Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point

Infobox Film
name = Vanishing Point


image_size =
caption = Theatrical poster
director = Richard C. Sarafian
producer = Norman Spencer
Michael Pearson
writer = Guillermo Cain
Malcolm Hart (story outline)
Barry Hall (uncredited)
narrator =
starring = Barry Newman
Cleavon Little
Dean Jagger
Victoria Medlin
Charlotte Rampling
music = Kim Carnes
Delaney, Bonnie & Friends
Pete Carpenter
Mike Post
Jimmy Bowen
cinematography = John A. Alonzo
editing = Stefan Arnsten
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = January 15, 1971
runtime = 106 min. (approx.)
country = USA
language = English
budget = $1,300,000
gross = $12,442,673
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id = 1:52219
imdb_id = 0067927

"Vanishing Point" is a 1971 road movie starring Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and Dean Jagger.

"Vanishing Point" is notable for its scenery from filming locations across the American Southwest and its social commentary on the post-Woodstock mood in the United States. It is beloved by Mopar enthusiasts because it is one of the most significant movies ever to feature a classic Dodge muscle car. The film continues to be popular to this day and is considered a cult film.

Tagline

ynopsis

Barry Newman plays a car delivery driver named Kowalski (his first name is never given throughout the movie) who works for Argo's Car Delivery Service in Denver, Colorado and is assigned to deliver a white 1970 Dodge Challenger to San Francisco. Flashbacks which appear throughout the movie hint that he has either lost everything he has ever wanted and was reduced to taking the job of a car delivery driver as a last resort, or he is (what is called today) an adrenaline junkie. He is a Vietnam veteran, a former law enforcement officer, former race car driver, and former motorcycle racer. He lost his job as a cop apparently after being framed in a drug bust, in retaliation for his preventing his partner from raping a young girl. He seemingly gave up his automobile and motorcycle racing careers after two near-fatal accidents. His girlfriend in the movie, is not actually his girlfriend, but someone he was supposed to arrest, but fell in love with. All this is revealed when Vera (the love of Kowalski) says "Wouldn't it be funny after all if you did have to arrest me? I mean, me trying to turn you on, and you trying to turn me in?". After that, she drowns while surfing in the winter. This is also in the script, when Kowalski says "You're crazy surfing in the middle of winter." and Vera replies with "I'm going out again. Maybe I'll catch an 8-footer. I'll ride it in your honor. Sayonara. Remember me."

As the movie opens, Kowalski is near the end of his chase by the California Highway Patrol, where two bulldozers and a CBS News truck are setting up. After seeing the bulldozers, he turns around, only to run into three patrol cars further up the road. He then drives off the road to think, then gets back into the car and continues to drive back toward the roadblock. As the white Challenger passes a black Chrysler Imperial, the movie freezes, and the Challenger vanishes on Sunday at 10:02 AM.

The Imperial continues on, and the film then flashes back to Denver, Colorado, two days earlier on Friday at 11:30 PM, where Kowalski's journey began. He has just arrived in Denver with a black Chevy Caprice he is delivering from San Francisco. His supervisor demands he get some rest, but Kowalski insists on taking on a delivery back to San Francisco that night. Kowalski is assigned to deliver the white Challenger. He stops at a biker bar to buy some Benzedrine pills and tells his drug dealing friend Jake (Lee Weaver) that he must get to San Francisco by 3 o'clock the next day (although the delivery is not due until Monday). They make a small bet (the cost of the speed pills), and Kowalski takes off at high speed out of Denver.

Later Saturday morning near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, two motorcycle cops appear in Kowalski's rear view mirror and try to get him to pull over for speeding. He runs one off the road and, after stopping and seeing that the officer is unhurt, Kowalski takes off again and shakes the other officer.

Kowalski is chased across the states of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada and into California, with the police unable to catch him. The whole way, Kowalski has his radio tuned to the station KOW, which is broadcasting out of Goldfield, Nevada. A blind African-American DJ at KOW known as Super Soul listens to the police radio frequency and encourages Kowalski to evade the police. Super Soul seems to understand Kowalski and, through a writer's conceit, seems to see and hear Kowalski's reactions.

