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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Vanishing Point: Death, destiny, a missing scene, and a mysterious black car

There was always something disconcerting to me about the movie Vanishing Point. Sure, like everyone else, I was shocked by the ending-but I always felt the film never made an effort to explain Kowalski's decisions, particularly with regards to the last one he makes. At best it's obscure; at worst, it's confusing.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/entertainment/vanishing-point-death-destiny-a-missing-scene-and-a-myst...
75 REPLIES 75
DUB6
Specialist

Or maybe, just maybe, like many of the trying-to-be-existential and wanting-to-look-anti-establishment movies of the late '60s and '70s, this is just a strange story made up of multiple weird plot twists and turns that really turn out to have no explanations whatsoever, except that someone thought up a short scene and said, "Hey, let's throw this in somewhere"...
Not sure why we feel the need to find an underlying continuity and overall meaning in everything. But the part of the article that rings the most absurd to me is this: "In film, rarely is anything done by accident. Props are set, everything is scripted, and if we see anything on screen, it is most definitely intended to be there, by the director." Really? I'm pretty sure that there may be at least a dozen responses from folks who will point out all kinds of stuff that shows up in films that the director didn't intend to be there. For instance, did the makers of "Bullitt" really intend for us to see the same green VW Beetle get passed so many times? Did they really intend for the Charger to have a half-dozen hub caps? C'mon, Man! 🙂
audiobycarmine
Technician

Excellent thoughts and observations!
Aren't most of Fellini's films filled with such visuals?

By my count, the green VW got passed four times (!)
But hey, the Beetle was probably the most common car on the road, and green just might have been the favorite color in Frisco back then; (yeah, I know it's the same car, 'cause it's in the exact same place all four times.)

Now, about finding underlying continuity and overall meaning in things, say, life, for instance; find a copy of "Deteriorata" online.
It's a (Nat'l Lampoon?) spoof of "Desiderata".
It explains everything.

http://dmdb.org/lyrics/deteriorata.html
DUB6
Specialist

"Rotate your tires" makes that a direct connection to the automotive themes of this site.  "Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do" makes is totally cosmic.  Nicely done!  😁

[PS - love the Fellini reference.  Shows you've been paying attention...]

Rich8
Intermediate Driver

the VW passed several times on the hills of SanFran was in Bullitt not Vanishing Point
TA76
Detailer

Ah that is what he wrote . . .
BMD4800
Gearhead

Extremely good and obscure reference.

For those who don’t get it, … give up.
KwikDraw
Intermediate Driver

From what I remember from my film classes in college, what the moviegoers interpret from a film or scenes in a film is often very different from what the director intended. But, the moviegoers' interpretation often becomes the dominant understanding of the film and therefore supersedes any original intent or intended meaning.

I think the old line I remember is that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
Zephyr
Instructor

As a painter said years ago "a work of art is always completed by the viewer." Or, as a teacher once told me, the worst person to ask what a book/play/short story means is the person who wrote it.
audiobycarmine
Technician

"...serenity (surely enhanced by his non-stop amphetamine intake?)" ???
I'm guessing that this was made in the spirit of Sarcasm, cause it sure got a chuckle out of me.
DavidFlamer
New Driver

The license plate on the Chrysler Imperial is a 1960's California Manufacturer Plate. Chrysler Corporation was number 4. Same type of plates were used for Dealers, Transporters, Dismantlers, etc. No doubt that Chrysler supplied all of the vehicles, a few times over with the Challenger.
RG440
Instructor

That is correct, the plate was also carried into the 70’s The vehicle it’s on is a 1970 Imperial LeBaron. One of the nicest I remember was coming out of a parking garage at Cobo in Detroit in the early 70’s. Black with silver vinyl top and silver leather interior. One sweet ride!
sclin10
Advanced Driver

WHO CARES?
KwikDraw
Intermediate Driver

If you saw the movie in the early 1970's and were about 12 to 15 years old and was into cars, you might care. Though I am not sure "care" is the right word. The story was simple. And like the article said, some of it didn't exactly make sense from a logical viewpoint. But there is something entrancing and memorable about it. So, I guess I care. It was interesting to me. It was a much better Hagerty story than seeing another million dollar super car going up for auction.
MoabUtMan
New Driver

I was at the film scene in July 1970 at Cisco, Utah.
I have 6 original photos that my father took. We have a picture of that 1967 Camaro with kids standing around looking into it. And there was dynamite in the car! That would never happen today.
We also have photos of the Challenger with Barry Newman inside and cameras and power supply attached to the car and trailer.
A few of my pictures were used on an episode of Graveyard Carz. With credits given to my father and my self.
Air_and_Water
Instructor

I, for one.
Bokeoyaji
Intermediate Driver

Cultured people care.
Tinkerah
Engineer

First time I've wanted a Dislike button.

