Richard C. Sarafian, the director of 1971 car-chase classic Vanishing Point has died of pneumonia in Southern California, his son confirmed on Saturday night.
Vanishing Point director dies
Richard C. Sarafian dies aged 83. But what a legacy…
Sarafian cut his teeth working in television, directing episodes of Sixties shows such as Gunsmoke, I Spy, 77 Sunset Strip, as well as an episode of The Twilight Zone. But cult classic car-chase epic Vanishing Point was his crowning glory. One of few car films that bridges the gulf between cynical film buffs and 100-RON petrosexuals.
The story of a delivery driver making a bet with his drug dealer that he can make it from Denver to San Francisco overnight weaves neurotic paranoia and desperate rebellion into some of cinema's most compelling, evocative car-chase scenes. And the off-white supercharged Dodge Challenger driven by Barry Newman as the iconic Kowalski became as much a symbol for post-Woodstock Seventies malaise as DeLoreans did for time travel.
Sarafian's son, Deran, told AP: "It was about speed. About what it really meant. He's considered one of the original [maverick moviemakers known as the] Raging Bulls, that's why Warren Beatty and Sean Penn and people like that absolutely adore him." His influence transcended generations, too - Sarafian was given a special thanks credit by Quentin Tarantino in Death Proof.
Even Chrysler recognised its cultural contribution. In 2011, Dodge released a short run of 10 Challengers named the Kowalski Edition. Based on the 2010 SRT8 model (though disappointingly unsupercharged), Kowalski cars came in the same shade of white and had a woodgrain Hurst Pistol Grip gearstick and reproduction Colorado numberplates, just like the film car.
Sarafian is survived by four sons and a daughter. All work in the film industry.