B-Movie Corner: ‘Vanishing Point’

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First Posted: 3/3/2015

Originally released in 1971, “Vanishing Point” was meant to be a social commentary in a post-Woodstock America. The film is an American road movie in vein of Easy Rider but with a more direct plotline. While it was only a modest success in the theater, the film truly found an audience over the years through home rentals.

“Vanishing Point” follows a car delivery driver, Kowalski (Barry Newman) as he arrives in Denver, Colorado one late Friday night with a black Chrysler Imperial. The delivery service clerk urges him to get some rest, but Kowalski insists on getting started with his next assignment to deliver a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum to San Francisco by Monday.

Before leaving Denver, Kowalski pulls into a biker bar parking lot around midnight to buy Benzedrine pills to stay awake for the long drive ahead. He bets his dealer that he will get to San Francisco by 3:00 p.m. the following day even though the delivery is not due until Monday.

As the film progresses it is unveiled that Kowalski is a Medal of Honor Vietnam War veteran and former race car driver. He is also a former police officer, who was dishonorably discharged in retaliation for preventing his partner from raping a young woman. If that isn’t enough, he is also haunted by the surfing death of his girlfriend, Vera. Kowalski now thrives on adrenaline.

Driving west across Colorado, Kowalski is pursued by two motorcycle police officers who try to stop him for speeding. Recalling his days as a motorcycle racer, he forces one officer off the road and eludes the other officer by jumping across a dry creek bed.

Later, the driver of a Jaguar E-Type pulls up alongside Kowalski and challenges him to a race. After the Jaguar driver nearly runs him off the road, Kowalski overtakes him and beats the Jaguar to a one-lane bridge, causing the Jaguar to crash into the river. Kowalski checks to see if the driver is OK, then takes off, with police cars in hot pursuit.

“Vanishing Point” is full of great car chase sequences that bring back memories of a bygone era of cinema. The fantastic muscle cars and true ’70s feel can make anyone nostalgic for the era, even if you were not alive during that time.

The film did receive a remake in the ’90s but it was certainly not the same and had a different feel to it than the original. This is a film that has stood the test of time.

While some may write this off as a car chase film, it has a great depth to it, and can be viewed as an existential examination of life and what many felt at that point in American history.

Just be warned, after viewing “Vanishing Point” you just may be inspired to buy a muscle car and drive off into the sunset.