Vanishing Point (1971)

GP | 99 or 107 mins | Drama | March 1971

Writer:

Guillermo Cain

Producer:

Norman Spencer

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Editor:

Stefan Arnsten

Production Company:

Cupid Productions
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HISTORY

In the opening cast credits, Cleavon Little's credit appears last and reads "Cleavon Little as Super Soul." In the end credits, however, Cleavon is listed second. According to Filmfacts , Vanishing Point was shortened by eight minutes following a preview screening for the press and public. Some of the scenes that were edited involved a character played by Charlotte Rampling, who was cut from the released film but originally given third billing as a hitchhiker with whom “Kowalski” spends the night.
       The first sequence of the film, in which two bulldozers are positioned on a California road to create a blockade for Kowalski’s car, actually takes place toward the film's end. In chronological order, the positioning of the bulldozers occurs again just before the film’s ending, in which Kowalski crashes his car into them. This inversion of chronological order is marked by a freeze frame at the end of the first sequence in which Kowalski’s car speeds past a black car and the action stops. After the freeze frame, a title appears reading “2 days earlier, Denver Colorado Friday 10:02 pm.” The film then unrolls in straight chronological order, with a series of written titles establishing the place and time of the action, which ends in California at 10:04 a.m. Sunday, when Kowalski’s car explodes into flames.
       Kowalski’s back story is told in a series of flashbacks that are interspersed into the action of Kowalski’s journey in the present. For example, after Kowalski runs the highway patrol motorcycle off the road in the present, there is a cut to a scene taking place in the past in which ... More Less

