Richard Sarafian dies at 83

The late Richard Sarafian.

23 Sep – Richard Sarafian, an influential film director who is well known for his 1971 car-chase thriller "Vanishing Point", died at the Santa Monica hospital in South California last Wednesday. He was 83.

According Deran Sarafian, son of Richard Sarafian, the late director died of pneumonia, which he contracted while he was recovering from a fall.

Born Richard Caspar Sarafian, Sarafian's early career primarily involved working in television, such as directing episodes of 60s television shows like "I Spy" and "Gunsmoke". Some of his better known works are "Vanishing Point". The film tells a story of a drug-fuelled vehicle pursuit through the Nevada dessert which resulted from a bet between a Vietnam veteran and a drug dealer. Sarafian is also behind the helm in the creepy "The Twilight Zone" episode, "Living Doll", about a murderous talking doll.

Barry Newman (centre) is held at gunpoint in "Vanishing Point".

"Vanishing Point" and Sarafian had a major influence on to other directors, among which includes Quentin Tarantino, who specially thanked him in the end credits in one of his films.

"He's considered one of the original Raging Bulls, that's why Warren Beatty and Sean Penn and people like that absolutely adore him," said Deran Sarafian.

Beatty was such a devoted fan that he tried to cast Sarafian as an actor in two of his films in the 90s. Sarafian was a close friend of director Robert Altman and married Helen Joan Altman, Robert's sister, who died in 2011. He is survived by four sons and a daughter.