A director who paid his dues for years in television before unleashing a movie that became a cult classic has died. The New York Times reports that Richard C. Sarafian, director of the 1971 car chase movie "Vanishing Point," died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., at 83.
Sarafian made his mark in television in the early 1960s, directing major series including "Maverick," "Dr. Kildare," "77 Sunset Strip," "The Big Valley," "I Spy" and "Gunsmoke." Soon after jumping to the big screen, he rolled out "Vanishing Point," which starred Barry Newman, Cleavon Little and Dean Jagger — along with a souped-up Dodge Challenger that was prominently featured speeding past vistas of the American Southwest. The movie is revered in some circles for its social commentary, which is said to sum up the mood of the nation in the post-Woodstock period.
Sarafian later directed "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973), starring Burt Reynolds, and "Sunburn" (1979), starring Farrah Fawcett, among a number of other feature films.
"He also directed one of the most fondly remembered episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’: ‘Living Doll,’ the chilling tale of a demonic talking doll named Talky Tina who terrifies a man played by Telly Savalas," The Times reports. "That episode, first shown in 1963, also terrified children for decades — including Mr. Sarafian’s own. Deran Sarafian said he thought the episode was ‘the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen’ before learning that his father had directed it."
Sarafian died of pneumonia, having contracted the illness while he was recovering from a fall, the story reports.
Check out the entertaining trailer for "Vanishing Point":