Vanishing Point is the story of Kowalski, a mysterious man with a sordid past who finds himself on a cross-country mission where as the film progresses, it becomes clear what is at stake and why.
Released just two years after Easy Rider, Vanishing Point is one of many sparse hot-rod-based odysseys from that era that attempted to reveal current societal status simply by spinning and traveling through it at high speed.
What makes Vanishing Point different for the purposes of our analysis is the fact that the main character, Kowalski, places a bet that is mostly symbolic in nature, but is more than enough to get the narrative going as well as his white Dodge Challenger.
What brings Kowalski to his journey and this film to our list of the best sports betting movies is a bet he makes with his good friend Jake, who also happens to be his drug dealer.
Kowalski works as an auto delivery man and is determined to make it from Denver, Colorado, to San Francisco, California, by 3:00 p.m. Sunday. Just one problem – that only gives Kowalski about 40 hours to do the run.
Today that’s 19 hours on the road via Interstate 80, but in 1971 that meant almost all of the driving on dual carriageway paved roads with a 55 mph speed limit.
What’s at stake? On the physical front, the cost of the “Bennies” put in front of Kowalski is the price of him making it to San Francisco in one piece. He takes the Benzedrine pills so he can get through the whole drive without falling asleep.
Although Kowalski uses a stock car, that would not fall within the realm of NASCAR betting. The most likely category would be entertainment bets, as the proposal simply requires Kowalski and the car to arrive by a specific time, but does not outline or limit the parameters involved.
There is much more at stake spiritually as Kowalski begins to garner national attention. Once the police get on his trail, Super Soul, a popular disc jockey, updates his listeners on the progress of Kowalski’s journey.
Super Soul’s unique rap style seems to give Kowalski a cosmic navigational aid throughout the film, until finally the final steps of the journey must be made by himself.
And there goes the Challenger, chased by the blue, blue baddies on wheels. The vicious traffic cop cars are after our lone driver, the last American hero, the electric centaur, the demigod, the super driver of the golden west! Two nasty Nazi cars are close behind the beautiful lone driver. The police numbers are getting closer, closer, closer to our soul hero in his soul mobile, yeah baby! They’re about to go on strike. You will get him. smash him. Rape… the last beautiful free soul on this planet.
Super Soul portrayed by Cleavon Little
Backed by a strange mix of hard rock, country, bluegrass and gospel music on the soundtrack, Vanishing Point is an eclectic combination of everything scattered across the western United States in 1971 that deserves to be seen.
Vanishing Point IMDB