Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vanishing Point

Richard Sarafian, 1971 (8.2*)
This homage to anarchy should have better known, it was pure action adrenaline from the start. Barry Newman plays a man named Kowalski who delivers cars and must drive a car from Colorado to the west coast in about 24 hours. Soon after starting, he makes a bet to bring it the car in less than 15 hours.

Having to obviously break the speed limit, he arouses the interest of law enforcement along the way, beginning with some motorcycle cops. Eventually, there’s a multi-state effort coordinated to bring him under arrest for flagrantly flouting the law. He becomes a folk hero along the way, being given help on the radio by a DJ named Supersoul, who is blind but has police scanner. Other than a minor diversion with his family, there’s not much character development or interest here, it’s all about the action.

This entire film has a Thunder Road and NASCAR feel to it, as if you can outdrive the law on open highways, as if they don’t really have radios or telephones and can’t simply deploy other units ahead of you. It’s not like a straight car race across the desert, once you get ahead just stay ahead and you’re clear.

The appeal of this film is that it brings existential statements into a car chase thriller, which is admittedly a bit thin but there nonetheless. This film predated the Australian Mad Max series, but seems to have directly influenced The Road Warrior (1981), easily best of the series - and many more modern copycat films, where speed did make you king of at least one stretch of road, that to the box office.

There’s a mediocre remake of this from 97 with Viggo Mortenson as the driver, who has a diversion in the desert with Pita Wilson of Nikita fame, but it just doesn’t have the anarchistic feel of the original.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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