalski would have been well past Cisco before the CHP could stop him by putting the bulldozers in the road.
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Due to the cutting of the scene with Charlotte Rampling in the American release of the film, it creates a major plot hole within the movie. After the conversation between Kowalski and Jake, viewers see on the CHP wall map that Kowalski is approaching Cisco as early as Saturday night. However, the film then cuts to the next day, with Super Soul returning to the radio station, and Kowalski is still outside Cisco. In the U.K. release, viewers see it's because Kowalski picked up a hitchhiker, got stoned, and stopped. The American version offers no explanation for what Kowalski was doing.
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Dialogue at the beginning of the film foreshadows the ending. After Kowalski tells Sandy he intends to drive to San Francisco without a break, Sandy tells Kowalski he's going to "Kill himself" one day. This is exactly what Kowalski does at the end of the film.
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In the U.S. release, following his phone call with Jake, Kowalski has no more dialogue for the remainder of the film. In the U.K. release, his dialogue ends after the scene with the hitchhiker. In both cases, when the film picks up on Sunday morning, Kowalski says nothing for the rest of the film.
Original screenplay by Guillermo Cain included different songs than the ones in the film, and also had more songs in other scenes, some of which were deleted from the film or never filmed. For example; I Got You Babe by Sonny and Cher, Ain't Got No by Nina Simone, Walking Through the Country by Grassroots, Coming Back To Me by Jefferson Airplane, Free The People by Salvation Army Sounds Triumphant which as director Richard C. Sarafian mentions in his commentary of the film was used in alternate ending of his original cut where Super Soul is not mourning Kowalski's death but instead yells "Yeah! He made it!"
Barry Newman offered two interpretations of his character's death in the film's ending, the first in 1986: "Kowalski smiles as he rushes to his death at the end of "Vanishing Point" because he believes he will make it through the roadblock." Newman expanded on this in 2006, in which he explains that Kowalski sees the light glinting from between the two bulldozers: "To Kowalski, it was still a hole to escape through. It symbolized that no matter how far they push or chase you, no one can truly take away your freedom and there is always an escape." Newman also thought that the entire film was an essay on existentialism. Kowalski drives to drive, with no real purpose for doing what he's doing. He decides to give his life its definition and meaning, with complete freedom over his actions.
The city names on the California Highway Patrol tracking board (where Kowalski never made it) were Stockton, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.
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