Vanishing Point (1971)
Movie InfoRichard Sarafian directed this minimalist chase film, starring Barry Newman as ex-marine, ex-race car driver and cop named Kowalski. He drives into Denver to deliver a car and pick up another vehicle to drive to San Francisco. To make the fifteen-hour drive to San Francisco bearable he pops a load of pep pills and drives off. Almost immediately, he is told to pull over by the police, but Kowalski refuses to stop. Ignoring the cops, a police chase ensues. Egging Kowalski on is a blind black disc jockey, Super Soul (Cleavon Little), who announces his comings and goings on his local radio show, praising Kowalski to the skies as "the last American to whom speed means freedom of the soul." Super Soul's hype makes Kowalski a media sensation and Kowalski fans mount up -- as do the police cars chasing him -- as he races against time to deliver both the car and himself to his San Francisco destination. … More
Related News & Features
Richard C. Sarafian: 1930-2013
– New York Times
RT on DVD: Final Futurama Flick, Pirates II, and Akira on Blu-ray
– Rotten Tomatoes
No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.
Critic Reviews for Vanishing Point
The action is almost entirely made up of one man driving a car at maximum speed from Denver to, hopefully, San Francisco.
In a time when vacant retreads such as The Fast and the Furious are the problem, Vanishing Point is the answer.
The woodenness of both direction and Newman's performance becomes increasingly apparent.
Takes full advantage of the subject's existential and mythical undertones without being pretentious, and you certainly get a run for your money, along with a lot of rock music.
Merged the appeal of Bullitt with that of, say, Zabriskie Point...fast cars and dusty existentialism. [Blu-ray]
should be seen as a particularly charged variant of a now extinct genre: the artsy B-movie
A film all but overflowing with the revolting spirit of the oppressed. Bring the noise!
Really nothing but a one hundred minute car chase across country, and I loved every minute of it...
The last quarter of Grindhouse was little more than a love note to this flick's towering excellence.
A fairly interesting, but somewhat muddled, road movie starring Newman as an ex-cop who now drives cars from Denver to San Francisco for a living.
A fairly entertaining chase flick, with a few artistic touches included to keep the thinking viewers happy.
Audience Reviews for Vanishing Point
For a film whose entire premise is the fact that some driver on drugs has been given a bet to drive a car across a couple of US states it's surprisingly entertaining. And whilst the background of the main anti-hero Kowalski screams cliche and a lack of belonging in a world that just doesn't get him, you know, the film's director pulls off a surprisingly impressive portrayal and leaves you rooting for the guy to complete his futile drive, which is, in a way what the whole film is about.
Let's be honest here, 'Vanishing Point', despite its existential consideration of life and the injustice of the world, is not a masterpiece. But it does convey the various themes its set out to convey well, despite some dodgy flashbacks and acting from Barry Newman who carries the whole thing. Kowalski's odd encounters with random strangers as he drives along slowly gains him the status of an anti-establishment hero and the support of the public and the really over the top but genuinely cool DJ, who helps him out.
It's a difficult way of telling the audience what the film is about but that's part of the point. As Kowalski searches for a message or purpose to his existence he realises there isn't one. Then comes his existential fuel for the film's 90 minute long car chase as his pursuit from the police becomes the meaning his life lacked.
Yet regardless of the thematic bulk of the film the real enjoyment is gained from watching Kowalski drive his car, usually with police hot on his tail. I'm not much of a car person but I can understand the appeal of a Dodge Challenger. Although the film screams late 60s early 70s American counter-culture it draws parallels with earlier 1950s films about outlaws in the American west. Newman plays this modern day hero well, a nihilist for much of the time he is onscreen, alienated from a mainstream society which is closing in on him.
The cinematography and images of the beautiful barren desert are striking and the music which accompanies the hero as he attempts to fulfil his mission is excellent. If it wasn't for these things the film would, I fear, be a tad boring. There's only so many times a man looking directly ahead at a road from within a car can be found interesting and despite a provision of interesting characters, snake catcher, hippies, gay stickup men and naked women on motorbikes, it's the car chase which makes the film what it is.
It's far from perfect but 'Vanishing Point' is a nice little cult piece from the 1970s which deserves far more attention that it gets. It avoids stuffing the theme and meaning down the audience's collective throats whilst setting up an excellent series of car chase set pieces and delivering a film, which despite its numerous flaws, is very entertaining.
In the history of cinema there have been many standout car chase films. Some have been great and others lacked in real excitement. Vanishing Point is one of the best car films ever made, after Bullitt; this film redefined the car chase genre and gave cinema enthusiasts something truly exhilarating to watch. The film boasts some truly intense action scenes and an interesting plot. However, if you go into this film expecting a great plot and great acting, you'll be disappointed. The performances are good, but the standout is the chase sequences that are brilliantly constructed and are truly entertaining. If you want some authentic chase scenes, without the use of CGI and other computer gimmicks, then give this film a shot as it relies only on the talented drivers to create the chases and it pays off. The directing is terrific as well, and the pace of the film moves very fast. Vanishing Point is far from perfect, but in the end, it's mindless fun, and if that's what you're looking for, and then definitely check this one out. I first heard of this by viewing Quentin Tarantino's action horror thriller Death Proof, and my curiosity was peaked. Tarantino has a knack to recommend films by including references in his films, and he definitely brought this one to light. Vanishing Point has one awesome car, a 1970 Dodge Challenger, which for me, anyways is the real star of the film. Director Richard C. Sarafian directions is wonderful, and each car chase is adrenaline inducing and hard to keep your eyes off. However despite all the great chases, I feel that the film's weakest aspect is its plot. Though good, it could have been much better too. Despite its flaws, this is a classic action film worth seeing if you love genuine car chases and good action. If you enjoyed this one, definitely give the 1968 film Bulitt a look as well.More
it's supposed to be a 70s classic...
...and that popular opinion is not wrong.
This road movie is essentially one long car chase that concerns a man named Kowalski who bets that he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in just 15 hours. Well, going at that kind of pace, it's not long before the law is on his tail. He does get some support along the way though, mostly from a blind DJ with almost supernatural abilities. Kowalski also meets some other colorful characters, the most notable being a lady who rides her motorcycle in the nude.
The film does have substance and character development that get peppered in throughout, but it's largely a rather sparse and existential journey that really helps capture the essence of the the period it is a part of, kinda like Easy Rider.
It doesn't have quite the same power and impact of that movie, but it does certainly leave an impact. I mean, it's kind of difficult not to give it cool points based solely on the fact that Kowalski's car is a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T.
The performances are fine, the music is great, the stunt work is top notch, and the cinematography is stunning. All in all, this is a nice little gem you should check out, whether it's the U.S. version or the slightly longer U.K. cut.
Discuss Vanishing Point on our Movie forum!