In the opening cast credits, Cleavon Little's credit appears last and reads "Cleavon Little as Super Soul." In the end credits, however, Cleavon is listed second. According to Filmfacts , Vanishing Point was shortened by eight minutes following a preview screening for the press and public. Some of the scenes that were edited involved a character played by Charlotte Rampling, who was cut from the released film but originally given third billing as a hitchhiker with whom “Kowalski” spends the night.
       The first sequence of the film, in which two bulldozers are positioned on a California road to create a blockade for Kowalski’s car, actually takes place toward the film's end. In chronological order, the positioning of the bulldozers occurs again just before the film’s ending, in which Kowalski crashes his car into them. This inversion of chronological order is marked by a freeze frame at the end of the first sequence in which Kowalski’s car speeds past a black car and the action stops. After the freeze frame, a title appears reading “2 days earlier, Denver Colorado Friday 10:02 pm.” The film then unrolls in straight chronological order, with a series of written titles establishing the place and time of the action, which ends in California at 10:04 a.m. Sunday, when Kowalski’s car explodes into flames.
       Kowalski’s back story is told in a series of flashbacks that are interspersed into the action of Kowalski’s journey in the present. For example, after Kowalski runs the highway patrol motorcycle off the road in the present, there is a cut to a scene taking place in the past in which Kowalski is racing his motorcycle on a track when he suffers a spill. Similarly, Kowalski’s career as a professional car racer is depicted by a shot of Kowalski sending a police car spinning off the road in the present followed by a cut to the past in which Kowalski crashes and overturns his race car on a track.
       Although a Jul 1970 HR production chart places James Griffith, Nancie Phillips and Norman Alden in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A modern source adds David Gates to the cast. Various HR production charts noted that location shooting was done from Colorado to California. Cary Loftin, who served as one of the stunt coordinators on the film, staged the chase scenes in the 1968 film Bullitt (see above). Vanishing Point marked the feature film debut of actor John Amos, who became well-known for his television work on shows such as the popular 1970s comedy Good Times and the 1999--2006 political drama The West Wing .
       According to a May 1979 HR news item, Ian Quarrier, who is credited as “creative associate” in onscreen credits, sued Cupid Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox for half the box office receipts from the film, plus $10,000,000 in punitive damages and an unspecified sum for loss of salary over an eight-year period. Quarrier claimed that in Mar 1970, Michael Pearson, who at the time was his partner in Cupid Productions and served as executive producer on the film, and Norman Spencer, the film’s producer, proposed to liquidate Cupid on the grounds that there were no offers to finance Vanishing Point and that the company had suffered financial losses from past projects.
       Spencer and Pearson convinced Quarrier to release his shares in Cupid to Pearson so that Pearson could raise money to have Vanishing Point produced. Quarrier stated that he agreed to their terms, but later came across proof that a distribution deal had been struck between Twentieth Century-Fox and Spencer and Pearson in 1969, three months before Quarrier had agreed to sell his shares. Quarrier charged that this agreement proved that Pearson and Spencer tried to defraud him in order to obtain his share in the production company. The outcome of the suit is unknown.
       According to an Aug 2004 DV news item, Scott Free Productions and 20th Century Fox were planning to remake Vanishing Point , to be directed by Samuel Bayer, produced by Tony Scott and written by Paul Bernbaum. As of June 2006, the project was still in development. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 May 1970.
---
Daily Variety
25 Aug 2004.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 130-02.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1970
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1970
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Mar 1971.
---
New York Times
25 Mar 1971
p. 46.
Variety
3 Feb 1971
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
From a story outline by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward master
MUSIC
Mus prod and supv by
Mus assoc
Mus assoc
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Creative assoc
Assoc to Mr. Sarafian and casting supv
Unit prod mgr
Prod admin
Scr supv
Loc mgr
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Super Soul Theme" and "Freedom of Ex-Pression" composed and played by The J. B. Pickers
"Runaway Country" composed and played by The Doug Dillard Expedition
"Welcome to Nevada" composed by Don Lanier and Joe Bob Barnhill, played by Jerry Reed, courtesy of R.C.A. Victor Records
+
MUSIC
"Super Soul Theme" and "Freedom of Ex-Pression" composed and played by The J. B. Pickers
"Runaway Country" composed and played by The Doug Dillard Expedition
"Welcome to Nevada" composed by Don Lanier and Joe Bob Barnhill, played by Jerry Reed, courtesy of R.C.A. Victor Records
"Love Theme" composed by Jimmy Bowen and Pete Carpenter, played by Jimmy Bowen Orchestra and Chorus.
+
SONGS
“You Got to Believe,” composed by Delaney Bramlett, sung by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, courtesy of Atlantic Records
“I Can’t Believe It,” composed and sung by Longbranch Pennywhistle
“Got It Together,” composed by Mike Settle, sung by Bobby Doyle
+
SONGS
“You Got to Believe,” composed by Delaney Bramlett, sung by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, courtesy of Atlantic Records
“I Can’t Believe It,” composed and sung by Longbranch Pennywhistle
“Got It Together,” composed by Mike Settle, sung by Bobby Doyle
“Where Do We Go from Here,” composed by Jimmy Walker, sung by Bobby Doyle
“So Tired,” composed and sung by Eve
“Dear Jesus” and “God Over Me,” composed and sung by Segarini & Bishop, courtesy of Electra Records
“Mississippi Queen,” composed by Leslie West, Laurence Laing, Felix Pappalardi and David Rea, sung by Mountain, courtesy of Windfall-Bell Records
“Sweet Jesus,” composed and sung by Red Steagall, courtesy of Dot Records
“Sing Out for Jesus,” composed by Kim Carnes, sung by Big Mama Thornton, courtesy of Pentagram Records
“Nobody Knows,” composed by Mike Settle, sung by Kim Carnes.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
March 1971
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 March 1971
New York opening: 24 March 1971
Production Date:
26 May--early August 1970
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
10 March 1971
Copyright Number:
LP39205
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
99 or 107
Length(in reels):
11
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At 10:02 Friday night in Denver, Kowalski, who drives cars from Denver to San Francisco for the Argos Car Transport Company, delivers a car and picks up a white Dodge Challenger to drive right back to California. On his way out of town, Kowalski stops to buy some Benzedrine to fuel him for the trip. When Kowalski tells Jake, his drug dealer, that he intends to reach San Francisco by three p.m. the following day, Jake bets him the cost of the drugs that he will never make it. Meanwhile, in the semi-deserted ghost town of Goldfield, Super Soul, a blind black man, enters a makeshift radio station and begins to broadcast soul music, which Kowalski listens to while racing along the highway. When a highway patrol officer on a motorcycle tries to pull over Kowalski for speeding, Kowalski passes him, and when another motorcycle patrolman joins the pursuit, Kowalski runs them both off the road. Barreling on, Kowalski avoids another patrolman by crashing through a construction barrier and landing his car on an adjoining road. Frustrated, the police issue an all-points bulletin for Kowalski that is heard by Super Soul, who monitors the police transmissions in the area. Pursued by several police cars, Kowalski jumps the road and plows his car down to the road below. When another police car pulls out in front of him, Kowalski slaloms his car onto the dirt, leaving the police car skidding behind him. As Kowalski continues on, a driver in a sports car challenges him to a race, then sideswipes his car. Kowalski roars past the sports car, and when the driver ... +


