Faster! Faster!


VANISHING POINT FOREVER is a sumptuous, handsomely assembled 576-page homage to one of Cult Cinema's critical touchstones in the "Existential Cross Country Car Chase, Crash and Burn Division" Category: 1971's Vanishing Point (d. Richard Sarafian), starring Barry Newman as the eponymous Kowalski (a nod to A Streetcar Named Desire maybe? Or to vegetarian ear-biting wrestling brute Killer Kowalski?). Kowalski plays a former race car driver/ex-cop hero/Viet Nam vet turned wheelman for hire delivering souped-up muscle cars (a 1970 Dodge Challenger) over the interstate for sketchy clientele while high on benzedrine. The film also features Cleavon Little as blind DJ Super Soul, who rules the roost on a desert-soul-music radio station and who can somehow directly communicate (when he wants to!), mano a mano, with Barry Newman via Kowalski's dashboard radio -- as well as crow about Kowalski's daredevil exploits outracing the fuzz to his sizable desert listening audience in real time -- turning Kowalski into a Living American Myth, a synecdoche for Freedom, Liberty and the Right to Drive Really Fast on his way to his ultimate appointment in Samara with a couple of interlocked dump trucks.

Vanishing Point Forever is curated by my old friend cultural critic/historian Robert Melvin Rubin, himself no stranger to fast cars. It contains essays by Rubin, former Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman, the late Cuban experimental novelist and essayist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who wrote the Vanishing Point screenplay under the pseudonym Guillermo Cain, and my particular favorite, an essay on the film by the great Italian novelist Alberto Moravia; and much, much more. The book contains the entire original script, stills galore, coverage in automotive magazines of the day, Fox's marketing plan, and photos of actual biker babes in various degrees of deshabille - your cup runs over!

20th Century Fox, unfortunately, made them chop this film way down, including excising a pivotal scene featuring fetching Charlotte Rampling as a hitchhiker standing in for Death (shades of Fellini's 1968 Toby Dammit episode from the horror film anthology Spirits of the Dead).

But the film that survives is a lean, mean machine that has resonated over the years with everyone from Quentin Tarantino (Stuntman Mike drives a similar muscle car in Death Proof) to most recently stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski's John Wick 4, which features a black female DJ broadcasting Keanu Reeves's Parisian coordinates-on-the-lam to Reeves, assorted thugs, and seemingly the entire City of Lights at large over some kind of ethereal closed circuit radio channel (France Inter it definitely is NOT).

If you love BullitRoninGrand PrixEasy RiderThunder Road, and other Hot Wheels to Hell cinematic fare, you have to see Vanishing Point the Movie, which was (hint hint) just re-released on Blu-Ray in a spiffy new upgrade.

And then you have to get this book!!

(Order book here.)

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