Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for November 7, 2012

Barry Newman

Barry Foster Newman (born November 7, 1938) is an American film, television, and stage actor, famous for his interpretation of Kowalski in the movie Vanishing Point, and also known for his 70’s television series in the title role of Petrocelli.

Vanishing Point is a 1971 American action road movie directed by Richard C. Sarafian and starring Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and Dean Jagger. The film is notable for its scenic film locations across the American Southwest and its social commentary on the post-Woodstock mood in the United States. The film is especially popular with auto enthusiasts because it prominently features a classic 1970 Dodge Challenger muscle car. Check out the trailer HERE

Vanishing Point premiered in January 1971 and did not receive positive notices. In his review for the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin wrote, “Vanishing Point might have had a point, but it … ah … got lost. What’s left is sophisticated craft and fashionably hokey cynicism”. Variety magazine said, “While stock car addicts may be able to maintain interest in the ultra-fast manipulation of the car, many viewers will just get car-sick … or sick of the car, which isn’t the same thing”. Larry Cohen, in the Reporter criticized the film for being “calculated, tedious and in desperate need of tightening, the picture, produced by Norman Spencer, is un-involving and devoid of a cohesiveness that might have made it work”.

Newman recalls that Fox had no faith in the film and released it in neighborhood theaters only to disappear in less than two weeks. However, it was a critical and commercial success in the UK and Europe which prompted the studio to re-release it in the United States on a double bill with The French Connection. A cult following began to develop due in large part to a broadcast on network television in 1976.

Death Proof, the Quentin Tarantino contribution to the faux-exploitation “double feature” Grindhouse, features a chase involving a Dodge Challenger resembling the one seen inVanishing Point (not being an R/T model and having an automatic transmission). Death Proof also references the film by name repeatedly calling it – “one of the best American movies ever made”. The car in the film also has the same license plate OA 5599.

Vanishing Point was the inspiration for Primal Scream’s 1997 album of the same name. It is meant to be an alternative soundtrack to the film. Leader singer Bobby Gillespie said, “The music in the film is hippy music, so we 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”. In addition, a track from the album was named “Kowalski” after the character from the film. The track also featured samples of Super Soul’s “last American hero” speech from the film. Author Irvine Welsh scripted the video for “Kowalski” which was directed by musician Douglas Hart, the video features a Dodge Challenger and super model Kate Moss beating up the band.