Much as the 1970 Dodge Challenger used in it, Richard C. Sarafian's roadmovie Vanishing Point enjoys somewhat of a cult status nowadays and influenced following generations of filmmakers and filmfans alike. But on first glance the story seems so simple. Kowalski is a car delivery driver from Colorado. His latest job is to drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger to San Francisco. Although he has lots of time he's betting his drug dealer that he can pull it off in 15 hours. Following this is a chase through several states and the meeting with the most different counter cultures of the US but also dealing with one's own past. Kowalski is supported by the blind radio host Super Soul who frequently warns him about the police. But Vanishing Point is much more that just a road movie. It clearly comments on personal value of freedom being oppressed by the authorities and leaves much room for interpretation thanks to several mystic and surreal sequences.
Because of the cult status of the original a TV remake starring Viggo Mortensen has been produced in 1997. It misses the mystic tone of the 1971 original.
About the versions
If one believes the information on the internet, Vanishing Point has been edited for about seven minutes briefly after wrap. Those seven minutes basically include one scene with Charlotte Rampling who plays a hitchhiker. Apperantly 20th Century Fox was afraid audiences wouldn't understand the heavily allegoric scene and so it had to be cut. Furthermore first negative reviews made the studio heads ceasing to show confidence for the movie and so it quickly disappeared from the theaters. However in Europe and especially England the opposite occured. The movie ran in its entirety – featuring the scene with Rampling, who is British herself – and became very succesful which resulted in the movie getting a second theatrical run in den United States as a double feature with The French Connection.
It's questionable if the British version of the film has also been shown in other European countries or if it was UK exclusive, but it's a fact that most DVD releases only carry the US theatrical version (even the UK release). Only the US DVD contains both versions on a flipper disc.
Running time US version: 98:41 Min. (NTSC)
Running time UK version: 105:42 Min. (NTSC)
Difference between both versions: two scenes with a duration of 07:01 Min.
After Kowalski talked with Jake over the phone the missing scene with Charlotte Rampling follows, but first there is a different transition. We see the headquarters of the California Highway Patrol who monitor Kowalski using state-of-the-art equipment. They have a giant roadmap on the wall and Kowalski's movements are marked with lights.
Then there's the recut. Now it's night and Kowalski meets the nameless hitchhiker (Charlotte Rampling). First Kowalski passes her but then he stops, backs up a bit and says:
Kowalski: "I'm heading for Frisco."
Kowalski, smiling: "San Francisco."
After a breif moment of silence the hitchhiker gets in the car. Soft music starts playing while both take off into the night.
Kowalski then asks her: "Have you, uh, been waiting a long time?"
She replies: "I don't really feel like being social tonight."
She looks at Kowalski: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. Honestly."
Then she pulls a joint from his pocket and lights it: "Do you mind?"
Kowalski: "Happy dreams."
She passes the joint to Kowalski and he takes a drag.
While they continue driving they pass a sensor of the California Highway Patrol which monitors their way.
Cut to the headquarters and we see the light spot move on along the road on the map. Cut back to Kowalski stopping alongside the street and turning off the car. He takes the almost finished joint out of the hitchhiker's hand and throws it out.
She, almost asleep, asks: "What's happened?"
Kowalski: "I don't know."
Hitchhiker: "Why have we stopped?"
Kowalski: "I'm getting stoned."
She turns toward him: "Mmm, it feels nice in here."
Hitchhiker: "What are you?"
Kowalski: "A delivery driver."
Hitchhiker: "You're a scorpio."
Hitchhiker: "What's your name?"
Hitchhiker: "Kowalski Kowalski?"
Kowalski: "Yeah, Kowalski. First, last and only."
Kowalski: "Very, yeah. What's yours?"
Hitchhiker: "I'll tell you later."
Kowalski: "When, when we get to Frisco?"
Hitchhiker: "Why are you going to San Francisco?"
Kowalski in a close-up: "It's home."
Hitchhiker: "Home. You make it sound like a good place. I like you, Kowalski. I like you. I've been waiting for you for a long time. Oh, how I've waited for you."
Kowalski, a little surprised: "Yeah? Since when? Where?"
Hitchhiker: "Oh, everywhere. Everywhere and since forever."
She pauses briefly: "Patiently."
She turns toward hiom again: "Patiently. That's the only way to wait for somebody."
Another close-up of Kowalski's face, then cut on Rampling's face turning away, smiling. Kowalski touches her chin, moves forward and kisses her. Now we cut to the headquarters of the Highway Patrol again. This scene follows right after the phone call in the US version.
05:36 Min. (336 Sec.)
After the brief interlude with the Highway Patrol the UK version shows a conclusion of Kowalski's meeting with the hitchhiker. It's morning and Kowalski's car still rests alongside the road. The camera slowly pans on the Dodge. We cut to Kowalski waking up but the hitchhiker is gone. He looks around, puzzled, buttons his shirt and we see a police car speeding past on the road. Kowalski returns to the Dodge and continues his journey. Again he passes one of the sensors and we see how he gets registered on the map in the Highway Patrol headquarters. Then we cut to the intersection and both versions reunite.
01:25 Min. (85 Sec.)