Vanishing Point (1971)

9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Surprisingly interesting story, awesome visuals, 1970 Dodge Charger R/T

Some might not like the interpretational plot

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Vanishing Point

Studio:  Cupid Productions

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  January 15, 1971

MPAA Rating:  R



Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a Vietnam vet, a former professional driver, and a police officer forced out of his job for disobedience.  Now, Kowalski works as a professional driver and has been hired to get a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco in three nights.  When Kowalski makes a bet that he can get it to San Francisco in fifteen hours, a race across the country occurs drawing the attention of the authorities.  Kowalski name begins to grow as a folk hero with the help of a DJ named Super Soul (Cleavon Little), and as many people who want to stop Kowalski, a large group desires him to succeed.


Are you looking at me?

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian, Vanishing Point is a grindhouse style car chase film.  It was a movie that despite being met with initial negative reviews has become a cult classic.  The movie was credited for its cinematography and became quite popular among car enthusiasts.  A limited run was released on January 15, 1971 with a larger release on March 13, 1971.  A slightly longer version of the film was released in the United Kingdom and now is available in the U.S. on most releases.

Vanishing Point after all these years still emits a “cool” vibe.  It is hard to make a movie about fast, loud cars and really screw it up…especially when it is teamed with some great cinematography and a nice soundtrack.


I hate it when choppers try to pull me over

The film looks awesome.  The Southwest desert setting is ripe for the movie and a nice Blu-Ray transfer has it looking and sounding great.  I love this period of film and love that despite having a gritty feel, it appears that the director got the most of his money.  The movie couldn’t have had the biggest budget, but it looks big from how it was shot.

The decision to use the Dodge Charger R/T was partially due to honor the affordability to rent Dodge vehicles for films, and plus, the car comes off as a beast.  Riding through deserts, tearing up the pavement, and outrunning cops, the Charger becomes its own character.  There was some talk about the decision to have a white car, but the director has stated that the car’s color was simply to have it show up better on the streets.


Keep on drivin’, man!

The main character of the mysterious driver Kowalski, also is fun.  A folk hero and an early sign of how the war and the country’s political and socioeconomic climate was screwing up people, Kowalski (who did have a first name in a scene…the Denver drug dealer calls him Jim) was moody and dark (a modern version of this driver character can be found in Drive).  Kowalski cannot escape his past no matter how fast he drives.  The final end sequence does provide some debate with what the character is thinking…Barry Newman has said he believes the character sees the light between the bulldozers and believes he can keep going in his mind.


I need sunscreen

Kowalski ad a nice support from the Super Soul (Cleavon Little) who feels like he inspired the roles of Wolfman Jack in American Graffiti, the DJ (Lynne Thigpen) in The Warriors, and even Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) in The Fog.  The movie also had a bit of an Easy Rider feel with  Kowalski traveling across the country meeting other free spirits like the naked motorcycle rider (Gilda Texter), her companion Angel (Timothy Scott), a pair of robbing homosexual hitchhikers (Anthony James and Arthur Malet), and a crusty prospector (Dean Jagger) who takes him to a love-in.

Despite on the cover being a B-Movie grindhouse style film, Vanishing Point surpasses these generic story aspects and creates something both cool and contemporary.  You can still watch Vanishing Point and see this coolness after all the years but now it also has a sense of nostalgia that other movies like Easy Rider or even the documentary Woodstock inspire.  Vanishing Point was remade as a Fox TV movie in 1997 starring Viggo Mortensen.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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