In honor of our Golden Anniversary celebrating 50 Years of People-Powered Radio, KCSB’s free “Popped Culture: Radio Goes to the Movies” spring series presents noteworthy motion pictures that feature radio as a key element.

On Thursday, May 17th, 8pm in UCSB’s Isla Vista Theater 2, we present a 1971 car-chase cult-classic:

Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 1971, USA: 99 minutes)

In Vanishing Point, Barry Newman plays Kowalski, an ex-marine, ex-race car driver and cop addicted to speed, who bets that he can deliver a 1970 Dodge Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. Cleavon Little plays Super Soul, a blind radio DJ with a police scanner who guides Kowalski through an intensive interstate chase.

Written by Cuban expatriate author Guillermo Cabrera Infante (aka “Guillermo Cain”) and directed by Richard C. Sarafian, Vanishing Point was initially a critical and commercial success only in the UK and Europe. “Art film and road movie collide for Vanishing Point, an existential car chase across the desert in a post Easy Rider America” (Sean Axman, Amazon.com).


DJ Super Soul’s access to the airwaves turns Kowalski into a outlaw hero (shades of Arthur Penn‘s Bonnie and Clyde), while his mystical connection to the driver enhances the film’s countercultural vibe (and prefigures deejay characters in later movies, such as Walter Hill‘s The Warriors and Spike Lee‘s Do the Right Thing). What’s more, Cleavon Little’s character deftly weaves a playlist of country-rock, funk, soul and gospel songs into the story — Vanishing Point‘s original soundtrack being akin to the music in 1960’s classics like Dennis Hopper‘s Easy Rider and Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Zabriskie Point. (Little is best known for his role as Sheriff Bart in Mel Brook‘s 1974 comedy, Blazing Saddles.)

Vanishing Point has gone on to develop a cult following that includes fans such as Steven Spielberg, Guns N’ Roses, and “Mopar” auto aficionados everywhere. Especially intriguing to film buffs and music fans alike are champions like Quentin Tarantino — who pays homage to Vanishing Point in his Grindhouse feature Death Proof, dubbing it “one of the best American movies ever made” — and the Scottish rock band Primal Scream — whose 1997 tribute album of the same name was imagined as an alternative soundtrack.

[W]e thought, ‘Why not record some music that really reflects the mood of the film?’ It’s always been a favourite of the band, we love the air of paranoia and speed- freak righteousness…. It’s a pure underground film, rammed with claustrophobia. (Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream)

Join KCSB for a high-definition Blu-ray screening of Vanishing Point, with a live pre-event music-set by DJ Braxx (of our Tuesday afternoon program “Haunted & Raw”), trivia, door prizes, and more.

With screenings every other Thursday through May 31st, the entire “Popped Culture” calendar, can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 1971, USA: 99 minutes)
Thursday, May 17th, 8pm
UCSB’s Isla Vista Theater 2 (960 Embarcadero del Norte)