Image result for vanishing point movie poster

2021 Movie Draft- Round 3 Pick 10- thriller category – Badfinger20 selects- Vanishing Point.

Vanishing Point (1971)

Vanishing Point fulfills my thriller portion of the draft.

This 1971 movie was brought up in 2007 by Quentin Tarantino’s movie Death Proof. In Death Proof, one of the leading characters hero-worships and repeatedly refers to Vanishing Point’s protagonist, Kowalski, who is a car delivery driver.

This movie has a lot of symbolism. It took me a few times it to put it together…and I’m still finding things that I missed.

I was a kid in the 70s and Kowalski reminds me of my dad back then… he looked, and dressed like Kowalski. To describe Kowalski I’ll use what was in the original trailer:

Name. Kowalski. Occupation. Driver. Transporting a supercharged Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco. Background, metal of honor in Vietnam. Former stock car and bike racer. Former cop, dishonorably discharged. Now he uses speed to get himself up. To get himself – gone.”

The whole movie is Kowalski, Barry Newman, driving someone else’s white 1970 Dodge Challenger through the desert after making a bet with his drug dealer that he can’t reach SF in less than 12 hours. He takes a few detours and as the movie goes along you learn about his past through flashbacks. You see that he has been surrounded by death his whole life. You start seeing why he ended up here.

Cleavon Little plays a blind radio DJ (Super Soul ) that can somehow communicate with Kowalski but it is never explained how or why. What does Cleavon’s character represent? Kowalski is a decent man but not perfect. You could call him an anti-hero. He is prepared to die rather than give in to the establishment. A loner, he rejects the norms of both culture and counter-culture…he doesn’t fit anywhere. He is his own man but I’m not sure if he knows who he is.

When I first watched it in the 80s…I thought it was a cool car movie from the seventies with chases. Well yes it is but within the first few minutes when you see two cars passing by each other going opposite directions…something is wrong with the picture. You know Kowalski is in one car and a few minutes later…you wonder if he was in the other also.

It’s the kind of movie that I would love to watch with a bunch of people to see what they thought of different parts.

The 70s gave us some great car movies. Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry, Gone in 60 Seconds (the original one), Macon County Line, and I could continue…this movie is not one of those although I like those also. For the car lover in me…ok the 70 Dodge Challenger is really cool not only to see but to hear.

The one flaw in some versions is the deleted scene. I do have one unusual request…if you see the movie which I really hope you do. Go to youtube and watch the deleted scene that was in the UK version but left out of the American version at the time…my only guess is because of pot smoking. Kowalski picks up a female hitch hiker at night.

As soon as the movie ends watch that scene. To find it you can search for “Charlotte Rampling’s Scene in Vanishing Point” in youtube. It’s pretty clear what Charlotte Rampling’s character symbolizes… and to me it’s important to that film and should be in every version. I had to hunt down a version that had it. Hopefully your version does.

The stand out actors? Barry Newman, Dean Jagger, and Cleavon Little…and the Dodge Challenger! You also get a musical surprise in the desert…Bonnie and Delaney make an appearance as gospel singers…which they were known to be. My biggest question after watching this was why wasn’t Barry Newman a bigger star? I also cannot leave out Charlotte Rampling…in that 7 minute scene she is great.

One note… Director Richard C. Sarafian‘s original choice for the role of Kowalski was Gene Hackman, but the studio, “20th Century Fox,” insisted on using Barry Newman if the movie was going to be made. As much as I like Gene Hackman…they made the right choice in this movie.


Barry Newman – Kowalski

Cleavon Little – Super Soul

Dean Jagger – Prospector

Victoria Medlin – Vera

Paul Koslo – Young Cop

Charlotte Rampling – Hitchhiker (UK version)

John Amos – Super Soul’s radio engineer

Rita Coolidge -Singer

Robert Donner – Older Cop

Anthony James – First male hitchhiker

Arthur Malet – Second male hitchhiker

Owen Bush – Communications Officer

Gilda Texter -Nude Rider

Karl Swenson – Clerk At Delivery Agency

Severn Darden – J. Hovah

Lee Weaver – Jake

Cherie Foster – 1st Girl

Tom Reese – Sheriff

Timothy Scott – Angel

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – J Hovah’s Singers

Valerie Kairys – Girls


  1. I lived this movie and great write up! I need to re-watch this, it was on a long time ago on late night British TV, I knew nothing about the movie but it starred Barry Newman and I always loved watching Petrocelli on Saturday evening TV (will that house ever be built?). Also, Scottish band Primal Scream released an album called Vanishing Point in 1997, named after and inspired by the movie. It’s meant to be an ‘alternative soundtrack’ to the film and it’s not half bad.

  2. Excellent write-up, Max! And, dangit, you’re right about those two cars passing. It HAD to have been intentional, but now I’m not quite sure what the intention was, and I’m not finding anything about it online. The cut scene is the big controversy, but I have a feeling this movie envelops a lot more with each viewing, and I’ve only seen it once all the way through. I remember seeing it in the background when my dad was watching it, and I knew I wasn’t “supposed” to see it because I was too young. But, yes, my dad stated the novelty line: This is one of the best car chase movies ever made!

    • Thanks, Bernie. The only thought about the cars would be a continuous loop…or to make people years later talk about it lol. It’s almost like a muscle car movie meets the Twilight Zone.
      Your Dad was right…it IS one of the best car chase movies ever made…the only other one that would compete would be Gone in Sixty Seconds…the 1974 movie NOT the remake. But this movie had a twist and that is what sets it apart from the rest.

  3. I’ve heard of it but didn’t know anything about it… the early-’70s were great for movies starring cars! A lot of musicians seem to be in this one – Rita Coolidge, Delaney and Bonnie, I saw David Gates name in there in the trailer… Big question though – did Nude Rider get her own sequel?

  4. I don’t think I’ve seen this- if I have it was back in the 70’s and I don’t remember it- ordered it through the library system though! sounds like a fun one.

  5. I sat trough this one a few times when it came out. Good stuff Max. had no idea about the Rampling scene. I wouldnt have got it back in the day. Hackman? They made the right choice with Newman. Love this film. Just love the way it was shot and the locations they used. I was with Kowalski all the way.

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