John Frankenheimer, the master of paranoia who directed such unforgettable thrillers as ”The Manchurian Candidate,” ”Seven Days in May,” and ”The Train,” in the 1960s, then reinvented himself as an Emmy-winning director of made-for-TV movies in the 1990s, died Saturday at 72, the New York Times reports. He suffered a massive stroke from complications after spinal surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Frankenheimer, who got his start in the early days of TV by directing 152 live dramas between 1954 and 1960 (about one every two weeks), ended his career on TV as well, having directed ”Path to War,” a drama about President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War which debuted on HBO in May. From 1995 to 1998, Frankenheimer won four straight Emmys as best director of a TV movie for the cable films ”Against the Wall,” ”The Burning Season,” ”Andersonville,” and ”George Wallace.” His movie career enjoyed a renaissance, too, with such thrillers as ”Ronin” (1998) and ”Reindeer Games” (2000).
It was his screen thrillers for which he may be best remembered. They seemed eerily prescient, especially the 1962 ”Manchurian Candidate,” whose assassination plot presaged the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy — the latter a Frankenheimer friend, to whom the director gave a lift to Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel the day he was killed there. Even his more offbeat films would resonate later, like 1977’s ”Black Sunday” (whose terrorists-at-the-Super Bowl plot echoes in the current film ”The Sum of All Fears”) and 1996’s ”The Island of Dr. Moreau,” whose strange Marlon Brando performance inspired a recurring character on ”South Park,” and whose piano-playing dwarf was the inspiration for Mini-Me in the ”Austin Powers” movies.