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Vanishing Point (1971)

Review: written Feb 2009

Iconic 70’s-generation defining movie

Vanishing Point (1971)

It might `only' be a chase movie in terms of plot - but this movie reeks so much of the period in which it was made it is more like an historical record of a nation’s mood.

Barry Newman is an ex policeman and ex stock car racer, who now is reduced to delivering cars for a living. In pushing himself to get the job done, he is forced to take speed, and has no time to sleep - he is a man falling between the cracks of society. He accepts a bet that his latest delivery - a Dodge Challenger - can be delivered from Denver to California by a certain time. While racing to meet his deadline the police take notice and a chase begins, commented on by a blind radio station DJ, who helpfully provides an iconic 70's soundtrack to the proceedings.

Along the way he meets dropouts, hippies, drug dealers, Jesus-freaks and hold-outs against civilization. In short, a synopsis of all those from the 60's generation who are disillusioned at the way the 70's are starting.

If it's aged in terms of the music and in places the style, It has not dated nearly as much as it's contemporary `Easy Rider', and the cinematography of the empty, grand spaces of Western United States makes the movie worth watching in itself. The soundtrack is surprising in places, but the sound design itself is a star, with the growl from the Dodge Challenger part of the rush.

It's arguably the movie that defined chase movies for years to come - where would Smokey and the Bandit be without it? And yet few of its successors had the sense of astute and bleak observation of the times.

Thrilling, expansive, yet trimmed down and simple in plot, this is worth catching up on and deserves to find an audience again.

Vanishing Point (1971)

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