A fairly interesting, but somewhat muddled, road movie starring Newman as an ex-cop who now drives cars from Denver to San Francisco for a living. Once in Denver, he bets a friend that he can drive a new Dodge Challenger to San Francisco in 15 hours. Knowing that the feat is impossible,
his friend makes the bet, and Newman loads up with amphetamines and takes off, ignoring all speed laws. Soon word of Newman's folly leaks out, and a blind, black radio station disc jockey, Little, begins hailing him as an American hero, "the last free man on Earth." By this time the cops in
several states have become aware of Newman's race and have banded together to stop him. Along the way Newman meets a variety of strange characters, including an old desert rat, Jagger, who catches snakes and sells them to a cult for a living; two psychotic homosexuals who try to hijack him; and an
outlaw biker and his girl friend who provide him with pep pills and smokes. Somehow Little and Newman form a psychic bond that enables the DJ to sense what the police have in store for the driver and warn him over the air of what to anticipate. Eventually the police send a pair of plainclothesmen
to stop Little's broadcast. The lawmen beat up the blind DJ and force him to direct Newman into a trap. Newman senses that Little is being forced to broadcast harmful information and takes another route. Unfortunately, the route he takes has also been blocked, this time with heavy bulldozers.
Instead of giving up, Newman roars right into them, committing suicide.
Despite some weak flashbacks purporting to show what possesses Newman to pull such a self-destructive stunt, VANISHING POINT provides very little in the way of character motivation or development. While there is really nothing wrong with ambiguity (TWO-LANE BLACKTOP succeeds brilliantly), this
film tries to be both an exciting crash-and-burn car chase and a heavy, message-laden preachment accompanied by a fairly irritating musical score which really hammers confusing messages of Christian morality into the viewer's head. Director Sarafian has stated that his film was cut extensively by
the studio and the ending changed (Newman's death should be perceived as some sort of uplifting transcendental experience) so that the movie was less "esoteric." Among the cuts is a scene--still present in the British print--between Charlotte Rampling (who represents Death) and Newman wherein they
meet and make love. Perhaps the US audiences were lucky that they weren't subjected to another grim and obvious metaphor. Songs and musical numbers include: "You Got to Believe" (Delaney Bramlett, sung by Delaney and Bonnie and Friends); "I Can't Believe It" (Longbranch/Pennywhistle, sung by
themselves); "Super-Soul Theme," "Freedom of Ex-Pression" (The J.B. Pickers, sung by themselves); "Got It Together" (Mike Settle, sung by Bobby Doyle); "Where Do We Go from Here" (Settle, sung by Jimmy Walker); "Runaway Country" (The Doug Dillard Expedition, sung by themselves); "So Tired" (Eve,
sung by herself); "Dear Jesus God," "Over Me" (Segarini/Bishop, sung by themselves); "Welcome to Nevada" (Don Lanier, Joe Bob Barnhill, played by Jerry Reed); "Mississippi Queen" (West, Lang, Pappalardi, and Rea, sung by Mountain); "Sweet Jesus" (Red Steagal, sung by himself); "Love Theme" (Jimmy
Bowen, Pete Carpenter, played by Bowen); "Sing Out for Jesus" (Kim Carnes, sung by Big Mama Thornton); "Nobody Knows" (Settle, sung by Carnes).
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- Released: 1971
- Rating: GP
- Review: A fairly interesting, but somewhat muddled, road movie starring Newman as an ex-cop who now drives cars from Denver to San Francisco for a living. Once in Denver, he bets a friend that he can drive a new Dodge Challenger to San Francisco in 15 hours. Knowi… (more)