Vanishing Point (1971) Review

Richard Sarafian’s 1971 road movie Vanishing Point essentially puts on a 98 minute clinic of “being cool.” The cinematography by the amazing John A. Alonzo (Scarface, Chinatown, Harold and Maude) is out of control awesome, the swift editing by Stefan Arnsen keeps a beyond-fast pace, and the on-location shooting and stunt driving is truly tremendous. Lead actor Barry Newman is a total bad-ass as the pill-popping driver named Kowalski, who just needs to drive and that’s about it. Drive-drive-drive from Colorado to California in less than 15 hours so that his last amphetamine score is free. But wouldn’t you know it, a police chase erupts due to Kowalski’s crazy antics behind the wheel, and a disc jockey named Super Soul, played by Cleavon Little, starts to broadcast the chase live over the airwaves, making it all the rage, and turning Kowalski into an unexpected counterculture hero.

vanishing point review

This movie is a blast on multiple levels, and looks and sounds terrific on Blu-ray. Sarafian apparently turned down an offer to direct the Robert Redford skiing drama Downhill Racer (the excellent Michael Ritchie ended up getting the gig) so that he could make Vanishing Point, which originated from real life events, and was written by Cuban scenarist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who wrote under the pseudonym Guillermo Cain. The final moments of this film sting with sadness, while the central conceit and textural nature of the film has been debated since its initial release. This is an existential cult classic, a film that has gained in reputation throughout the years, and is always ripe for (re)-discovery for new generations of film lovers.

Review by Nick Clement

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