BMD4800
Gearhead

Stamp collecting is a popular hobby.
ratfink
Pit Crew

he's right. in interviews Sarafian said Rampling was death, and the film was supposed to be spiritual. check the lyrics Kim Carnes sings at the end.
Teampantera
Intermediate Driver

As a returning Nam Vet and there were many in 1971 the movie darkness was something I got right away. All I saw was the beauty including how he ended it all…within weeks of seeing Vanishing Point I took my 69 Jag FHC on a road trip from Seattle down to Tucson to visit a girlfriend. Best PTSD treatment I ever got. Yea the movie, the road trip and the girl.
Tvine
New Driver

One my favorite little known tidbits is that if you freeze the movie at the point of impact with the bulldozers the actual car wrecked is a white Camaro, not a Challenger.  Perhaps Chrysler’s little jab at GM.  By best friend growing up and I did this with the VHS tape back in the day to see the impact and we’re surprised at what we saw.  We used to do this with the Dukes of Hazard as well to see the crippled Charger that Wes shown speeding down the road in the next scene.   

MoparMan
Advanced Driver

I argued for YEARS that the car destroyed in the crash was a 67 Camaro; you don't even have to freeze the movie to see that the rear wheel wasn't a Rallye wheel. It's satisfying to finally be vindicated! 🙂
RG440
Instructor

Yeah!, Who in their right mind (and Kowolaski’s) would trash a brand new Challenger…
MoabUtMan
New Driver

This photo was taken by my father in Cisco Utah in July 1970 during the filming of VP.

The kids are standing next to the 1967 Camaro. The Camaro was loaded with dynamite for the explosion in the final scene. Another detail about the Camaro, the roof had lead plates attached to it so it would blow outward instead of up through the roof. If you looks closely on the photo you can see the edge of that roof plate slightly behind the windshield.

Of course this could never happen today. Too dangerous!

We were on a one month vacation from Chicago to a bunch of National Parks out west.

By pure luck we came upon the sight of the final scenes. We have 5 other photos taken during that day. A few if the photos were shown on Graveyard Carz and also in a book written by Robert Genat, about E-Body Mopars.

VP July 1970_001.jpg

MoabUtMan
New Driver

I was at the film scene in July 1970 at Cisco, Utah.
I have 6 original photos that my father took. We have a picture of that 1967 Camaro with kids standing around looking into it. And there was dynamite in the car! That would never happen today.
We also have photos of the Challenger with Barry Newman inside and cameras and power supply attached to the car and trailer.
A few of my pictures were used on an episode of Graveyard Carz. With credits given to my father and my self.
If you watch the BluRay version of VP, you can see the tow cable recoiling from behind the bulldozers.
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

It was a drive-in movie with hippy-dippy "deep" nonsense running thru a car chase marathon. Period.
Great movie at the Canoga Drive-in when I was a kid. Knew it was a Camaro that went into the Bulldozer. Yeah, I've always been a car guy.
This reminds me of pundits reading deep significance into novels, when the author just wrote a good yarn. To sell.
Today- totally dated, but much more watchable than that laughably pretentious (and extremely overrated) "Easy Rider"
JSievers
Instructor

Great article and added footage that definitely adds to the movie. You can also count me among those who would drive a Challenger into a bulldozer for Charlotte Rampling circa 1971. If you are into VERY adult and VERY dark films she gives an incredible performance in The Night Porter.
dgcarlson12
Pit Crew

Does anyone know what piece of music we hear during the hitchhiker's appearance in the car?
Tsaxman
Advanced Driver

The summer before my junior year of high school, I saw it at the drive-in with a gymnast date.

I remember what I thought of it then: It was OK. The other feature was "Two Lane Blacktop," which I liked a lot better. It had a superior soundtrack, too.
Rcwkr
Intermediate Driver

Nice bit of subtle (or not) bragging that she was a gymnast! Were you driving a Pinto? Speaking from experience, being small and flexible is a plus!
TonyT
Technician

Heat and hormones know no bounds...
Mike53
Pit Crew

Speaking of flexible, picture two frisky teenagers in a Fiat X/19, with the top on!
Also speaking from experience!
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

It's definitely a bit 70's weird for me. car looks cool but I'm probably going to pass on this.
JBBearcat
Detailer

No mention of the mystery car...a '70 Imperial.
I'd love one, but they went to the crusher 30 years ago. The few you do see for sale are either modified or have issues with likely irreplaceable parts...interior trim and the girls with hidden headlights.

