Welcome to out first ever Cut to the Chase post! As I’ve made mention before, I am a huge fan of chase scenes, especially car chases and thought they would be great to highlight from time to time. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as a great chase scene and since the dawn of the motion pictures they have been a staple in both the dramatic and comedic sense. But enough of this—let’s cut to the chase!
Vanishing Point (1971)
There are quite a few car-centric flicks out there, some set mainly in the drivers’ seat like Drive and Locke but Vanishing Point is a classic in its own right. The plot is simple—car delivery driver named Kowalski takes some speed and wants to drive a Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 2 days time. That’s pretty much it. Along the way he meets eccentic people and is aided somehow by a blind disc jockey played by Cleavon Little. Unlike Drive, this seemingly cut and dry car race movie is more than meets the eye. It has a lot of underlying symbolic overtones about taking a personal journey, mortality and morality, religious symbolism and other kooky late 60s surrealistic/psychological mumbo-jumbo. But it also has awesome cinematography, car races and chases and nudity! It’s a heavy movie both in tone and scope but an easy movie to watch as well without getting too bogged down with the allegories.
Playing Kowalski is Barry Newman and if the name doesn’t ring any bells that’s probably because he’s not really in anything notable, especially to younger viewers but he’s great in Vanishing Point. He has that cool and collected demeanor like Eastwood but looks more vulnerable which works in this film’s favor. Cleavon Little is the real stand-out here though playing the blind DJ named Super Soul who “talks” to Kowalski via the airwaves to give him news, updates and warnings about the various smokies in pursuit. As with any good 70s exploitation flick, there’s also some decent written jive dialogue and racial/social commentary of the times.
There was a remake in 1997 starring Viggo Mortensen which I just learned about and might want to check out mainly due to Mortensen but I’m sure it pales in comparison to the original’s allure and 70’s mystique. Sadly, Youtube is lacking in the great quality clips department (again!) but this one clip is a great intro to what’s in store for the rest of the film.