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Downtown Drive-In Presents: Vanishing Point

Regarded by many as the greatest car movie ever made, Vanishing Point is a film that embraces its minimalist simplicity and triumphs because of it.
By Tom Glasson
October 24, 2012
By Tom Glasson
October 24, 2012

Regarded by many as the greatest car movie ever made, Vanishing Point is a film that embraces its minimalist simplicity and triumphs because of it. It’s 106 minutes of 100% car chase as a fugitive known simply as Kowalski (Barry Newman) guns his supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco with amphetamines in his veins (appropriately ‘speed’) and police on his tail. There’s no real reason for the mad dash beyond a bet by his drug dealer that it couldn’t be done in less than 15 hours, thereby defining Kowalski as something of a counter-culture hero on a fatalistic, anti-establishment rampage.

Spurring him on via the radio is blind black disc jockey ‘Super Soul’ (Cleavon Little), who declares Kowalski “the last American to whom speed means freedom of the soul”. Super Soul’s live broadcasts of the pursuit quickly turn Kowalski into a media sensation and local celebrity, framing the incident as ‘oppressed versus oppressors’ and ‘freedom versus authoritarianism’, but at its heart this remains a car and road movie – simple and true.

Vanishing Point is a film with little dialogue and lots of action, but the ratio is spot on in this case. The extraordinary stunts and relentless pace don’t just look dangerous, they feel it, and the sublime cinematography and carefully considered soundtrack compliment that tenor perfectly. It’s grindhouse at its best, yelling at everybody and nobody all at once. The best thing to do is simply strap yourself in and yell along with it.

The team behind the much-anticipated event Downtown Drive-In has announced Carriageworks in Sydney’s Eveleigh, just three kilometres from the Sydney CBD, as the location for its three-night season, which will run from November 29 to December 1, 2012.

A seldom-used section of the 120-year-old heritage listed building will form the perfect backdrop for the Back Roads USA season of films. The films to be screened include On The RoadPlanes, Trains and Automobiles and Vanishing Point. Downtown Drive-In will also feature a custom menu with individual items designed by The Dip, Sydney’s favourite American-style diner, playfully paying tribute to the films and shared Americana settings and atmosphere. Major sponsor Audi will supply a range of luxury cars for the ultimate drive-in experience. The cars will also feature razor-sharp sound from audio partner Bang & Olufsen.

Entry into Downtown Drive-In will cost $50 for vehicles of up to four people. Walk-in deck chair seating is also available near the screen, at $25 per person. For more information on the film schedule, drive-in experience and participating partners, visit

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