LOS ANGELES — Richard Sarafian, an influential film director whose 1971 countercultural car-chase thriller ‘‘Vanishing Point’’ brought him a decades-long cult following, died in Southern California, his son said Saturday night.
Richard Sarafian died at a Santa Monica hospital Wednesday of pneumonia contracted while he was recovering from a fall, Deran Sarafian said. He was 83.
Mr. Sarafian worked primarily in television in his early career, directing episodes of 1960s shows like ‘‘Gunsmoke,’’ ‘‘I Spy,’’ and ‘‘77 Sunset Strip.’’
He also directed a 1963 ‘‘Living Doll’’ episode of ‘‘The Twilight Zone,’’ a chilling tale whose demonic main character Talky Tina terrified children for decades.
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.
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.
Mr. Sarafian was close friends with ‘‘MASH’’ director Robert Altman, and twice married Altman’s sister Helen Joan Altman, who died in 2011.
He leaves four sons and a daughter.