Those passing through Cisco, north of Moab, sometimes catch a quick glimpse of old graffiti in big, black block letters rushing by their window: KOWALSKI LIVES.

Curious minds and action movies fans will both find something appealing as the Red Cliffs Lodge and the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage offers a Sunday matinee double-feature this weekend, playing the 1971 car-chase classic “Vanishing Point,” which inspired the spraypaint job. 

Museum Director Elise Park will be on hand at the free screening on Sunday, March 19 at noon to answer questions about the iconic film and the secret-for-now double-feature. We asked her: just how would she describe “Vanishing Point” to those not in the know?

“The influence ‘Vanishing Point’ has had on popular culture is probably just as important as the cinematography or cast and crew,” said Park, who noted that directors Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and Steven Speilberg are just a few of the artists who name it as one of their favorite movies. Tarantino’s film “Death Proof” features a long tribute to the film. 

“More than anything it was one of the first ‘car-chase’ genre films ever made: before the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, before ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ even before ‘The French Connection,’” Park said. “This film led the charge in a wave of epic 1970s films showcasing driving stunts and American muscle cars as the main attraction.”

The film follows Kowalski, a professional driver played by Barry Newman, who takes a bet that he can deliver a 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in record time. He runs afoul of some police officers, the chase begins…and that’s almost it for the plot. The film is filled with 1970s counter-cultural references and scenes, and co-stars “Blazing Saddles” star Cleavon Little as a potentially psychic radio DJ who follows Kowalski’s adventure.

“Scenes for the movie were filmed in the Hanksville area, in and around Cisco, and along the Highway 128 corridor,” said Park. “The old Dewey bridge even gets a glory shot early on in the film.”

Scenes filmed locally are interspersed throughout the movie, with dozens of recognizable

locations from the region and elsewhere in Utah, Colorado, and Nevada. Local vistas are so important to the film that the 1997 made-for-TV remake of “Vanishing Point,” starring Viggo Mortensen, was also partially filmed along the Highway 128 corridor between Cisco and Moab.

The screening will take place in the John Wayne Room at Red Cliffs Lodge (Mile Post 14 UT-128, Moab), just down the hall from the Museum of Film and Western Heritage. Office chairs and beanbags will be available; food will be available at the Lodge restaurant and bar.

“‘Vanishing Point’ isn’t currently available on streaming platforms, so this may be the first opportunity many people have to watch the film,” said Park, who noted that the museum didn’t include the film in its Celestial Cinemas series of outdoor movies due to nudity and drug use (including an uncomfortable-looking naked woman on a motorcycle). Fans of film, cars or local history won’t want to miss it.