I'm no literary whiz who gets the obscure hidden meanings in books or films (heck, I can't use existential in a sentence...thankfully...despite my grad school professors best efforts), but I'm not a complete dunce either, but I figured out the black car a long time ago.




Reinhold_Weege
Instructor

www.imperialclub.com
and several FB pages.
While not in the $$ class of muscle-car Mopars, nor the crapped-out-a-million Camaro, you simply haven't looked. '69 is really the year to have anyway.
JBBearcat
Detailer

I've looked...online and at the Scottsdale auctions.
Most had needs and/or were terribly overpriced...seems that everyone thinks all MOPARS of the era are Hemi 'cudas or Daytonas and are worth big money.

I did find a nice one, but it was the wrong color. The car needs a very period correct color...chestnut, dark metallic green...not resale red.

The Imperial Club website is among the best club sites out there...
RG440
Instructor

YES! I truly miss my chestnut w/white top and interior barco lounger traveling down the highway with a sixpak on top. HP’s were motor of choice and moved the extra weight “just fine”
Bokeoyaji
Intermediate Driver

The idea that the police used sensors on the road to "track" the Challenger is most ridiculous. The sensor doesn't distinguish what triggers it (trucks, taxies, bikes, deers...).

Also, the police would need to set up the sensors all over the place and in every directions to determine the direction and location where the car is heading to. One might argue that they already know the route he's taking, so they only set up sensors on one stretch of road. In that case, there is no need for sensors--they know exactly where he's is and heading. Work backwards. Since they had enough time to set up sensors on various locations, they could have set up roadblocks, instead, maybe?

BTW, the cop car drove past the spot that the Challenger did towards the end of the video clip. Did the lights on the silly map indicate something?

I agree with editing out that scene.
Tinkerah
Engineer

The lights on the silly map confirm that who ever's playing the pinball machine is hitting some high scores.
Stixx
Detailer

hell , that series of scenes made no sense at all to me. LOL
BatmanRR
Intermediate Driver

This movie has always been a mystery for me. I watched years ago and was disappointed with the ending. I never went back. Do you have a link to this European ending?
rhooten
New Driver

Great film! That meeting with "death" has been available in the US for some time as a "Bonus Feature". I agree that it adds a lot to the mystery of the plot.
The bulk of films made in this time period were dark and really didn't make much sense, unless, your totally stoned like the directors and producers were. See "The Last Picture Show" or "Two Lane Blacktop" for more movies in this weird vein.

69RZ28
BatmanRR
Intermediate Driver

Very good comment.
RickL
Detailer

I liked the Challenger and the girl on the motorcycle, not necessarily in that order. Was a great one to watch at a drive-in. Wonder how many white Challengers were sold (still being sold) because of that movie. Was "deeper" when lighting one up.
blr
New Driver

As a kid, my family and I had the opportunity (?) to travel from Grand Junction, Co out to Cisco, Ut to be extras for the filming of the bulldozer scene. It took a week as we sat around waiting on the hillside for them to finally get the scene in place, but it finally happened. As we watched, a truck with a long cable attached sitting between the blades of the dozers, headed west pulling the Camaro (Yes, it was a Camaro) into the blades. To me, as a 10 year old kid, the most impressive thing of the week (besides finding a dead snake in a bottle in the nearly-ghost town) was watching the hood blow a couple hundred feet into the air as the explosive-laden car smashed into the waiting blades. It's possible I made it on air as a helicopter passed overhead filming, but for some reason my name never showed up in the list of credits...
MoabUtMan
New Driver

I was at the film scene in July 1970 at Cisco, Utah also.
We were on a one month vacation from Chicago to a bunch of the National Parks out west.
I have 6 original photos that my father took. We have a picture of that 1967 Camaro with kids standing around looking into it. And there was dynamite in the car! That would never happen today.
We also have photos of the Challenger with Barry Newman inside and cameras and power supply attached to the car and trailer.
A few of my pictures were used on an episode of Graveyard Carz. With credits given to my father and my self.
A couple of these pictures were also featured in a book written by Robert Genat about E-Body Mopars.
Do you have any photos to share from your time as extras in the movie?
Al
Intermediate Driver

I had the movie on VHS, but my kids lost it somewhere. I always liked that movie
MustangJim
Technician

Interesting article and comments. I guess I need to see the movie again. I must of seen it 5 times in 1971 but all I cared about then was the Challenger. I did not care about anything else!
DUB6
Specialist

Hmmm.  The Challenger was fine.  The action - for its time - was good.  The acting was cringe-worthy.  Ms. Rampling was worthwhile.  But in all of the responses, I've yet to read anything about my favorite part.  Listen, in 1971, you give me a naked hippy chick on a motorcycle, and I'll darned well tell you what the "meaning" of THAT was...