Monday, September 19, 2005


One of last weekend's Festival of Bad Cinema movies was 'Vanishing Point', or as I preferred to call it, 'When Mike Brady Goes Bad'.


One of the most surprising things about this film was its physical beauty. The cinematography was nothing short of gorgeous, and the print used for the DVD release was as clean and crisp as if it had been filmed yesterday. It's sort of a shame that it was wasted on something so... how can I put this... '1971'.

How To Make A Classic Early 70s Film, Using 'Vanishing Point' As A Model

1. Choose your hero based on taciturnity and body hair. Ideally, he shouldn't have any lines at all, but as this starts to look a bit contrived when people talk to him, he should occasionally mutter something brooding and slightly hostile. "My wife is dead." "I never did like coffee." "Happiness is a warm, fluffy kitten."

Your hero should also be hairy. Hairy was big in the early 70s. His hairstyle should be lost somewhere under a tangle of new growth, and his chest so be so thickly matted that he can trap small animals in it.

2. Vilify the police. Damn cops. Trying to arrest a man just because he's driving too fast down busy roads in an amphetamine-fuelled fog. He's an American Hero! Down with the pigs!

3. Infantilise everything. More than once in 'Vanishing Point', the police are referred to as the Blue Meanies. What, the worst thing you can say about your arch-nemeses is that they're 'mean'? What are you people, six years old?

Nobody in the world of 'Vanishing Point' seems to have a job. Even the police don't appear to work shifts; they apparently come and go as they please, beholden to no one. Money materialises as it is needed. Everybody behaves like small children who are protected from grim reality by conscientious parents... a metaphor for the entire hippie movement if ever there was one.

4. Boobies. Show 'em at every opportunity. Flashbacks especially; nothing says class like a retrospective of Boobies I Have Known.

Nothing wrong with flashing them in the present, either. 'Vanishing Point' famously features a naked girl riding around the desert on a motorcycle, although, to be blunt, her boobies are nothing to write home about. Nor is her bike technique; she looks as ill-coordinated and tentative as a kid who's just come off her training wheels.

5. Work in the Soul Brother angle. True blaxploitation was still a couple of years away, but 'Vanishing Point' paved the way with Super Soul (no, really, that was his name), a blind black DJ who inexplicably ran a groovy radio station from a studio in a desolate hick town. Presumably he didn't have what it takes to make it in the mean streets of Chicago or Philadelphia. Heck, he probably didn't have what it takes to make it in the mean streets of Park Falls, Wisconsin.

It was sort of hard to take him seriously, since I kept being reminded of Dave Chapelle's blind black Klan leader Clayton Bigsby. But everyone in the movie regarded him as Kowalski's co-pilot, lauding him for feeding Kowalski information about police movements gleaned from their radio frequencies. Which was odd, since nobody had any idea whether or not Kowalski actually listened to that particular radio station, or even if he'd bothered to turn on his car radio at all.

6. Give 'em that old time religion. A happy clappy breed of Christianity boomed in the early 70s - it comes as no surprise that The Doobie Brothers' 'Jesus Is Just Alright' raced up the charts in 1972. Super Soul plays gospel music on Sunday mornings, and there is also an open air revival meeting which, while treated somewhat dismissively, features a blending of races and age groups that makes it look like a film from a diversity training course. Everyone loves Jesus, or at least a warm fuzzy version of him, in 1971!

7. Sex and drugs and pretty dire rock and roll. Within ninety seconds of meeting Kowalski, Naked Motorcycle Girl has offered him a ride, so to speak, despite the fact that he's nearly old enough to be her father. The untrammeled hair must have been a big turn on. But Kowalski declines with a polite yet rueful smile, possibly because his amphetamine-wired body is having trouble performing upright, never mind horizontally.

Of course no film about the wide open spaces of America in 1971 would be complete without a soundtrack of contemporary folk rock so forgettable that you run the risk of blacking out when you hear it. Think Credence Clearwater Revival, then scale back the talent to Ashlee Simpson levels.

8. Kill off your hero at the end. After all, if 'Logan's Run' taught us anything, it's that no good can come from living past thirty. Kowalski dies as he lived - impetuously, meaninglessly, and sort of stupidly.


Blogger Laziest Girl said...

Hey Blandy - did you see that MC Etcher quoted you? Now you really are famous (although he makes you sound deranged). Welcome to the club kiddo.

2:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home