(Seeing FASTER last week got me thinking about other cool movies where cars were prevalent. One of the best was VANISHING POINT. Here’s a short review I did a few years back ~ LLS)
VANISHING POINT (1971)
DVD Review by L.L. Soares
In DEATH PROOF, Quentin Tarantino’s half of the double-feature movie GRINDHOUSE (2007), some of the characters talk about how the 1971 movie VANISHING POINT was one of the best car movies ever. So I figured if Tarantino likes it that much, I should check it out.
I was never much into car movies in the 70s. I remember seeing a few good ones like DIRTY MARY & CRAZY LARRY (1974) at the drive-in as a kid (man, do I miss drive-ins). But for the most part, when I thought of car movies back then, what came to mind were flicks like SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977) and shows like THE DUKES OF HAZARD (1979 – 1985) both of which I hated.
But there is a whole genre of films about cars that are very cool. From Monte Hellman’s TWO LANE BLACKTOP (1971) to the classic car chase in THE FRENCH CONNECTION (also 1971 – what a great year for cars in movies!), there have been some really great ones.
VANISHING POINT is one of the best. The plot is pretty simple. Barry Newman plays a mysterious guy named Kowalski (we never learn his first name). He was a solider in Vietnam. He was a cop. And then he just dropped out of society. All Kowalski seems to care about is racing. He races motorcyles, he races cars. His drug of choice, not surprisingly, is speed (both the pills and the forward momentum).
Kowalski drives a white Dodge Challenger (yep, just like the one they take for a “test drive” in GRINDHOUSE) from Denver to San Francisco. He has three days to get there, but he decides to do it in 14 hours. Unfortunately, the cops decide to throw a monkey wrench in his plans and chase him. They’re wasting their time, though, because he won’t stop and he won’t pull over. So they increase the number of cop cars. And a high speed chase turns into a statement about one man’s freedom to drive on the open road.
Kowalski meets some people along the way including an old prospector type who gathers rattlesnakes (Dean Jagger) and some hippies who help him out of a bind (one of them is a blonde chick who rides around naked on a motorcyle, played by Gilda Texter). And there’s also Cleavon Little as Super Soul, a blind DJ who plays some great soul tunes and also, ironically enough, who acts as Kowalski’s eyes as he listens to the police scanner and gives Kowalski tips on the radio about how to avoid them.
This movie has a real ’70s vibe to it (which makes sense, considering when it was made), and a minimalistic existential/zen tone. In other words, it’s my kinda movie. And if it sounds like something you’d dig, then you’d best check it out.
© Copyright 2007 by L.L. Soares