Movies / Home Theatre

Vanishing Point (1971)


By Hervé St-Louis
August 4, 2020 - 14:20

Former cop, former Vietnam veteran, and former race car driver Kowalski has one job: deliver the white Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco. He makes a bet that he can deliver the car in fifteen hours, but that forces him to continue driving at high-speed non-stop, whether the authorities want him to or not. Nothing will slow down Kowalski in his quest to get back home to San Francisco. He is driven and his story is one hell of a racing car movie.

For some odd reason, I thought that I had reviewed Vanishing Point a while back. According to purchase records, I’ve had the Blu-Ray of this movie since 2016! Of course, I was not around when Vanishing Point first came out and was released in theatres to audiences. It is an odd movie, and Kowalski is as odd. It is not that Kowalski is an unknown, like in many other films about the absurd. Enough flashback material is sprinkled to piece together the picture of a man pissed with the system who is just trying to ride another day.

Like all the best elusive car driver on a mission movie, Kowalski does not say much. I have read that some described actor Barry Newman as a cross between gene Hackman and Steve McQueen. This comparison for the actor who portrays Kowalski is accurate. The classic strong silent type was at play when Kowalski simply kicks out the gay hitchhikers from his car without any remorse nor any prejudice. They were getting in the way of his drive. Newman has enough of a range as an actor to make that scene work.

The other major star in this film is obviously the white Dodge Challenger R/T. The shape and angles of the cars are perfectly captured in many shots making it easy to understand for those of us who were not around when this movie and this car were released that it had to be a must-have car for wannabe rebels without causes from the 1970s. The beauty of the car is that it breaks with the mostly round features of earlier muscle cars from the 1970s. This is a road car whose slick allure was enhanced with the bleak deserts covered nonstop by Kowalski as he kept attempting to evade the police.

I am not interested in attempting to provide some philosophical insight into the motivations of Kowalski nor the about the meaning of this film. Enough people have attempted just that and whatever dumb thing I have to add would just be part of a mêlée. This film is beautiful and made for people who like to watch sexy cars go fast and perform cool stunts. The music is also good as it was composed by one band for the full movie. The closest comparison to Vanishing Point is of course, Two-Lane Blacktop, but of course, both are seminal films in mid 1960s-1970s car racing films.

Rating: 10 /10

Last Updated: February 5, 2023 - 09:06

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