With the help of Super Soul, who calls Kowalski "the last American hero" on his radio show, Kowalski begins to gain attention among the counterculture and news media. Bikers and hippies flock to KOW radio in Goldfield to offer support. Kowalski is helped by an old man who catches snakes in the desert and a Pentecostal sect that reluctantly gives him fuel. Kowalski also picks up two gay hitchhikers stranded en route to San Francisco with a "Just Married" sign in their rear window. They become combative and try to hold him up, but Kowalski throws them out of the car.

In the afternoon of Saturday, a police officer and some unidentified thugs, shouting racial epithets, raid the KOW studio and physically assault Super Soul and his engineer. Near the California state line, Kowalski is helped by a hippie biker and his nude girlfriend, who has followed Kowalski's police career and made a collage of articles about his story. They discover that Super Soul's encouragement is now directed by the police to entrap Kowalski; they give him more Benzedrine pills, and help him get through the roadblock trap by strapping a motorbike with a red light and air raid siren to the top of the Challenger, fooling the police into clearing the roadblock for him to speed through, putting him in California by Saturday at 7:12 PM. This means that 3:00 PM on Saturday—Kowalski's original goal—has passed without comment. Kowalski calls Jake the dealer, who has read about the chase in the newspaper, and reassures him that he's fine and still intends to deliver the car on Monday. However, the California police have put sensors on back roads that allow them to track Kowalski as he drives through the night.

In the U.K. release of the film (available on the U.S. DVD), Kowalski then picks up a mysterious hitchhiker (played by Charlotte Rampling). Kowalski accepts marijuana from her despite being shown refusing drugs (other than speed) several times in the past. He stops the car when he starts feeling stoned and she says she has been waiting for him "everywhere and since forever." When he awakens the next morning, she is gone. According to interviews with Barry Newman and commentary from the director, the hitchhiker was a representation of death finally catching up with Kowalski.

It is still early Sunday morning when Kowalski makes it to Cisco, California (a vacant cattle town in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of San Francisco). There, with the California Highway Patrol in hot pursuit, Kowalski catches up to the opening of the film and crashes into the two bulldozers set up by the police as a roadblock, producing the fatal fireball of his death.

The ending

The ending (and, by extension, the overall theme of the film) has been the source of much debate. The viewer is left guessing why Kowalski insists on driving to San Francisco immediately and then drives heedlessly across four states to his death. Kowalski himself says only "I gotta be in Frisco 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon." And when Jake scoffs that he's being put on, Kowalski says, "I wish to God I was."

Barry Newman offered his interpretation of the film's ending in an interview printed in the March 1986 issue of "Musclecar Review". He said, "Kowalski smiles as he rushes to his death at the end of "Vanishing Point" because he believes he will make it through the roadblock." The August 2006 issue of "Motor Trend" magazine has a sidebar with Newman, in which he explains that Kowalski sees the light glinting from between the two bulldozers. "To Kowalski, it was still a hole to escape through. It symbolized that no matter how far they push or chase you, no one can truly take away your freedom and there is always an escape." Newman also theorized that the entire film itself was an essay on existentialism. Kowalski drives to drive, with no real purpose for doing what he's doing. He decides to give his own life its definition and meaning, with complete freedom over his actions.

Sarafian explained that he wanted to make Kowalski appear outerworldly, and that the world within the film was a temporary existence that he was just making a stop in. And at the ending of the film, he was ascending from this existence into another (and even points out that the lyrics of the end song point this out, "when the light of life stops burning, till another soul goes free")."Vanishing Point" DVD commentary featuring Richard C. Sarafian, [February 3, 2004] . Retrieved on August 17, 2007.]

