Vanishing Point

Starring: Barry Newman, Cleavon Little

Director: Richard C. Sarafian

Kowalski, `The Last American Hero`, an ex-professional car racer, turned interstate car delivery driver has to deliver a white Super-Charged 1970 Dodge Challenger across country, and the clock is ticking. But he manages to draw the attention of the entire Police Force, and they are not happy at his reckless driving and road racing. Along the way he is helped by a lone voice, that of the blind radio DJ `Super Soul`. An unexpected twist completes the story.

Memorable Quote : `Speed means Freedom of the Soul`

Art film and road movie collide for Vanishing Point, an existential car chase across the desert in a post Easy Rider America. Barry Newman stars as Kowalski, a taciturn driver who bets that he can drive a new Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours. He loads up on amphetamines and begins his odyssey through the contemporary west while a funky black DJ (Cleavon Little) turns the driver into a folk hero and broadcasts advice on dodging the cops. It's like a counterculture precursor to Smokey and the Bandit, with the road as the last bastion of freedom and the DJ as a combination commentator and mystical guide. The slim plot offers a network of society drop-outs that aid the "last free Man on Earth" (as the DJ describes him) on his obscure but obviously symbolic quest while flashbacks paint Kowalski as a world-weary hero. It doesn't really make much sense, but the amazing car chases and excellent stunt work are stunningly set against the American west, beautifully captured by cinematographer John A. Alonzo. Vanishing Point is most assuredly a product of its time, the heady, anything-goes era of rebellion in the early 1970s. --Sean Axmaker