The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 1971
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 99 Minutes/106 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/French/Spanish/Mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin
Starring: Barry Newman, Dean Jagger, Cleavon Little, John Amos
Directed by: Richard C. Sarafian
Written by: Guillermo Cain
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 24, 2009
"The last American hero"
Thrills, spills and a handful of pills. It all adds up to one of the most spectacular car chases in motion picture history! Barry Newman stars as Kowalski, the last American hero, who set out to prove that he can drive from Denver to San Francisco in just fifteen hours. Along the way, he meets an old prospector (Dean Jagger), a snake worshipper, a nude woman on a motorcycle, and a blind D.J. (Cleavon Little) who "sees" danger ahead in this super-charged, action-packed adventure!
My Take:Quite honestly I am not sure what to make of this film. It is plainly obvious that Kowalski is a complex character with a storied past who has known loss in his life. He is certainly not villainous yet his actions dictate a blatant disregard not just for his life but for those who are pursuing him. It would seem that he made a decision that he had enough of the “system” and that he was going to fulfill the task at hand regardless of the consequences. This seemed to empower him as well as those who saw him as a symbol willing to make a statement. The chase sequences were thrilling and there is no disputing the engaging power of the 1970 Dodge Challenger’s powerful engine. The sundry assortment of people he encounters along the way made things interesting. I thought the ending was appropriate and fitting for Kowalski but I somehow felt unfilled because I would have liked to have had more of a connection to him. There was little on his background and he really didn’t say much over the course of the movie. Regardless I found the visceral intensity of Vanishing point to be intriguing and refreshing. It has a dated aesthetic but looking past that allows the potential in it to rise to the surface. I look forward to watching it again and hope to glean a bit more from this character because I think there is more to him. Both the longer UK and U.S. theatrical cut are included which allows fans the opportunity to see the extended cut. I evaluated the U.S. version which is about 10 minutes shorter and will check out the other when I get the chance.
The rating is for sensuality, nudity, and drug content.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Vanishing point comes to Blu-ray from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 23 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.4 mbps.
The 1.85:1 framed video has a granular texture that gives it a gritty edge that seems appropriate for the film’s dusty scenery and hard edged theme. The print is in decent shape although scratches and debris were visible from time to time. This isn’t a glossy and noticeably vibrant film and that is conveyed well here by its rather dull finish. Colors generally look natural and appropriate to the varieties used during the time period. Fleshtones look great with plenty of subtle delineation and tonal warmth. Images are resolved well and offer above average fine detail during close ups. The sweeping vista views of the deserts don’t have defining dimension and long range acuity. Objects that are closer to the camera are better resolved but lack resolute distinction. This is of course innate to the photography but I wanted to point it out for those who might expect this to have the razor sharp resolution of a film shot more recently. Blacks are just average and detail in shadows and uneven light is appreciable but not demonstrative. I noticed a few noisy backgrounds and some minor banding that was visible in the daylight sky during wide angle camera pans. Overall I found this video presentation to be satisfying and while not as strong as some Blu-ray encodes of film’s from this time period, I think it probably comes close to representing the original source elements.
The soundtrack comes in both lossless DTS-HD MA and a Dolby Mono options. I used the lossless surround mix during my evaluation. The age of the recording is blatantly obvious as dynamic range is limited which leaves sounds and effects sounding thin/compressed. There is no real bass contained in the mix although there is enough potential associated with the film’s elements that a remix could have offered some enhancement without destroying the balance of the original recording. Surround activity comes mostly in the form of directional panning effects the join the front and rear soundstages when objects onscreen pass by the camera. Near field sounds aren’t audibly cohesive based upon onscreen proximity and therefore lack appropriate spacing which makes them less authentic. An example of this can be seen in the opening segment when the large bulldozers are moving within the frame on each side of the highway. They are very close to the camera but retain a frontal/center focus within the sound field. The police motorcycle passes between them and appropriately passes through the room to the right. This isn’t a major issue but it is clearly obvious and questions why it was neglected if a surround mix was being done anyway. What I did find to be objectionable is the frequent and annoying audio drop outs I experienced when bit streaming the DTS-HD MA audio. They last only for a millisecond but they are clearly audible. I noticed the first at 2 minutes 20 seconds, the next at 6 minutes, the third at 12:40 and another at 16:20. I stopped checking the time after that as they were fairly regular and could be repeated on the same mark. This was not an issue when using the Dolby Mono track or when internal decoding was utilized. The front channels produce the majority of the audio and sounds seem to be evenly spread across all three with the center mixed a bit higher. Channel separation is rarely distinctive and in most cases is only noticeable during camera perspective changes which feels abrupt rather than smoothly transitioned. I gave the Dolby Mono track a listen and found it to be proportionately balanced and non distracting. It obviously doesn‘t have the broader scope of a multi-channel presentation but it sounded just fine. It is nice to have the option and I would recommend that you give both a try and see which is more appealing.
- U.S. and UK versions of the film
- Audio commentary by Director Richard C. Sarafian
- D-Box Motion Code enhanced
- Virtual dashboard - interactive viewing feature
- Cops, cars, and culture - 70‘s trivia track
- Vanishing point trivia challenge
- Interactive 1970 Dodge Challenger
- (HD) Built for speed: A look back at Vanishing point - 18 minute featurette
- (HD) OA-5599 - Documentary on the 1970 Dodge Challenger
- Super Soul Me - BonusView PiP feature - Behind the scenes footage, interviews and music from the film
- TV Spot A
- TV Spot B
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
Vanishing point is a film that many consider a classic because of its spectacular car chase sequences and interpretative meaning. I would have to agree that it is a film that leaves an aftertaste. I liked it but was left feeling that there was more depth to the story that could be enhanced by a repeat viewing. Fox brings it to Blu-ray Disc featuring satisfying video quality and both lossless multi-channel and original Mono audio options. The Blu-ray savvy interactive features are a nice touch and the documentary on the 1970 Dodge Challenger and Built for speed featurette by themselves are probably worth the price of admission. This is a solid package that makes this attractive for fans.
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