Richard Sarafian


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Sarafian, an influential film director whose 1971 countercultural car-chase thriller "Vanishing Point" brought him a decades-long cult following, has died in Southern California, his son said Saturday night.

Richard Sarafian died at a Santa Monica hospital on Wednesday of pneumonia contracted while he was recovering from a fall, Deran Sarafian told The Associated Press. He was 83.

Sarafian worked primarily in television in his early career, directing episodes of 60s shows like "Gunsmoke," ''I Spy," and "77 Sunset Strip."

He also directed 1963's "Living Doll" episode of "The Twilight Zone," a chilling tale whose demonic main character Talky Tina terrified children for decades. That included his own kids. Deran Sarafian said as a boy he thought the episode was "the most horrible thing I've ever seen" before learning his father had made it.

But Richard Sarafian was best known by far for "Vanishing Point," a dark story of a drug-fueled auto pursuit through the Nevada desert brought on by a bet between a Vietnam vet and his drug dealer.

"It was about speed" in both the drug and automotive senses, Deran Serafian said. "About what it really meant."

The film and director had a major influence on the generation of maverick moviemakers and actors, often referred to as "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," who would come to dominate Hollywood in the 1970s.

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

Beatty was a particularly devoted fan, casting Sarafian as an actor in two of his own 1990s films, "Bugsy" and "Bulworth."

And he had nearly as big an influence on later directors like Quentin Tarantino, who gave him a "special thanks" credit at the end of one of his films.

Sarafian was close friends with "MASH" director Robert Altman, and twice married Altman's sister Helen Joan Altman, who died in 2011.

He's survived by four sons and a daughter.

Associated Press

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Guest Book

Not sure what to say?

Richard Sarafian was a genuine and artistic man. It was my pleasure to meet him in the 1980's. R.I.P. Kind sir.

Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.

Rest Richard, until you hear at dawn,
the low, clear reveille of God.

Thank you for your service to this nation.


Family Sarafian. May the God of all condolences comfort you. Salm 68:19.

Deran, After working with you in 1990 and seeing the inspiration of your father in you, keep the memories of him close to your heart and you will find comfort there. No words will replace the emptiness that you feel but keeping his memory with you will help fill the void. My sincere thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I will continue to remember you in my prayers as the days go on.

Great Legacy. Reminds me of racing on Mulholland Drive in the1960's. Just lost my Dad too.


Richard will truly be safe in God's memory until He brings her back to life to enjoy perfect health and youthful vigor forever in His coming paradise on earth very soon!