Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critical eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 1971, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Richard C Sarafian’s Vanishing Point, the story of a car delivery driver taking a Dodge Charger cross country to San Francisco, tailed by cops and an enthusiastic Radio DJ.
Sales: 3. I’m not sure if I can go 3 with this – it didn’t have the biggest budget and it made returns multiple times over, but most of those were in the UK and in follow up Drive Through releases. It’s a 3 or 4.
Critical Consensus: 3. It took a while to gain cult status – initial reviews were mostly negative, but those are tempered by recent criticism and discovery over the years which have been mostly positive. Sounds like a 3 to me.
Director: 4. The lightning in a jar moment for Sarafian, his best movie although I am partial to The Eye Of The Tiger. It came right at the more cynical point of the counter-culture movement where the idealism of the 60s was fading. The handling of the pacing, the car scenes, and the philosophy all works.
Performances: 3. Plenty of familiar faces but it’s all about Kowalski and Super Soul. They’re good enough to be memorable, but I’m not sure there’s enough depth to get to a 4.
Characters: 3. Same as the performances, the characters represent counter culture iconography but we don’t learn enough about any of them to go higher.
Cinematography: 4. Looks lovely, from night shots of deserts to the car tearing through the American wastelands.
Writing: 4. I’ll be lenient here due to the fact that a number of one-liners and moments have become part of wider culture, but again the plot and characters are fairly thin if you’re looking for a deeper read.
Plot: 2. Not much, is there? Guy is asked to drive a car from here to there. He drives too fast, gets the attention of cops, the media, and meets peeps along the way.
Wardrobe: 3. My standard score for this category.
Editing: 3. Closer to a 4, but possibly lacks the flair of something like Bullitt.
Make up and Hair: 2. Lets go with a 2 on this one.
Effects: 3. It’s not an effects heavy movie, so we’ll have the average 3.
Art and Set: 3. Much of the movie was shot on location, what we have is fit for purpose.
Sound And Music: 4. Being a 70s Counter Culture movie, music is a big part of the film and its spirit. Plenty of acts on the soundtrack and the odd familiar face popping up in the film. The film is pseudo-narrated by a DJ. The Sound is thick with tyre screeches, the grunting of engines, and the chaos of chassis shatters.
Cultural Significance: 4. Most movies are not culturally significant. This one is, and has a legacy, but it’s not as impactful as others of its type – Easy Rider for example. It’s enough to warrant a 4 – while not the first or last of its type, it has influenced other filmmakers and artists, with many references in later media.
Accomplishment: 4. It was a relatively low budget movie with no big star attached, existential in nature, and with a difficult script to bring to life – shooting was cut significantly, but the crew found a way to make the film a success.
Stunts: 4. The whole film is one long chase, with the odd break. A lot of driving at high speeds, a lot of chases and collisions,
Originality: 3. I’ve gone down the middle for this category as a higher or lower score likely depends on your interpretation of both the movie and the category. It’s a chase movie, an action movie, so not the most original story to ever exist but it gives allegorical and metaphorical twists. Is it a movie about freedom, death, or just general anti-establishment stuff? It’s not the usual way for a movie like this to be told.
Miscellaneous: 3. I don’t have any existing personal or contextual nuggets for this. It was a movie I was aware of from a young age but didn’t see till I was older – being a G’n’R fan I knew of the film as it is referenced in one of their songs.
Personal: 4. It’s just a cool movie, a little underseen in general, but certainly by today’s standards. Even though it’s dated, it has that generational cult vibe which means teens and rebels and car fans should always see it with each passing generation.
Total Score: 66/100.
A score I would have predicted before counting up, and it seems fair. It’s a movie which deserves more views and discussion and seems to have slipped out of the public consciousness recently, even though movies like Drive and Baby Driver were clearly influenced by it. But in that era there were any number of ‘guy in a car’ movies, and this one perhaps suffers due to a lack of famous names and moments. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
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