The car

The car Kowalski is assigned to deliver to San Francisco is an alpine white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T hardtop bearing Colorado license plate number OA-5599. It has a 4-speed manual transmission with a Hurst "pistol grip" shifter, controlling a 4 barrel/440 cubic inch "Magnum" V-8 engine. A total of five 1970 Dodge Challengers were supplied to Cupid Productions by Chrysler Corporation. Four were identically equipped with 4-speed, 440 engines. The fifth Challenger was equipped with a 383 engine and automatic transmission, and was used primarily on the camera runs. (On the 2005 DVD release, director Richard Sarafian commented that there were a total of nine Challengers used during production. However, in a March 1986 Musclecar Review magazine interview, both Barry Newman and stunt driver Carey Loftin concurred that there were only five).

The 383 car was also used as the tow vehicle in the crash scene at the end of the movie. A ¼ mile cable was attached between the Challenger and an explosives-laden 1967 Chevrolet Camaro. The tow vehicle was driven by legendary stunt driver Cary Loftin, who pulled the Camaro into the blades of the bulldozers at high speed. After the picture wrapped, only one Challenger was still in service, as the other four were virtually destroyed during production filming.

Despite the speculation of the police at one point in the film, the car was not supercharged or turbocharged, but naturally aspirated with the single quad (4 barrel) 440/375 horse engine. The Challengers used in filming came equipped with a 4.10:1 Sure-Grip (limited slip) differential and were not well suited for high speed running. To compensate, the cameras were undercranked in some scenes to give the illusion of high speed. Also some chase scenes had the high speed engine noises of the Bullitt Mustang over-dubbed in portions of the sound track.

Cast and crew

Production

The script originally had the Super Soul character written as "Super Spic" but it was deemed too racist and didn't fit with Cleavon Little, who was cast for it. Although Cisco is a real location in California, the Cisco scenes were filmed in Cisco, Utah, a ghost town near Moab. The chase involving Kowalski and the police includes actual footage from Rifle, Colorado; Thompson Springs, Utah; Green River, Utah; Austin, Nevada; Wendover, Utah; and Tonopah, Nevada. The film is notable for actually having been filmed in the locations in which the movie was set, and as a result, features incredible footage of the desert and the small towns in the region during the pre-Interstate Highway era.

oundtrack

Infobox Album
Name = Vanishing Point Soundtrack
Type = Soundtrack
Artist = Various Artists


Released = January 15, 1971
Recorded = 1970
Genre = Country
Hard rock
Pop
Rock
Length =
Label = A&M
Amos
Producer = Pete Carpenter
Mike Post
Jimmy Bowen
Tom Thacker
A soundtrack of the film was released in the U.S. on vinyl LP by Amos. The vinyl soundtrack is long out of print. There have been reissues of the soundtrack compact disc in the U.S. by A&M, including various record companies, and in Europe by Amos.

Track listing

# "Super Soul Theme" - The J.B. Pickers - 1:50 (Bowen)
# "The Girl Done Got It Together" - Bobby Doyle - 2:47 (Settle)
# "Where Do We Go From Here?" - Jimmy Walker - 2:53 (Settle)
# "Freedom of Expression" - The J.B. Pickers - 5:48 (Bowen)
# "Welcome to Nevada" - Jerry Reed - 1:52 (Barnhill/Lanier)
# "Runaway Country" - Doug Dillard Expedition - 4:09 (Dillard/Berline)
# "Love Theme" - Jimmy Bowen Orchestra - 2:40 (Bowen/Carpenter)
# "You Got to Believe" - Delaney, Bonnie & Friends - 3:00 (Bramlett/Bon)
# "So Tired" - Eve - 2:10 (Creamer/Sliwin/Temmer)
# "Mississippi Queen" - Mountain - 2:32 (West/Laing/Pappalardi/Rea/Knight)
# "I Can't Believe It" - Longbranch Pennywhistle - (Frey/Souther/Seger/Browne)
# "Dear Jesus God" - Bob Segarini and Randy Bishop - 3:57 (Segarini/Bishop)
# "Sing Out for Jesus" - Big Mama Thornton - 1:47 (Carnes)
# "Sweet Jesus" - Red Steagall -
# "Over Me" - Bob Segarini and Randy Bishop - 3:04 (Segarini/Bishop)
# "Nobody Knows" - Kim & Dave - 2:22 (Settle)

The first ever recorded material by Kim Carnes appears in the soundtrack, credited as "Kim & Dave". Kim Carnes also wrote the song performed by Big Mama Thornton. The pop music group Delaney, Bonnie & Friends had a small role as a Christian music band, which included singer Rita Coolidge and singer/songwriter David Gates at the piano.

