Vanishing Point (1971)

“Tighten your seat belt. You never had a trip like this before.” An existential road movie directed by Richard C. Sarafian, Vanishing Point is basically an extended car chase accompanied by a great soundtrack with a nihilistic ending. Hell, that’s good enough for me! Barry Newman (from the 1970’s TV series Petrocelli) portrays the mysterious, stoic, pill-popping “Kowalski,” who makes a bet that he can drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. Meanwhile, an extremely inept array of law enforcement officers fails miserably in their efforts to stop him. Along the way, Kowalski encounters several memorable characters, including a crusty snake wrangler/prospector (Dean Jagger), a hippie biker named “Angel” (Timothy Scott) and even a beautiful “Nude Motorcycle Rider” (Gilda Texter). Also look for Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) as “Super Soul,” a blind DJ who uses a police radio scanner in an effort to help Kowalski avoid the cops on his trail, and John Amos (Good Times) as Super Soul’s engineer. A scene with Charlotte Rampling as a hitchhiker was edited from the U.S. release. The film’s energetic soundtrack includes “Super Soul Theme” (The J.B. Pickers), “The Girl Done Got It Together” (Bobby Doyle), “Where Do We Go from Here?” (Jimmy Walker), “Welcome to Nevada” (Jerry Reed), “Dear Jesus God” (Segarini & Bishop), “Runaway Country” (The Doug Dillard Expedition), “You Got to Believe” (Delaney, Bonnie & Friends), “Love Theme” (The Jimmy Bowen Orchestra & Chorus), “So Tired” (Eve), “Freedom of Expression” (The J.B. Pickers), “Mississippi Queen” (Mountain), “Sing Out for Jesus” (Big Mama Thornton), “Over Me” (Segarini & Bishop) and “Nobody Knows” (Kim & Dave, as in Kim Carnes): “Nobody knows, nobody sees, till the light of life stops burnin’, till another soul goes free.” Gene Hackman was reportedly considered for the role of “Kowalski.” Vanishing Point would make a great double feature with Two-Lane Blacktop (1971). A TV remake was made in 1997 with Viggo Mortensen as “Kowalski.” In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Steven Spielberg stated that Vanishing Point was one of his favorite movies.

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