At 10:02 Friday night in Denver, Kowalski, who drives cars from Denver to San Francisco for the Argos Car Transport Company, delivers a car and picks up a white Dodge Challenger to drive right back to California. On his way out of town, Kowalski stops to buy some Benzedrine to fuel him for the trip. When Kowalski tells Jake, his drug dealer, that he intends to reach San Francisco by three p.m. the following day, Jake bets him the cost of the drugs that he will never make it. Meanwhile, in the semi-deserted ghost town of Goldfield, Super Soul, a blind black man, enters a makeshift radio station and begins to broadcast soul music, which Kowalski listens to while racing along the highway. When a highway patrol officer on a motorcycle tries to pull over Kowalski for speeding, Kowalski passes him, and when another motorcycle patrolman joins the pursuit, Kowalski runs them both off the road. Barreling on, Kowalski avoids another patrolman by crashing through a construction barrier and landing his car on an adjoining road. Frustrated, the police issue an all-points bulletin for Kowalski that is heard by Super Soul, who monitors the police transmissions in the area. Pursued by several police cars, Kowalski jumps the road and plows his car down to the road below. When another police car pulls out in front of him, Kowalski slaloms his car onto the dirt, leaving the police car skidding behind him. As Kowalski continues on, a driver in a sports car challenges him to a race, then sideswipes his car. Kowalski roars past the sports car, and when the driver tries to pass him, Kowalski forces him off the road, sending the car tumbling into a dry river bed. Hearing police sirens in the distance, Kowalski makes sure the driver is uninjured, then tears off. With Colorado highway patrolmen in pursuit, Kowalski crosses the state border into Nevada, leaving his Colorado pursuers behind. Impressed by Kowalski’s feat, Super Soul pays tribute to him on his radio program, naming him the “last American hero because he is the last free soul on the planet.” In the Nevada desert, two police officers are radioed to watch for the white Challenger. When Kowalski sees the officers’ car and deliberately drives toward them to force them off the road, they angrily pursue him as a Colorado police bulletin comes over their radio, describing Kowalski as a professional race driver. When one of the officers loses control of his car, they are forced to flag down another police car to continue the pursuit. Jumping off the road, Kowalski heads into the desert as Super Soul cautions that he will never be able to beat the desert. When one of the Challenger’s tires goes flat, Kowalski stops to change it. While bending over the tire, Kowalski spots a coiled rattlesnake about to strike when a grizzled old prospector appears, lassoes the snake and locks it in his basket. When Kowalski asks the prospector for help, the old man, whose truck has broken down, agrees if Kowalski will drive him to his destination. The prospector then camouflages Kowalski’s car with sagebrush, concealing it from the police helicopter hovering overhead. After the helicopter flies off, Kowalski drives the prospector to a desert revival meeting led by J. Hovah. When the prospector delivers the snakes to Hovah, Hovah irritably states that he has turned from snakes to music to get his message across and unceremoniously dumps the reptiles onto the ground. Although Hovah is angry that the prospector brought a stranger to the meeting, he furnishes Kowalski with a can of gas to fill up his tank after which the prospector gives Kowalski directions on how to navigate out of the desert. At the Nevada highway patrol headquarters, meanwhile, a Telex arrives detailing Kowalski’s past, revealing that after serving in Vietnam, he joined the police force but was dishonorably discharged in 1968. Angered at Super Soul for broadcasting helpful information to Kowalski, several vigilantes break into the radio station, beat up Super Soul and smash the facilities, thus silencing the station. Soon after, Angel, a hippie motorcyclist, pulls up beside Kowalski’s car and asks if he needs help. When Kowalski asks him for some pep pills, Angel leads him to a shack he shares with his girl friend. When the radio station comes back on and Super Soul advises that Sonora is the only border crossing not blocked by the police, Kowalski suspects a trap and Angel rides out to investigate. Upon returning with the news that the police are waiting in Sonora for Kowalski, Angel helps him disguise the Challenger as a police vehicle. Consequently, when Kowalski, with siren wailing and lights flashing, speeds toward the Sonora border crossing, the police mistake his car for an official vehicle and in their haste to clear the road, smash their cars into one another. In California, the highway patrol, with their sophisticated, automated tracking system, calmly reassure their Nevada colleagues that they will apprehend Kowalski. On Sunday morning, Super Soul broadcasts gospel music and renames the station “Kowalski.” Meanwhile, on the road from Sonora to San Francisco, the police trundle in bulldozers to blockade Kowalski while the townsfolk gather, waiting for Kowalski’s arrival. Soon after, Kowalski comes roaring in, crashing his car into the blades of the bulldozers. As the car explodes into a ball of fire, Super Soul sits silently and the spectators gawk, then walk away. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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