Tracks "I Can't Believe it" and "Sweet Jesus" are not on the original LP Soundtrack.

Miscellanea

* The license plate on Kowalski's Dodge Challenger is Colorado OA-5599. This license plate number has been highly sought after as a vanity plate ever since the film's release.
* Kowalski plans to drive from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. This would require an average speed of 85 miles per hour.
* A one twenty-fifth scale plastic model kit of the "Vanishing Point" was produced by AMT, and re-released many times since. Although a good representation of the car can be made by the experienced modeler, the model utilizes a 440 Six-Pack, rather than a 440 Magnum.
* Originally, this movie was rated GP, (now PG), but was re-rated R without any cuts or additions to the film. Rated R for sensuality/nudity and drug content.

References in popular culture

* The film was the inspiration for the 1997 album by Primal Scream, also titled "Vanishing Point". In addition, a track from the album was named "Kowalski" after the character from the film; the track also featured samples of Super Soul's "last American hero" speech from the film.
* The film was the basis for Audioslave's 2004 music video "Show Me How to Live", which included members of the band in the 1970 Challenger travelling across the desert, following the plot of the movie.
* A reference to the movie can be found on Guns N' Roses "Use Your Illusion II" album track "Breakdown". This is a spoken-word part, mimicking Super Soul's voice, in the end of the song, in which one of Super Soul's on-air monologues from the film can be heard.
* The sound effect when Kowalski crashes into the bulldozers was later used in the video game "".
* "Death Proof", the Quentin Tarantino contribution to the faux-exploitation "double feature" "Grindhouse", features a chase involving a Dodge Challenger resembling the one seen in "Vanishing Point" (not being an R/T model and having an automatic transmission). "Death Proof" also references the movie by name repeatedly calling it - "one of the best American movies ever made". The car in the film also has the license plate OA 5599.
* In the documentary "Celluloid Closet", actor Tom Hanks talks about how "Vanishing Point" was one of the first times he could recall seeing stereotypical gay characters in a film.
* Referenced to as 'It's as sophisticated as a Road Runner cartoon, that film.' by Richard Hammond on the car television show Top Gear.
* The film's title is referenced as the final chapter title in Cole Coonce's book "Infinity Over Zero," which bills itself as a "history of the land speed record" as well as "meditations on maximum velocity." After referencing Cleavon Little portrayal as the film's blind disc jockey, Coonce defines the vanishing point as "the intersection of infinity and oblivion."

Remake

A "Vanishing Point" remake was created for Fox television, first airing in 1997, and also featuring a 1970 Dodge Challenger. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Kowalski, rewritten as a suspected militia sympathizer from Idaho, and Jason Priestly as "The Voice", a libertarian talk radio shock jock who replaces Super Soul. The two films are similar, but the remake has had its plot tweaked to include more traditional motivation and action and is not very well regarded by fans of the original film,Fact|date=September 2007 the ending being especially ludicrous, the Challenger hitting bulldozers at a stated 165MPH without even bending the panelwork.

Richard Kelly is currently writing a remake of the film for 20th Century Fox. [cite news
last = Kelly
first = Richard
coauthors =
title = "Southland Tales" Teaser Trailer
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Richard Kelly's MySpace blog
date = February 12, 2007
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-17
]

References

Film remake written by Michael Haislet finished in 2003

ee also

*Vanishing Point (1997) - Television remake

External links

*imdb title|id=0067927|title=Vanishing Point
* [http://www.geocities.com/vp_oa5599/bts.html Behind the scenes photos taken shortly before the ending crash scene in Cisco Utah]
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980CE3D9163CF935A35753C1A9669C8B63&scp=2&sq=%22JANUSZ+KAMINSKI%22&st=nyt "How He Found America] - an analysis of the film by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski in the "New York Times"


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