Vanishing Point (1971) Review

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Vanishing Point (1971)

Directed by Richard C Sarafian

Barry Newman
Cleavon Little
Dean Jagger

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a car delivery driver who makes a bet that he can get a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum from Denver to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. (Yes, of course I had to look up what kind of car it was. I’m a girl.)

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My Opinion:

This is one manly, groovy, cool, super fly 70s movie. It’s Easy Rider meets Smokey And The Bandit. It’s a total GUY movie. But I liked it because I’m a sucker for 70s films. They’re effing cool & we don’t get anything with that same sort of look & feel these days.

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This was 1971 so it has that late 60s vibe as well (another era that’s way cooler than our current one, which is uncool & sucks). I was reading about this movie on Wikipedia to refresh my memory as I watched it over the summer & it says “The film is notable for its scenic film locations across the American Southwest and its social commentary on the post-Woodstock mood in the United States.” Had to use that quote as it really does sum up the feel of the movie. I’d love to have lived during that time. And everyone & everything was so ugly! I love that.

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I’ll keep this short: If you’re old like me and if you love 70s movies (and especially if you’re a dude & you like cars), you’ll definitely like this movie so go & watch it right now. It’s very “American” and captures a time & place that’s really like no other.

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The acting is dodgy (especially from Kowalski’s girlfriend), Kowalski’s backstory is actually very interesting but poorly explained in that 70s movie type of storytelling way (I filled in the blanks reading about it online afterwards), and it’s also very slow paced (again, in that total 70s way) considering that it’s about a guy driving really fast.

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But it’s cool. There’s a super cool blind DJ named Super Soul (Cleavon Little – in the pic above) who hears about Kowalski’s mission & the cops who are on his tail so uses his radio broadcast to help him evade the police. There’s also a guy in the desert collecting snakes for his religious cult, two “just married” male hitchhikers who try to rob Kowalski, plus a biker who tries to help by giving him pills to keep him awake. Oh – And, of course, the biker’s girlfriend who rides around on a motorcycle fully nude. As you do. Then we get a “WTF?” ending they’d totally change if (when?) some unoriginal Hollywood idiots decide to remake this. (Oh shit – in just now looking for pictures to use in this review, I see this WAS remade in 1997. Except Viggo Mortensen’s Kowalski is trying to get home to his wife who has gone into labor. Puh-LEASE! Argh! I hate Hollywood!!!!)

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Vanishing Point is Seventies Goodness.

My Rating: 7/10

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30 thoughts on “Vanishing Point (1971) Review

  1. This is one of my favourites.
    I love the muscle cars of that era, love the music, and I even love the ending as Kowalski’s “soul goes free”.
    Have you seen Two-Lane Blacktop?
    If you enjoyed Vanishing Point you might want to check that one out.

    • Just looked that up. Sounds interesting! Not heard of that one. I did enjoy this one as much as a girl not into cars can, I think. 😉 What it also made me think of is Duel, which I really need to re-watch someday.

      • Vanishing Point is showing on Film 4 in the UK tonight, how’s that for timing?
        I just read this on Twitter.
        “An existential road movie classic. The best ever ending to a film? Discuss. VANISHING POINT (1971) 1:20am @Film4.”

  2. Wow, here’s a film I’ve not seen in aaaaaaaaages! Made me all nostalgic for a simpler time as a teenage movie watcher – the only recollection I have of this film is the nuddy bike rider!

    Definitely will make a re-visit methinks. Cheers for the reminder!

    • Damn! It was on Film 4 at 1:20 am last night! Maybe check for a repeat! 🙂 Yep – I miss the much simpler times. Like with anything you re-watch from your youth, though, I think you’ll find it much slower & not quite as much fun as you remember. But it was still worth a watch. 🙂

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  4. Nice review – and a great movie! And Primal Scream’s album Vanishing Point is apparently designed as an alternate soundtrack to the movie and features samples of dialogue from the film. Also, the music video for the single Kowalski (on youtube) – which features a young Kate Moss driving a similar car to the one in the movie – was directed by Irvine Welsh – author of Trainspotting !

    • That’s cool – I should check that video out. I know a little bit of Primal Scream but not a lot. Are you meant to listen to the album while the movie plays with the sound off? Like Dark Side of the Moon & The Wizard of Oz?? Lol. (Yes, I did that) : )

      • I’m not sure whether the album and the movie synch up. Considering the album is much shorter than the film – I wouldn’t think so. If you wanna hear more Primal Scream – I suggest the album Screamadelica is a good place to start. I was fortunate to see them perform the album in its entirety a couple of years ago here at a music festival in Oz – and it was one of the best (if not THE best) live shows I’ve ever seen! 🙂

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  8. I saw this one 8 years ago and it still sticks with me. In my own short review ( ), I argue that Kowalski is the embodiment of the concept of freedom. Americans go on and on about all the freedom we have, but the ’60s and ’70s convincingly dispelled any myths. In a similar vein was Agnès Varda’s Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) about a listless teen roaming around the French countryside. Both films prove that true and absolute freedom is a pact with the devil—refraining from exercising freedom is the cost to live in society, and by living without restraint, one is ejected from society completely.

    • Hmm. That’s an interesting way of looking at it! And it makes sense. The French film sounds quite interesting as well – I’ve not heard of that one so will look it up. Mainly, I just loved the setting of this one. I think I’d far prefer to live during that era than now. Even less freedom these days what with social media and constantly being watched, etc…

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