Vanishing Point – 1971
Not quite as simplistic as Two Lane Blacktop but Vanishing Point is also set in the small town America soon to be bypassed by the roaring interstate system celebrating its quirks but also highlighting its injustices. It features Kowalski, played by Barry Newman, who we find out in flashback is a decorated Vietnam war veteran, former racing driver and ex-cop who was drummed out of the force for preventing his partner assaulting a young woman.
Now a delivery driver, Kowalski is tasked with delivering a white supercharged Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum from Denver to Colorado over the course of a weekend. Leaving with the car, Kowalski visits his drug dealer for a supply of Benzedrine to help him stay awake on the journey and bets that he can reach San Francisco by Sunday afternoon rather than Monday morning.
Kowalski tangles with a pair of motorcycle cops in Colorado before racing a battered Jaguar E-type which ends up in a river, setting in motion a police chase across several states. Kowalski’s journey is followed by a blind, small-town DJ named Super Soul (Cleavon Little) who calls him ‘the last American hero’. Pursued relentlessly, Kowalski becomes lost in the desert before being rescued by an old-time prospector and later by a hippie and his naked, motorcycle riding girlfriend. The film has one of the all-time most debated endings as Kowalski crosses into California. Just don’t watch the 1997 remake by mistake.