Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Image result for american desert roads

I took out Vanishing Point on DVD yesterday. I must have seen this film twenty times between its release date of 1971 and say, 1972. Haven’t seen it since. I think it changed my life in many ways.

It’s the story of a charismatic car delivery driver, Kowalski who takes a Supercharged Dodge Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco. The motorcycle cops try to stop him for speeding but he gets away and therafter and for the remainder of the film, he is tracked by cops and cars and police helicopters and roadblocks as he speeds south. He meets a variety of strange characters along the way, mostly naked blonde girls and hippies.

In other words, an American road movie: barely twenty lines of dialogue in the whole thing. It was made around the time of Easy Rider, Two-Lane Blacktop and Bullitt; charismatic men with fast cars and no responsibilities. And minimal plotting and cardboard women.

So whats to like? Well, it was shot by John A Alonzo just before he made Hollywood’s greatest-ever film, Chinatown. The desert scenery is incredible and the white car racing along through the heat is terrific. I don’t know how they persuaded John A Alonzo to do it but maybe it was about budgets; he uses every device ever invented for directing car-chase scenes; helicopters and long-shots edited down to dusty swerves off the road to handbrake-turns on the desert floor which throw up clouds of sand and the Dodge emerges, screeching from the cloud. They miked-up the exhaust of the car so you got the full roar of the 6-liter engine. Boys stuff. 

But seriously, I wanted from that day forward to drive across the deserts of the American South-west: which I eventually did, three times between 1994-1997. And it was unforgettable.


  1. I've been afraid to see this movie again, I saw it when it first came out and liked it but most movies from that time that I've seen again have been pretty embarrassing.

    But I have liked the way the Cleavon Little DJ character has been used in other movies with a wink and a nod.

  2. It’s like an awful lot of things I read/watch these days: you kind of have to suspend your critical faculties and get out of it what it is actually offering. Pointless, utterly pointless criticising the things it doesn’t do well. What it does do very, very well is offer the romance of the American Road. America is a paradise, people often forget that but just because most Americans take it all for granted, doesn’t make it not so.

    It is very well constructed by the way; the foreboding in the opening ten minutes is genius.